Weekly Box Office Grosses for Star Wars

:sigh: I can’t believe I’m having this argument, but some guy and I are debating the original release of Star Wars on May 25th, 1977 and how it was received by the public.

He claims that it was a slow opener, that for the first week or two that there were very few patrons and the movie built in popularity just through word of mouth. He claimed there was no media mention of the movie before it came out (nor up until three weeks after), that every critic under the sun panned it, and that it wasn’t even scheduled for nationwide release, Fox hated it that much.

I almost told him he was so full of shit that he squeaks while walking. I did tell him that he ought to do some independent research and not depend upon the PR flacks of Cinemascape (or whatever magazine he got this from) who apparently are trying to recast the history of SW into a Star Trek “the fans kept it alive” story.

The problem is that he is more of a SW buff than I am (I think the entire series is kinda silly), but I know he is wrong in his arguments. The movie was a monster hit from Day 1, when it premiered at Mann’s Chinese Theater. I was 10 at the time and I remember seeing Walter Cronkite talking about how the lines stretched "around the block"to see this new movie that just opened “earlier this week” and getting very thrilled at the clips shown. I told him that it might not have had a wide break it’s first week (NY and LA possibly) but I bet the grosses per theater were huge.

Anyway, can anybody point me to a source where I can get historical weekly box office data for 1977? Variety.com has a free 30-day subscription, but I don’t want to give them my credit card # (which you have to do to sign up) unless I’m certain they would have this info.

Thanks in advance!

IMDB.com’s entry lists Opening Weekend gross for the initial release as “$1.554m (USA) (43 screens)”. (They have separate data for the rerelease in 1997.) Not exactly the 3000 screen blockbuster we come to expect these days, but it wasn’t an arthouse-flick that needed an underground movement to get public acceptance.

Unfortunately, that site doesn’t have box office data for the next few weeks. I checked boxofficeguru.com, but that only dates back to 1989.

It’s important to recall that the 2000-plus theatre release strategy was not the standard at that time. Big-budget Hollywood movies were expected to open in limited release at plus movie houses in big cities, where people would stand in line for hours to see them. Then, after they were played out in those locations, which might take weeks or months, they moved into neighborhood theatres.

This especially made sense for something like STAR WARS, which was released in 70mm with six-track Dolby stereo. You just weren’t going to get great projection and sound in your local theatre back in those days. If you wanted to experience the full spectacle, you drove to the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (or whatever the equivalent was in your area) and saw it there.

Of course the original STAR WARS wasn’t hyped as long and as loud as the sequels, but that was only because Fox wasn’t hoping to make all its money on the first weekend before audiences found out whether the film was any good or not (which is pretty much the standard practice today).


Oh, I understand that the distribution patterns of 1977 were totally different than today. That is why I’m looking for per-screen figures and wanting to compare them against other films being played those first 3-5 weeks.

As you well know, Variety has done weekly box office charts for almost a century and they might have digitized them by now and placed them up for view for subscribers. Then I’d like to see, per screen, how Star Wars stacked up in week one against other films that same week.

Luckily, The IMDB link mentioned above (Thanks Ino!) gave the figure of $1,554,000 for 43 screens which comes to $36,000 a screen, or $7,700 a day for the 5 day release.

Putting that in perspective, the biggest opening weekend ever was Harry Potter, with $90.3mil on 3,672 screens. That comes out to $24,000 a screen, or $8,000 a day for the 3 day release.

If you divide the numbers by the ticket costs however, it seems that Star Wars actually outdrew Harry Potter in terms of # of people per screen by 2,500/day to 1,600/day ($3 bucks a ticket for SW, $4 for HP (prices pulled out of my ass™ for purposes of argument, but a lot of kids did go see HP so tix prices might’ve been depressed)).

You think this might prove my case? I’m probably gonna post it to the mailing list. :smiley:

I can be such a :wally sometimes.