303.8 MILLION REASONS WHY THERE’LL BE A SEQUEL TO STAR WARS.

The story that follows was suggested during the course of research into my theory. My theory, and I have all the receipts here somewhere, is that Star Wars has had a bigger effect on many of our lives than we suspect, or will admit to. On the basis of the number of people who have seen it, multiplied by the number of mothers and uncles who have shoved and shouldered each other while diving for the last Millennium Falcon on the shelf at the toy store, I would rank it somewhere between Babe Ruth and Watergate on the national pop-consciousness index.

Before we go on, is there anyone who hasn’t seen it by now? This spring will mark the third anniversary of Star Wars’ release, and it was such a feverish hit from the start that by December 1977 it was hard to find anyone who hadn’t seen it. A Dallas radio show offered tickets to the movie to the listener who called in with the best excuse for not having seen it yet, and the calls were sparse. The winner was a man named Bernie whose excuse was that he was calling from where he had been for some time, the federal slammer in Seagoville.

Long ago, and far away, a film called Gone with the Wind was the paragon of profit in the entertainment business. It grossed twenty million dollars! GWTW held off all comers for years, and this was back in the days when a dollar was worth something. Why, for what a dollar was worth in those days, you could probably get a Darth Vader doll.

But in the summer of its re-release, Star Wars grossed two-thirds of Gone with the Wind’s record in a month, adding $14.8 million to its previous record take of $221 million.

Many parents of the enchanted children who saw, and saw, and saw Star Wars approved of it, thought it was a cute idea for a movie. For thinking of this cute idea, George Lucas gets 40 percent of the movie’s profits. This does not count the deal with Kenner Products for the Star Wars toys, which have brought in $68 million.

Parents disposed to haunt the loading docks of discount stores or to shadow any truck that looked like it might contain the scarce Christmas shipments of the hot new toy of the season found a fearsome escalation effect. Once you got the X-wing fighter you had to get the Luke Skywalker pilot figure to sit in it, and once you got R2D2 or the Jawa you had to get the Droid Factory and the Land of the Jawas Capture Set, with sandcrawler and escape pod rocket.

But to get to the bottom line, which says magical crassness, my theory was that because of its stupendous box-office gross and the ancillary receipts from the sale of its tie-in products, Star Wars must be a premier cultural event of the century. I am not a movie lore buff, particularly, but I seem to know a lot about Star Wars; I have learned it through osmosis and Master Charge. I have seen the movie four times, twice voluntarily.

Accordingly, I am honored to have been chosen by this magazine as its representative in a Star Wars data-off with the New York Times computer.

This mano a machina duel was set up by the Dallas Public Library, which has ways of punching certain buttons in a telephone connection with the computer in New York. These impulses dart into the informational foyer of the computer, notifying it that someone in Dallas would like an index of the stories the Times has carried in which the phrase Star Wars is mentioned. These coded little blips then enter a disc or tape file which is whirring at phenomenal speed, where a doomafloctchie is electromagneti-cally activated, scanning the memory bank for anything with Star Wars in it. Close doesn’t count. It won’t stop for Scar Tars or Mars Bars, only Star Wars, as it searches its index of 75 periodicals. It collects all these Star Wars mentions, nestling them in a warm diode until it’s finished, and then it shoots them out of the high-speed memory drum routing it back through the operating system. Doing this, it has made between 8000 and 9000 electronic instructions and functions in a couple of seconds.

1 am telling you all this so as to establish myself as an underdog in the match which resulted.

The computer next goes into its show-and-tell mode, in which it spews out everything it has on its index to Star Wars stories. It does this on a belt of printout paper 10 inches wide. Here the computer has to dawdle somewhat, so that the high-speed printer can keep up.

The printout I got was 14 feet, 3 inches long. Somehow I’m not surprised to learn that the New York Times computer is a Star Wars freak, too.

The computer clacketh: june 2 1977. DOW JONES INDUS AVG INCREASES 7.89 POINTS TO FINISH AT 906.55. 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM LEADS AS MOST ACTIVE ISSUE, CLOSING I 1/4 POINTS HIGHER AS RESULT OF POSITIVE REVIEWS AND STRONG BOX-OFFICE RECEPTION OF ITS NEW MOVIE STAR WARS. . .

My first look at Star Wars was at a media screening. I had just read a wonderful book by Joe Haldeman entitled The Forever , Wars, in which earthlings go off to wars in space for a subjective couple of years but, because of relativity, return to find 700 years have passed on Earth. Thus conditioned, 1 was disappointed to see that Star Wars was merely an elegant and simplistic parable of good and evil. A cinematic comic strip.

JUNE 8 77. KENNER PRODUCTS CO COMPLETES LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH 2OTH CENTURY FOX & STAR WARS CORP TO MFR TOYS. ERRONEOUS RUMOR THAT MATTEL INC. HAS WON TOY RIGHTS CAUSED ITS STOCK TRADING PRICE TO RISE DRAMATICALLY.

Star Wars opened the day after the media screening in Dallas. The critics hailed it as an elegant and simplistic parable of good and evil; a cinematic comic strip.

JULY 3 77. 2OTH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP REPORTS THAT ITS FILM STAR WARS GROSSED 32.2 MILLION IN THEATER BOX OFFICES IN FIRST MONTH. BALLANTINE BOOKS, WHICH PUBLISHED GEORGE LUCAS BOOK MADE FROM MOVIE IN PAPERBACK, HAS 2 MILLION COPIES IN PRINT.

1 could tell from their adoring eyes that the kids appreciated my gesture in playing hooky from work in order to take them to a one o’clock Star Wars on a summer Wednesday. They realized that their shrewd, fad-hardened father likes to figure ways to beat the evening crowds. At least this way, we only had to stand in line for two hours to buy tickets to the 6 o’clock. They saw it and swooned. Twice I kind of nodded off, during the Jawa desert scene and when they all were being held prisoner on the Death Star.

AUG 29 77. MERCHANDISING SPINOFFS FROM STAR WARS MOVIE DESCRIBED: NOTES NOVELTY ITEMS, SOUVENIRS, CLOTHING, BOOKS AND COMIC BOOKS. JUSTICE DEPT, WHICH HAS BEEN INVESTIGATING ALLEGED ILLEGALITIES IN MOTION PICTURE FILM DISTRIBUTION, IS GIVEN DOCUMENT BY 12 OWNERS OF 25 NEW ENGLAND THEATERS WHO CONTEND THAT IN ORDER TO SHOW STAR WARS, THEY FIRST HAD TO SHOW ANOTHER FOX FILM, ’THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT.’

The part that 1 thought would really catch on, “May The Force Be With You,” didn’t. But everything else did. Suddenly Darth Vader was the mythification of villainy. Darth Vader is so mean that you’ve got to refer to him by both names. Hitler and Stalin and Attila you can dismiss with one name, but not Darth Vader. All the characters in the movie and all of us playing with the Star Wars figures in our homes and our vans always called him by both names. You never asked a salesperson in the Star Wars department of toy stores: “Are you out of the Vader figures?” And “Got any Darths left?” was out of the question.

SEPT 9 77. BOOTLEG COPIES OF STAR WARS ARE CIRCULATING IN LOS ANGELES AREA BLACK MKT; ARE BEING SOLD FOR PRIVATE VIEWING AT $ I 500 EACH. GROSS BOX OFFICE RECEIPTS FROM MAY 25-SEPT 5 TOTAL 133.8 MILLION.

Among topics during a 650-mile drive to the Big Bend: whether we have allowed our kids to go overboard on Star Wars stuff. Should we try to get them the Snaggletooth, Hammerhead, and Greedo from the can-tina scene? How will this help them deal with people in the real world? Next morning they were introduced to Jim Milburn, the manager of the Chisos Mountains Lodge. The 6-year-old son asked this of the adult: “How many times have you seen Star fVars?” As I awaited Milburn’s tolerant smile, he said instead, “Twice. And I’ve got to drive to Odessa to see it, too. That’s a 440-mile round trip.”

DEC 15 77. KENNER PRODUCTS DIVISION OF GENERAL MILLS INC IS ENJOYING BRISK SALES IN CERTIFICATES PROMISING DELIVERY OF STAR WARS MOVIE FIGURINES BEFORE SPRING ’78. CERTIFICATES ARE SOLD OUT IN MANY AREAS OF COUNTRY, INCLUDING CHICAGO AND NEW YORK CITY.

Bah humbug. No figurines, but we managed to find a Darth Vader Tie Fighter and two laser swords, which are flashlights with translucent tubes attached, batteries not included. We also have the 45-minute tape cassette of the sound track highlights which can be played over and over and over. It is on this tape that you can learn that Luke’s aunt’s name was Aunt Paroo. For some weeks I will wake up shouting: “But if this is a consular ship on a diplomatic mission, where is the ambassador?”

DEC 28 77. FED DIST COURT JUDGE CHARLES H TENNEY REJECTS CLAIM BY GENERAL MILLS FUN GROUP INC DIVISION KEN-NER PRODUCTS AND 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP THAT IDEAL TOY CO SHOULD BE BARRED FROM MARKETING A LINE OF TOYS BASED ON MOVIE STAR WARS. . . PICTORIAL REVIEW OF MAJOR US NEWS EVENTS OF ’77: THEY INCLUDE INAUGURATION OF PRES CARTER, DROUGHT IN WEST, TUTANKHAMEN EXHIBIT, SUCCESS OF FILMS STAR WARS AND JAWS, ENERGY PROBLEMS. . .

Hey, has any smarty-pants computer ever made this connection: that since he was the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones has the singular distinction of having been involved in two of the epochal entertainment events of the century, Star Wars and “Roots”?

MAR 6 78. GEORGE LUCAS’ STAR WARS IS EXPECTED TO EARN BETWEEN $300 MILLION AND $400 MILLION, MAKING IT MOST PROFITABLE MOVIE IN FILM HISTORY. ADDITIONAL 200 MILLION WILL BE MADE FROM TOYS, RECORDS AND RELATED PRODUCTS. LUCAS HAS ESTABLISHED STAR WARS CORP, WHICH WILL MAKE TEN PLANNED SEQUELS TO STAR WARS. . . AND BLACK FALCON, LTD., WHICH WILL MARKET BOOKS, RECORDS, TOYS AND OTHER SPINOFFS FROM LUCAS’ FILMS.

Telephone conversation, somewhere in the Metroplex: “Okay, then, I’ll get the Power Droid for Kevin’s birthday and the Chewbacca for Patrick, and Gavin needs another Ben Kenobi, if you happen to find one at Best. I’ll go to Target.”

APR 1778. WELLS RICH GREENE DESIGNS AD CAMPAIGNS FOR NEW CLIENTS SAVIN BUSINESS MACHINES, OLYMPUS OPTICAL CO AND US MAGAZINE; ADVERTISING FOR SAVIN COPYING MACHINES USES STAR WARS-INSPIRED ROBOT WITH ENGLISH ACCENT TO COMPARE ITS PRODUCTS WITH OTHER MAJOR COPYING MACHINES, BUDGET IS 5 MILLION.

You know the funny thing about Star Wars? I liked it better the fourth time. By late spring, we had all the figurines. One day, having exhausted all possible routine scenarios, the floorside players held a wedding ceremony between Darth Vader and a tattered old Barbie. Yuck. The thought of that Teflon-visored jerk marrying into my family, sort of, gives me the willies. Wedding party includes Chewie, Princess Leia, Han Solo, See Threepio, and Roger Stau-bach, all out of proportion, eight inches tall; and Spiderman, sulking on the fringe after being consigned to the box so long while two billion kids played Star Wars. By the way, I think the Times computer missed one: The first Star Wars-inspired TV commercial was the Toyota one for Christmas 1977, featuring a legend-crawl that faded into the distance, as in the movie’s prologue.

MAY 20 78. ANALYSIS OF FILM INDUSTRY’S REBIRTH IN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE US: FILM COMPANY SHARES HAVE BECOME GLAMOUR INVESTMENTS; NOTES 20TH CENTURY FOX SPENT ONLY A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF ITS TOTAL STAR WARS EARNINGS (200 MILLION PLUS TO DATE) TO BUY AN ENTIRE SKI RESORT IN ASPEN, COLORADO.

John Atchley, now the manager of the Village Theater, was the manager at the NorthPark Cinema during Star Wars’ first 54-week run. “It holds the all-time Dallas house record,” he said, “$100,058 the first week, $1,600,000 for the run. There were days when customers stood in line for four hours to see the movie, two hours to buy a ticket, two hours to wait for the showing. Burgess Meredith called one afternoon and asked if he could come out and see it, but if he could come in without standing in line. He came out with several people from the Theater Center. He was such a nice fellow that 1 told him to go on in as my guest. Harvey Martin came in once from the waiting line outside and asked if he could use the water fountain to take a pill. He said he was in training. He went on in and stayed, and I certainly let him.” Atchley says that he has misplaced the fellow’s name, but that General Cinema Corporation bestowed a lifetime pass on a retired Dallas postal worker, who came to see Star Wars 130 times. Atchley himself saw the movie once at a screening, but never sat down in his own theater to watch it.

JUL 24 78. 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP AND MCA WAGE LEGAL BATTLE OVER FOX’S MOVIE STAR WARS AND MCA’S TV SERIES BAT-TLESTAR GALACTICA. FOX CHARGES THAT GALACTICA IS COPY OF STAR WARS. . . MCA’S COUNTERSUIT CHARGES THAT FOX’S STAR WARS IS COPY OF 2 MCA PROPERTIES, BUCK ROGERS COMIC STRIP AND PREVIOUS MOVIE ’SILENT RUNNING.’

Philip Wuntch, film critic of the Dallas News, has seen Star Wars seven times. “Only once in the line of duty,” he said. “I go because I identify so strongly with Han Solo, of course, and am often mistaken for him.”

SEPT 14 78. WILLIAM SAFIRE SATIRIZES DOMESTIC AND ECONOMIC POLICIES OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN DRAMATIC SAGA REMINISCENT OF THE MOVIE STAR WARS. . . FEDERAL JUDGE EDMUND PALMIERI FINES 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP $25,000 PLUS SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF COURT COSTS: COMPANY PLEADED NO CONTEST TO CHARGES THAT IT FORCED THEATER OWNERS TO ACCEPT LESS POPULAR FILM IN ORDER TO BOOK STAR WARS. . .

That’s another place where a computer is superior to man: It can resist the urge to say that the defendant in a Star Wars case has pleaded Han Nolo. . .

NOV 23 78. COMMENT ON SUCCESS OF REMEDIAL READING PROGRAM AT HIGHLANDS SCHOOL, WHITE PLAINS, NY, SINCE INTRODUCTION OF STAR WARS FILM STRIP AND OTHER INNOVATIONS IN CLASSROOM.

International understanding note: The highlight of the kids’ trip to Matamoros is seeing the block-long line under the marquee that reads “La Guerra de las Galaxias.”

JAN 4 1979. WALL STREET ANALYSTS DOUBT THAT FILM VERSION OF SUPERMAN WILL BE AS PROFITABLE FOR WARNER COMMUNICATIONS AS STAR WARS WAS FOR 20TH CENTURY FOX.

Oh yes, Christmas of ’78, how could I forget. The big van show. We had to go because it was featuring a personal appearance by Darth Vader and his van. Also about now, you’re beginning to hear disparaging comments about how the Pittsburgh Steelers act like a bunch of smug damn Darth Vaders, with their shiny black helmets and invincible ways.

FEB 19 79. 20TH CENTURY FOX AND LUCAS-FILM LTD ISSUE TRADE ADS AND LETTERS WARNING AGAINST ILLEGAL PROMOTIONS US-INGCHARACTERS FROM FILM STAR WARS; NOTE THAT ’VALID’ APPEARANCES USING AUTHORIZED GROUPS CAN BE ARRANGED, ALTHOUGH FOX DOES NOT SOLICIT SUCH ACTIVITY: URGES DEALERS WHO ARE APPROACHED WITH TIE-IN OFFERS TO CONTACT FBI.

Ah, seventy-nine, a good year for familial Star Wars status. Our children go to a swimming party with Connie Stevens’children. The mother’s name means nothing to them. Neither does the father’s, Eddie Fisher. But they have become acquaintances of Princess Leia’s half-sisters!

MAR 4 79. PROFILE OF RAY DOLBY, INVENTOR OF DOLBY NOISE REDUCTION SYSTEM. . . DOLBY SYSTEM HAS STRONGLY INFLUENCED RECORDED MUSIC, FM BROADCASTING AND MOVIE INDUSTRIES; DOLBY MOTION PICTURE STEREOPHONIC SOUND SYSTEM WAS USED IN STAR WARS. . .

Close Encounters was really okay, they said. “Maybe even better than Star Wars, because Close Encounters was more for grownups.” They got some Close Encounters gum cards and kept them in their Slur Wars lunch boxes.

APR 30 79. NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO AND BBC WILL PRODUCE RADIO SERIES BASED ON STAR WARS MOVIE: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UNIV RADIO STATION KUSC-FM WILL PRODUCE AT LEAST 13 EPISODES.

That was the spring we got involved in Y league baseball and missed the introduction of the Patrol Dewback: the Stormtrooper on patrol riding his Giant Dewback Lizard with removable saddle and bridle, figure not included. Also, I entered my 23rd month of trying to figure out what the hell anagram was hiding in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Still haven’t.

AUG 30 79. FILM STAR WARS PROVES TO BE BIO HIT AGAIN IN SUMMER OF 79; HAS GROSSED ADDITIONAL I4.8 MILLION SINCE ITS RE-RELEASE.

And they got us again, too! We drove up to the Northwood Hills 4 for a leisurely mid-afternoon Sunday showing and discount time, and the damn place was sold out. . . in the second week of the re-release! We had to drive to Northtown 6 for a later movie at the full rate, and stand in line an hour to boot. We took along a couple who had neglected to purchase gasoline on the previous Friday to get them through the weekend.

SEP 23 79. SUCCESS OF MOVIE STAR WARS ENABLES 20TH CENTURY FOX TO EMBARK ON AMBITIOUS DIVERSIFICATION PROGRAM: PAYS 48 MILLION FOR ASPEN SKIING CORP, US’s LARGEST SKI RESORT; BOUGHT COCA-COLA BOTTLING MIDWEST INC IN SEPT 77 FOR 27.5 MILLION CASH; IS CALLING ITS $26 MILLION WORTH OF OUTSTANDING 5% CONVERTIBLE DEBENTURES, EURODOLLAR ISSUE DUE IN ’85; PLANS TO REPLACE SECURITIES WITH 50 MILLION WORTH OF LONG-TERM SUBORDINATED DEBENTURES. . .

In what may have been my last Star Wars aberration, I jumped into my car downtown upon hearing from ace newswoman Maggie Kennedy that a shipment of Millennium Falcon space ships had arrived that very morning at the Best store at Gus Thom-masson and LBJ. What the hell, it was only a 23-mile drive. It was an oft-requested Christmas surprise in our household, and yet it was unwrapped with a strangely subdued reaction. We may have watched an 8-and 9-year-old grow right out of the Star Wars thrall this Christmas. Perhaps what did it was the container of Star Wars bubble bath he opened from a favorite aunt. “Bubble bath? They have Star Wars bubble bath now?”

DEC 18 79. LAUNCHING OF FILMS STAR TREK AND BLACK HOLE SIGNALS START OF HOLLYWOOD CAMPAIGN TO PRODUCE AND PROMOTE SIX SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIES IN ’8o AT ESTIMATED COST OF 157 MILLION. STUDIOS ARE HOPING TO BENEFIT FROM PROVEN POPULARITY OF STAR WARS. . . ARTICLE ON SEQUEL BEING MADE TO FILM STAR WARS. . .

Go ahead, Star Wars; do your damndestand strike back all you want, Empire. We’reinto toy racetracks now at our house! We’vegot a little electronic gizmo that pumpsunlimited free gas during pit stops. Talkabout your fantasies!

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