Movie Talk

‘Star Wars’: Its modest opening day 35 years ago

(Photo: Lucas Films/20th Century Fox)Thirty-five years ago, Hollywood changed forever. "Star Wars" hit cinemas on May 25, 1977. But, while the film went on to be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time and launched sequels, prequels, TV shows, action figures, LEGO sets, and more, you may be surprised to learn that on its opening day, only a modest number of folks got to see it.

That's because the film opened in just 32 theaters across the nation. It opened on a Wednesday. By Friday, it had expanded to a whopping 43 theaters. Contrast that to Marvel's "The Avengers," which opened in 4,349 theaters, according to Box Office Mojo.

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Of course, there are a lot more movie theaters now than there were in 1977. But, according to a stellar article from in70mm.com, other "big" films from 1977 opened with far greater numbers. For example, the highly anticipated but critically lambasted "Exorcist II: The Heretic" opened in more than 700 theaters. Martin Scorsese's "New York, New York" opened in more than 400.

Nobody anticipated that the film was going to be such a hit. The number of theaters showing "Star Wars" expanded once word got out that the film was selling out. Twentieth Century Fox, the distributor of the film, made as many copies as quickly as it could. It must have done a pretty good job, because "Star Wars" (or as it is now known "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope") ended up taking in hundreds of millions of bucks and became a part of American culture.

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In the book "The Making of Star Wars," creator George Lucas explains that he was still working on the film's sound the day it opened. "I could see this huge crowd in front of Graumann's Chinese (Theater) -- limos -- and I thought someone must be premiering a movie. It never occurred to me that my movie was out, because I was still working on it."

Watch 'Star Wars' Deleted Scenes Preview: