Sunday, May 27, 2007

May 25:

1977 : Star Wars opens

On this day in 1977, Memorial Day weekend opens with an intergalactic
bang as the first of George Lucas' blockbuster Star Wars movies hits
American theaters.

The incredible success of Star Wars--seven Oscars, $461 million in
U.S. ticket sales and a gross of close to $800 million
worldwide--began with an extensive, coordinated marketing push by
Lucas and his studio, 20th Century Fox, months before the movie's
release date. "It wasn't like a movie opening," actress Carrie Fisher,
who played rebel leader Princess Leia, later told Time magazine. "It
was like an earthquake." Beginning with--in Fisher's words--"a new
order of geeks, enthusiastic young people with sleeping bags," the
anticipation of a revolutionary movie-watching experience spread like
wildfire, causing long lines in front of movie theaters across the
country and around the world.

With its groundbreaking special effects, Star Wars leaped off screens
and immersed audiences in "a galaxy far, far away." By now everyone
knows the story, which followed the baby-faced Luke Skywalker (Mark
Hamill) as he enlisted a team of allies--including hunky Han Solo
(Harrison Ford) and the robots C3PO and R2D2--on his mission to rescue
the kidnapped Princess Leia from an Evil Empire governed by Darth
Vader. The film made all three of its lead actors overnight stars,
turning Fisher into an object of adoration for millions of young male
fans and launching Ford's now-legendary career as an action-hero

Star Wars was soon a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon. Over the years
it has spawned five more feature films, five TV series and an entire
industry's worth of comic books, toys, video games and other products.
Two big-screen sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return
of the Jedi (1983), featured much of the original cast and enjoyed the
same success--both critical and commercial--as the first film. In
1999, Lucas stretched back in time for the fourth installment, Star
Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, chronologically a prequel to the
original movie. Two other prequels, Attack of the Clones (2002) and
Revenge of the Sith (2005) followed.

The latter Star Wars movies featured a new cast--including Ewan
McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen--and
have generally failed to earn the same amount of critical praise as
the first three films. They continue to score at the box office,
however, with Revenge of the Sith becoming the top-grossing film of
2005 in the United States and the second worldwide.

1660 : The English Restoration

1787 : Constitutional Convention begins

1793 : Catholic priest ordained in America

1979 : Worst air crash in U.S. history


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