Today, May the 4th, is Star Wars Day.
This year marks 42 years since the first (now subtitled Episode 4) movie opened!
The classic film first opened in fewer than 40 theatres nationwide on May 25, 1977. It did not reach Little Rock until June 24, 1977.
Given its status as a sleeper hit, it is no surprise that it came into Little Rock largely unnoticed. In that day, major films opening on a Friday would be heralded the previous Sunday with a substantial advertisement. The first Star Wars ad ran on Thursday, June 23, 1977, the day before it opened. By contrast, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, which would play at the same theatre, had a large ad on Sunday, June 19.
The day it opened, there was a fairly large ad which incorporated the familiar beefcake Luke, Leia in flowing gowns, and Darth Vader mask. On the Sunday after it opened, there was a slightly smaller ad with the same artwork. McCain Mall also ran a small add for both Star Wars and Herbie. It noted that Star Wars was a film that management “does not recommend for children.”
Three years later, The Empire Strikes Back opened nationwide on May 21, 1980. Opening a film on the same date was a newer phenomenon, due in part to the success of Star Wars. For the opening weeks, The Empire Strikes Back played an exclusive showing at the UA Cinema 150. It would eventually play at other theatres in Little Rock.
On the day The Empire Strikes Back opened, the Arkansas Gazette had four different stories about the movie in that day’s edition. While the Arkansas Democrat did not have any stories that day (though they would in subsequent days), they did carry a story on David Letterman preparing to start his (what would turn out to be short-lived) morning TV show.
On May 25, 1983, The Return of the Jedi opened. The cost to see The Return of the Jedi in Little Rock in 1983 was $5.00 for adults and $2.50 for children. (That would be the equivalent of $12.37 today for an adult ticket.)