Star Wars films have changed dramatically since A New Hope first premiered in theaters in 1977. While George Lucas’ original movie had a moderate release, the Star Wars films of the 21st century have come with more fanfare, to say the least.
From the filming budget to the individual price of a ticket, there are both micro and macro ways to view the changes that have occurred in the four decades since Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader first captivated audiences.
At the beginning of the franchise’s journey, there was not exactly overwhelming support for George Lucas’ brainchild. Besides Lucas himself having very little confidence in A New Hope, tons of studios passed on the film before 20th Century Fox finally decided to give it a shot.
Since then, the Star Wars brand has grown to more than just films. It has gone onto encapsulate popular culture, inspire people around the world, and create an entire universe of spinoffs. However, the Fox executives who first passed on the original project would probably be hard-pressed to believe what Star Wars turned into.
Things have certainly changed in 40 years, especially when it comes down to the films themselves and the way in which they were released, marketed, and sold. Obviously, there are many ways to look at films beyond just the box office, but it is certainly a good place to start. Here are just a few comparisons of Star Wars: A New Hope versus the latest theatrical release, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The following financial and numerical statistics, as well as information on a variety of other films, can be found at TheNumbers.com.
A New Hope: $11 million
A New Hope reportedly had a production budget of $11 million. While this was a lot of money in the 1970s, it still pales in comparison to the nine-figure budgets that the newer films of the Disney era had. George Lucas was smart in how he used his budget, however. Mark Hamill once called A New Hope “the most expensive low budget movie ever made.” The props and filming department made sure to use practical effects whenever possible to keep costs down.
The Rise of Skywalker: $275 million
The Rise of Skywalker received a lukewarm reaction from fans when it was released in theaters, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of funding. The film had a production budget of $275 million, hundreds of times the amount of money used to create A New Hope. Per Insider, The Rise of Skywalker is the sixth-most expensive film ever made, and it isn’t hard to see why. From the thousands of digital effects created by IBM to the large marketing budget, this was one film that certainly knew how to shell out cash.
Number of Theaters
A New Hope: 43 opening theaters
While A New Hope is today considered one of the most iconic movies of all time, this certainly wasn’t reflected back when it first came out. Most movie theaters had no interest in showing the film, as, like most studios, they thought that it would fail. This means that A New Hope premiered in only 43 theaters nationwide. However, once the box office numbers started skyrocketing, the film soon found itself playing on thousands of big screens across the United States.
The Rise of Skywalker: 4,406 opening theaters
Despite the waning interest in the sequel trilogy after the release of The Last Jedi, a new Star Wars film still places every other motion picture on the backburner. The Rise of Skywalker premiered in 4,406 theaters nationwide, nearly every screen in the country. It had an average run of nearly seven weeks per theater and was one of the last major releases before COVID-19 shut down the world’s film industry. Obviously, the wide array of different viewing options (3D, IMAX, etc.) contributed to the film making a ton of money at the box office.
Domestic Box Office Earnings
A New Hope: $460,998,007
Box office earnings of over $460 million may seem like an astronomical number for the time period, but it just goes to prove the massive cultural impact that A New Hope has had on generations of moviegoers. However, an even more amazing statistic is when you realize that this is in 1970s dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the movie has made over $1.5 billion domestically, the highest-grossing film of all time!
The Rise of Skywalker: $515,202,542
While The Rise of Skywalker still made back its budget by a wide margin, the film had the lowest domestic box office returns of the sequel trilogy. Despite this, making over half a billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, especially in today’s highly competitive film industry. Even though the box office returns for The Rise of Skywalker were perhaps not quite as high as what Lucasfilm had envisioned, it still proves one thing: people love Star Wars. The true fans of the franchise will always be there, and will always be captivated by a galaxy far, far away.
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