Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi UK poster
Artwork by Josh Kirby
The final chapter of the original Star Wars Trilogy premiered in theaters across the country 40 years ago today.
|Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA (May 28, 1983)
It would probably be more accurate to say that it premiered in theaters across the country who were willing to pay for it. When I looked up my hometown's newspaper archives for the opening weekend of Return Of The Jedi, I instead found that the Church Hill Cinema in Hazleton was screening the sci-fi classic Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone in 3-D starring Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, and Peter Strauss. I mean, who needs Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader when you've got the preppy girl from The Breakfast Club starring alongside a Ghostbuster and the voice of Stoker Van Rotten?
The tag line for Spacehunter was "the first movie that puts you in outer space". I suspect that the tag line that some parents had in mind was "bring the kids and tell them that it's Star Wars". Just gotta use the old Jedi Mind Trick on the younglings.
Return Of The Jedi was the first movie of the original trilogy that I got to see. While I had plenty of Star Wars action figures and had played the arcade game at Aladdin's Castle prior to this, I didn't actually get to see my first Star Wars movie from beginning to end until it premiered on HBO when I was six years old. My grandfather recorded it on a VHS tape during their Free Preview Weekend and I watched that tape until I wore it out. I still remember that the tape began with a few seconds of an episode of You Can't Do That On Television that he taped over, because even now when I watch Return Of The Jedi, I hear "Family Ties Gets Untied will not be seen tonight" echoing to me from my memory, which was the line in that particular episode that gets cut off just before the 20th Century Fox drums start.