History of Star Wars: Premiered 45 Years Ago

Bill Petro
7 min readMay 25, 2022

The original Star Wars movie premiered on May 25, 1977.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

in Berkeley, in November 1976, I picked up a new science fiction novel called “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” by George Lucas. I did not know at the time that it was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster, a popular sci-fi writer.

The following May, the movie initially debuted in only 40 theaters around the country, with little of the advanced fanfare we are used to today. But word of mouth spread fast, and when I heard it was showing at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco, I went the first week it was out with my buddies. The line to get in stretched around the block, even during that first week.

When I first saw the Imperial Star Destroyer come across the screen after the title scroll, I yelled out, “I’m impressed!”

A reporter stopped me for a radio interview on my way out of the theater. “Did you think it was fun?” As I began to explain its relative place among Science Fiction novels and films, he interrupted again and asked,

“But was it fun?”
“Yes, it was fun,”

I said, but it was so much more. I would return several times to see it again. Star Wars ran there at the Coronet for 29 weeks. The new Star Wars movies now open in over 10,000 theaters in the US. How times have changed.

Star Wars Movie

The original Star Wars was not expected to be a success, far from it. The studio was not optimistic; hence only 40 opening theaters. The head of 20th Century Fox was Alan Ladd, Jr. He agreed to produce the film with an initial $8M budget because he was impressed with George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti.

Even Lucas was not hopeful. Instead of going to the opening, he went to Hawaii with his friend Stephen Spielberg to commiserate. While there, they conceived of the Indiana Jones movie, named after Lucas’ dog, which was subsequently filmed there. It would make Harrison Ford a much bigger star than he would have been as just Han Solo.

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com