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40 Years Ago, In a Studio in California

Grace Dawson, Crown Editor

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Just over a year after releasing The Force Awakens, the 3rd highest grossing film of all time and the 7th instalment in the series, the original Star Wars is celebrating its 40th Anniversary.

May 25, 1977, A New Hope hit theaters and shattered expectations, but that’s only half the story. Underneath the mega success that is Star Wars, lies a long tale of production delays, studio rejection, and directorial debate. George Lucas, took the idea for the movie to 3 big name studios, all of which denied him funding, thinking the movie would be a flop. His fourth studio 20th Century Fox decided to gamble on him as a director, rather than on the movie itself.

Lucas still did not have much money to make the film, Fox initially gave him only 125,000 dollars, the final film would end up costing 11 million. Money trouble was not the only thing that plagued the production. Constant script changes frustrated those who worked with Lucas, as well as how much the director insisted on being involved with every aspect of the production.

Still, even after 3 ½ years spent paying for this movie, Fox thought it was going to flop, and they were not alone. Only forty  theaters bought the movie at first, and only thirty-two  showed it opening weekend. Even Lucas had his doubts, he traded Spielberg 2.5% profit rights from Star Wars in exchange for 2.5% profit rights from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both directors still own these profit rights to the films. Spielberg got the better end of the deal.

Yet, days after premiering, Star Wars became the first blockbuster movie and out earned every other movie Fox was releasing, earning back its 11 million dollar budget and more (it made a total of $775.4 million at box offices). Lucas became a millionaire overnight, and Spielberg earned a hefty sum as well.

Perhaps the best testament to how successful this movie was, is that, 40 years later, Star Wars movies are still coming out, and people are still thronging to the theaters to see them. There is something enduring about the story of the struggle against evil and something memorable in the tale of a ragtag group of friends who save the universe.

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40 Years Ago, In a Studio in California