May the hype be with you

by Richard Roeper

Wait a minute. There’s a new “Star Wars” movie coming out? Wow, who knew?

Answer: Everyone in the conscious universe.

If “The Force Awakens” isn’t the most heavily hyped movie of all time, I’d like to hear your other contender. Yes, there was a massive buildup to “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” in 1999, but in the late 1990s, there was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter.

Ever since “Episode VII” was announced, the hype machine has been dialed up, with fans and the media dissecting every bit of casting news, every photo, every spoiler. We’re still two weeks away from the Dec. 18 release date, but ticket pre-sales have already surpassed $50 million in North America alone.

Someone on Twitter asked me if I thought “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” could live up to the hype.

No. Nothing the human eye has ever experienced could live up to this hype. If Jesus himself were to descend from the heavens and introduce the film on opening night, some fans would say, “Ah, I liked him better in the original. The sequel is never as good!”

As for the original “Star Wars” – which eventually came to be known as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” – what was the hype level before its release on May 25, 1977?

The anticipation level was medium-warm.

George Lucas was already a pretty big deal in the mid-1970s, what with the success of his “American Graffiti” in 1973. Around that time, after Lucas’ attempt to acquire the rights to “Flash Gordon” was unsuccessful, he decided to create his own space opera, which at one point was titled “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller.”

After production delays, a filming schedule that went over budget, reshoots and multiple editing changes, “Star Wars” was finally ready to be released, but 20th Century Fox and theater owners around the country weren’t exactly doing cartwheels. “Star Wars” was released in 32 theaters, with eight more theaters adding the film over the next few days.

As for media coverage, it was decidedly restrained. A week after the film’s release, The Washington Post noted that “Star Wars” had set a record for opening-week grosses in the D.C. area, bringing in about $94,992.


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