Forty years ago, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars was introduced to us on 32 screens. No one expected it to be a hit. Or, as Yoda said, “Impossible to see, the future is.”
George Lucas had to use his own cash when he started running out of funds. At one of its first screenings, no one applauded. Expecting little from an old man named Obi Wan and some Wookies, Fox just made 100 prints.
The 1977 Star Wars, subsequently called “A New Hope,” became one of Hollywood’s top grossing films. So too were the 1980 and 2015 Star Wars sequels.
Star Wars Revenue
Combining Star Wars’s box office, toys and books, we are looking at $30.2 billion as of the beginning of 2016. To get a feel for the size of $30 billion, go to the GDP of the Ivory Coast or Bolivia or Bahrain.
You also can imagine 3900 opening day screens showing “The Force Awakens” and its revenue from worldwide ticket sales, pay TV, broadcasting rights, and digital sales. For merchandise, when a historic franchise (Star Wars) combines with a massive marketing organization (Disney), the result is a monumental blitz. Think Legos and Hasbro, CoverGirl and Sony, and light Sabers, video games and action figures.
Our Bottom Line: Success
But what it all adds up to is a formula for success. In The World According to Star Wars, Harvard professor Cass Sunstein tried to explain the Star Wars legend.
Focusing on success and failure, he says quality, social influences and timing can each (or all) be crucial. Yes, we all know that Star Wars had the quality it needed for success. However Sunstein goes on to say that quality might not have been enough. The series was also able to generate an excitement that built during the past 40 years. Then, add some good timing–perhaps the hope the nation needed after the Nixon administration– and you have another reason for the Star Wars phenomenon.
No one really knows why Star Wars has become legendary. So what can it teach us about success? “Impossible to see, the future is.”
Please note that one sentence from this post was previously published at econlife.