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

By Michael Krumboltz

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.

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.

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