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Judging by ESB & ROTJ original box office gross, here is why Lucas started to change

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I was looking at the original domestic box office gross of the OT movies. Now this does not count re-release, or SE money, it is exactly what the movie made in 1977, 1980, and 1983: (soure boxofficemojo.com)

Star Wars - 307 million

The Empire Strikes Back - 209 million

Return of the Jedi - 252 million

I was 5 years old in 1977, so I was one of those whizkid SW fans who brought the original SW to be the one of the greatest culture shocks to the movie business ever. Every kid my age loved the original SW, and we couldn 't get enough of it.

So Lucas goes dark in 1980 with ESB, more adult, more drama, the bad guys lose. What did I think of it in 1980? I liked it, but didn't love it. For an 8 year old kid, it was just too dark for me.

So Lucas sees the box office drop 100 million from the original SW and starts to wonder if ESB was a bit too adult and maybe he was turning off the kiddies like me.

So Lucas goes a bit cutesy in 1983 with ROTJ, the ewoks, the happy ending, the recycled deathstar space battle. I walked out of theater in 1983 as an 11 year old on cloud nine, I love it. It wasn't as good as Star Wars, but it was better than ESB. ROTJ makes 50 million more at the box office, kids like the softer tone, precursor to the SE & PT.......(psst: Jar Jar)

10-15 years later, I begin to start to notice something.....ESB is a great movie, and ROTJ, its good and all, but I have done the ultimate 180. Star Wars is always the best, now ESB is just as good and maybe even better in some ways, and ROTJ is now third on my list. Who here did exactly that change in their SW fandom from grammar school to college years?

I am not saying I am the blame for the kiddiness that pervaded the saga starting with the Ewoks, but I believe Lucas looked at the box office numbers, and thought that the more adult, the less money he is gonna make. In the process, he sacrificed quality of the movies to appeal to a wider range audience.

But I can't lie and not admit that I liked ROTJ more as a kid than ESB. It isn't my fault, but as they say in All The Presidents Men, "Follow the money." Judging by ROTJ & ESB gross, Lucas followed the money.
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Well, I'll tell you. I'm pretty sure I liked Star Wars and ESB about the same. I would have been...ten or so when ESB came out. I liked them both the same. I had not yet learned that you could ignore certain films in a series at that time. When ROTJ came along, I love it as well. As far as I was concerned, it was up there with the other two, but it felt... I don't know. Off. Probably the worst part, the part that stands out in my 23 year old memory is the scene with Obi Wan and Leia being luke's sister is revealed. How it came out felt... unnatural. I'm not sure how to put it. It was kind of "well, there it is." It felt weaker because of this, which was throughout the movie, just especially bad in that scene. Also, ROTJ showed us little that was new. We had seen Tatooine. We'd seen AT-AT's (or AT-ST's). We'd seen furry creatures, light sabre battles and a climatic battle to destroy the death star. It was more of the same instead of showing us something new, the way ESB did. There were some original items in ROTJ, but not as much as ESB or Star Wars, for that matter. I still love the movie to pieces, but I probably wouldn't if it weren't for the first two.
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ESB was dark because Lucas wasn't directing. Had he been, Cloud City would have a carnival in the middle of it and Hoth would have been inhabited by not only wampas but fuzzy snow bunnies that would watch from a distance and do cute things while Luke's unconsious body was dragged away.
http://www.saskschools.ca/~gregory/arctic/animals/ahare.jpg

ROTJ was more childlike because Lucas was directing again.

ANH was the movie of the summer. It was a stand alone story that everyone and their grandma could enjoy. ESB and ROTJ appealed to the people who became fans of the first movie.
"I am altering the movies. Pray I don't alter them any further." -Darth Lucas
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Jenny, you couldnt be more right. Except, Richard Marquand directed ROTJ.
Who the hell is this guy? No one ever really talks about him.
For some reason, the "Hey, That's My Dinner" line has ALWAYS bothered me.
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Its fairly common knowledge that Marquand was, for all intents and purposes, Lucas' sock. For ESB he gave Kirshner control over everything and Lucas only visited the set three days. The movie was a management disaster and the final product dissapointed him. So on ROTJ, he found a director that was young and moldable, that wouldn't impose his own ideals as much, gave him hardly any control over the film, and then Lucas was on set every day, setting up shots and directing actors and even doing second unit directing. Lucas was, essentially, a co-director, which is why ROTJ feels so much like a Lucas-film.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Originally posted by: CO
I was looking at the original domestic box office gross of the OT movies. Now this does not count re-release, or SE money, it is exactly what the movie made in 1977, 1980, and 1983: (soure boxofficemojo.com)

Star Wars - 307 million

The Empire Strikes Back - 209 million

Return of the Jedi - 252 million

I was 5 years old in 1977, so I was one of those whizkid SW fans who brought the original SW to be the one of the greatest culture shocks to the movie business ever. Every kid my age loved the original SW, and we couldn 't get enough of it.

So Lucas goes dark in 1980 with ESB, more adult, more drama, the bad guys lose. What did I think of it in 1980? I liked it, but didn't love it. For an 8 year old kid, it was just too dark for me.

So Lucas sees the box office drop 100 million from the original SW and starts to wonder if ESB was a bit too adult and maybe he was turning off the kiddies like me.

So Lucas goes a bit cutesy in 1983 with ROTJ, the ewoks, the happy ending, the recycled deathstar space battle. I walked out of theater in 1983 as an 11 year old on cloud nine, I love it. It wasn't as good as Star Wars, but it was better than ESB. ROTJ makes 50 million more at the box office, kids like the softer tone, precursor to the SE & PT.......(psst: Jar Jar)

10-15 years later, I begin to start to notice something.....ESB is a great movie, and ROTJ, its good and all, but I have done the ultimate 180. Star Wars is always the best, now ESB is just as good and maybe even better in some ways, and ROTJ is now third on my list. Who here did exactly that change in their SW fandom from grammar school to college years?

I am not saying I am the blame for the kiddiness that pervaded the saga starting with the Ewoks, but I believe Lucas looked at the box office numbers, and thought that the more adult, the less money he is gonna make. In the process, he sacrificed quality of the movies to appeal to a wider range audience.

But I can't lie and not admit that I liked ROTJ more as a kid than ESB. It isn't my fault, but as they say in All The Presidents Men, "Follow the money." Judging by ROTJ & ESB gross, Lucas followed the money.



i think your 100% right.
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I myself have always thought ESB was the best. Even at 8 years old (this is 1995 mind you) I was entrigued at the way that, for the first time in my movie experiences, the good guys didn't win a spectacular battle at the end. Almost nothing seemed to work out for Luke, Leia or Han. Sure, there were some lucky happenings (Luke crashing right were Yoda was, Han navigating the asteroid field well) but it was always followed by something much worse happeing to them (Han and Co. end up in an asteroid monster, Luke goes to the Force Tree).

Then when they all got to Cloud City, being the spectacle that it was, you'd almost expect good things to happen in such an pleasent sounding place. Nope. We all know what goes on there.

I knew nothing about the directors, GL and that stuff but again at 8 I was still left feeling that ESB was the the best most interesting one IMO. I still see it as a welcome change from typical Good vs. Evil stories well still being as entertaining as hell. It still holds up as the most mature of all the Star Wars movies too. I thank Kershner for seeing the potential SW had for being something both kids and adults could get engrossed in both casually and in depth. It didn't totally alienate either audience like the PT does.

And yes, i clearly see your point about the box office grosses influencing the direction GL went in. It sad that something like this influenced him more than sticking to a creative yet mature storyline I think other writers and directors would have noticed and worked for.

But alas....history is history. We have a PT that in almost no way is equal to the story-telling that both young and old can fully enjoy and contains none of the mystery and myth that the OT created. I miss my Star Wars thoughts and memories before 1999. I really honestly do.

Hey look, a bear!

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I give credit to anyone with the taste to recognize ESB as the best of three--or at least equal to ANH. To me, ESB was the one I had to watch before watching ROTJ.

I was a stupid kid.
originaltrilogy.com Administrator

MTFBWY

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Or it could be telling the story in a 3 act arc.... where the 2nd act is the darkest one, followed by a "happier" act 3.
"Among many things I have to be thankful for are you, the fans. I know that some of you haven't liked every single thing that I've done with the saga, and that you have a strong sense of ownership over all things Star Wars. But take that passion and devotion and channel it into a creative project of your own."
-George Lucas
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I think ESB is the best, but I don't really have any huge gripes with ROTJ. I think its a great movie too, though I do agree that the Cutsey stuff was pushed a little too far. Someone else compared Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, and the control they had over the movies; you were absolutely right. ESB was the best because of Kershner. All the character development we saw was because of Kershner, and it was great because of Kershner. ROTJ didn't have any character development, excepting Vader, and it felt very Lucas-ish to me. But I think I like ROTJ just as much as ANH. I think ROTJ has some very metqaphorical stuff in it too--For example, the ewoks are not an advanced civilization, yet they beat the force of the empire with stones and sticks. Not because they are more powerful, but because they have the will power for it, and this them mirrors itself in the other storyline going on at the moment: Luke Vs. Vader and Emperor. Luke is not stronger than them, but his will to find good in his father overcomes hatred and evil and brings down the emporer once and for all.

I do, however, agree that they could have found something better than Death Star number 2.
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Originally posted by: JediRandy
Or it could be telling the story in a 3 act arc.... where the 2nd act is the darkest one, followed by a "happier" act 3.


I don't think anyone's denying that, Randy. I think they're referring more to the fact that, in a lot of ways, ROTJ feels a bit out of place. Tones can change between "acts", but it can still feel like the same piece of work. The tone develops and changes through Romeo and Juliet, for example, but it never enters a level of silliness that makes you suddenly feel like you're watching something some other author tacked on to the end of it for no apparent reason. And I think that's what the people here are saying.

Personally, I don't see how anybody could have found ESB "too" dark, even as a little kid. Even when I was nine and first saw it, it was immediately my favorite. I loved the fact that the good guys got the crap beaten out of them. It brought out the drama. I loved the fact that the characters were developed more than the action. It was Star Wars with a bit of magic sprinkled onto it to build it up that much more than its predecessor. And it's not with increased action and effects (even though it had that too) like the prequels seem to be completely focused on (dual-lightsaber! Now two lightsabers and Yoda! Now ten-thousand ships and two simultaneous lightsaber duels with three others scattered throughout the movie!). Instead, it got better because it pushed the story along with everything else. ROTJ seemed weaker in comparison because, while it pushed some story farther, it was mostly concerned with pushing effects. It seemed like the story had been pushed about as far as it could, and they were just stretching it as much as possible.

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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Originally posted by: Invader JennyROTJ was more childlike because Lucas was directing again.



Jenny, don't forget that Gary Kurtz "left" (means "was kicked out by GL") the SW franchise, he was the guy who guided GL in his writing telling him "no you can't do this, that's useless, etc..."

but we can thank Marquand; he's the one who insisted to have the Yoda sequence in Jedi.

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I've always had mixed feelings about whether ESB or RotJ were better. Empire was always better to me as a well rounded dramatic experience. But, Return of the Jedi had the most dramatic moment in the entire series with its climax. The end of everything was the repentence of Darth Vader and the valuing of self sacrifice and I've always foudn that to be a beautiful message. Aside from the neat Death Star tunnel sequence, I have never considered the destruction of the second Death Star as being important in the film in any way, so I don't get the fixation with that plot element by the haters of the film. Still, ESB is a masterpiece at every moment, and the original Star Wars has to be number one based upon how many times I've seen it.

"Now all Lucas has to do is make a cgi version of himself.  It will be better than the original and fit his original vision." - skyjedi2005

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Originally posted by: generalfrevious
At least ROTJ, IMO, is at least ten times better than ROTS.

Ten times nothing is still nothing.

Neil

Well at least the reversed surround channels have been addressed.

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well at least there wasn't CGI in every frame (the SE of Jedi is another story- now that's completely unwatchable)
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This is an excellent analysis.

ESB is unique in its production for so many reasons. Lucas' initial conception of the sequels was that the series was to be a bit like James Bond, that each episode would follow different characters, different eras (including the "young Obi Wan" days, as he described it in 1977) and have different tones. Every few years a new director would have a go in the galaxy, putting his own stamp on the film, and Lucas would essentially step back after setting up the basic story. In this, Kershner was pretty much the only person who was allowed to play in Lucas' world, given free creative reign and little opposition; Lucas only visited the set three times. And look how it turned out! But after Lucas hired Kershner, things began to change--first, in the story itself. When the story conferences started in late 1977 it was to be like a James Bond series, but by the final draft it had changed to a 9-part dramatic narrative where Darth Vader was Luke's father (this particular change occured in April of 1978). And then the fiasco of ESB went into production--the film went massively behind schedule and over budget (it DOUBLED!) and the stuff Lucas saw in dailies was completely opposite to his style, and Kershner and Kurtz refused to bow to Lucas' will.
Then the film was released--it did okay, pretty darn good actually, hitting just over the $200 million mark. But it had some criticism and its gross was a whole $100 million less than the first film and kids were not as enamored with the content.

Then Raiders happens. Raiders was essentially the replacement Star Wars sequel--while ESB had progressed to a more epic, Dune-like "saga", Raiders picked up where Star Wars left off, a brainless, swashbuckling saturday matinee serial, devoid of anything particularly profound and told at a breakneck pace with constant action and flash. And without any built-in audience at all it made a whole $50 million MORE than ESB.

Do the math.

The Star Wars sequels primary purpose was to fund the $20 million Skywalker Ranch, as he admitted multiple times back then--although Lucas obviously cared about the quality of the content of the films, it was only to a certain point. If kids were getting bored and profits were dropping then a different route had to be taken. He hired a puppet director (i have a quote from the 1983 issue of American Cinematographer where Kazanjian says something to the effect of "George wanted a younger director that wasnt so well established and wouldn't be as imposing of his own ideas on the film" lol) whose style was closer to his own; Lucas was on set every single day, directed actors and second unit and was for all-intents and purposes, a co-director. And it shows--ROTJ feels very much like a Lucas-film.
Want to reach the kiddies? ESB had only one grumpy, Buddhist-philospher puppet--now he gave them a whole palace of them! Plus a whole planet of teddy bears! No wonder kids loved this film--and its box office gross reflected it, surpassing both ESB and Raiders. Hurray for $$! Too bad Marcia Lucas took most of it a month later!

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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It still completely boggles my mind how ESB was considered the undernourished sibling of the Star Wars Trilogy back in its day. I just can't even wrap my mind around it. Now it's the holy grail of the entire Star Wars saga how it should be. It was my favorite as a kid, and it's my favorite now. What was wrong with people in 1980?!

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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Originally posted by: Gaffer Tape
It still completely boggles my mind how ESB was considered the undernourished sibling of the Star Wars Trilogy back in its day. I just can't even wrap my mind around it. Now it's the holy grail of the entire Star Wars saga how it should be. It was my favorite as a kid, and it's my favorite now. What was wrong with people in 1980?!


Gaffer, you have to take in context that fans didn't know if there were necessarily more movies after ESB, and many at the time didn't like the cliffhanger ending.

A sequel back then was not routine like today, i.e. Spiderman, X-Men, Harry Potter, even the prequels. Now when a movie is made, as long as it does well at the box office, you know it is a franchise, and more are to come in the future.

Walking out of ESB in 1980, it was nothing like SW, and fans were not expecting that. Now many fans liked it, cause it did gross 200 million, but many fans didn't love it like they do now till after ROTJ, and finally saw it as a middle act in a three act play. After viewing the trilogy as a whole after ROTJ, the cliffhanger ending is great as it leads right into ROTJ, but in 1980, you kinda feel cheated.

If fans saw ESB in 2005, and saw a cliffhanger ending, they would begin anticipating the next sequel in 2-3 years, and the internet rumors would begin.

As much as I love ESB, I think it set fans up for the way we are today, awaiting the next ESB..... SW & ESB are so great as a 1-2 punch for the saga, in all honesty, how many more classics could Lucas have made with the saga? Most sagas start to suck right after the original, or the quality drops with each sequel. ESB was able to keep that level of quality, and do one better than SW, and for ROTJ and the PT, that is a tough act to follow.

If ESB had been a good sequel, but not great, I really think I wouldn't be here on these boards today, and just be a SW '77 fan, and think of the rest of the movies as entertaining but doesn't compare to the original. ESB is the only sequel in movie history that compares to the original, and that is has been the achilles heal for SW fans since 1980, cause we have been waiting and waiting for that next ESB.
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I'm glad this topic came up - I have compiled an exhaustive analysis of the creative conflicts throughout ESB through interviews with Kershner and Kurtz and Lucas at this website: www.geocities.com/mfbespinluke

There are photos and the text is color coded to differentiate between quotes and analysis. Hope you enjoy it because these quotes are from the mouths of the horses, so to speak.

Mike
"I turned it off! I don't wanna talk to her!"
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Originally posted by: nohandluke
I'm glad this topic came up - I have compiled an exhaustive analysis of the creative conflicts throughout ESB through interviews with Kershner and Kurtz and Lucas at this website: www.geocities.com/mfbespinluke

There are photos and the text is color coded to differentiate between quotes and analysis. Hope you enjoy it because these quotes are from the mouths of the horses, so to speak.

Mike


Great research, and a great read too, I highly recommend anyone here to read it. The scary thing is your analysis of a SW fan and the downward spiral of disrespect for Lucas is an exact timeline I started in a thread here right after the non-anamorphic debacle was announced.

"Roller coaster ride" is a such an ironic phrase, and I 100% believe that Lucas thinks that way. ESB is so not all George Lucas, and someone has to start calling on him for this, because he gets too much credit as creator sometimes of that movie. I will bow to him for SW '77, cause that was all him, but ESB is mostly Kershs baby, and ROTJ, TPM, AOTC, and ROTS are dense 'roller coaster ride' movies in one way or another.

Luckily ROTJ has Luke, Leia, and Han, so it will always be better than the PT.
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Thanks,

I still have more information to add to this, but I didn't want to miss the discussion in this thread. The truth about Empire is something that really gets to me because so many people just believe without question that Lucas was responsible for it all, when in actuality he was an absentee landlord on ESB through and through. It is my personal feeling that Empire is the film he resents the most. I remember interviews with him about the 1997 Special Editions where he said there wasn't much he could do with ESB as far as changes. He spoke as if it were a positive thing, but behind his voice I remember some hesitation.

On top of that, ESB remains the only film to have a "Special Edition" decision reversed - Luke's scream (which just happened to be The Emperor's scream in ROTJ) I expect Lucas is rather resentful about that too - He had to eat crow and change something back the way it originally was...
"I turned it off! I don't wanna talk to her!"
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I think he just thinks we're stupid enough not to notice. After all, he barely publicized any of the changes to the '04 DVDs. I think the only one that was actually acknowledged on a Lucasfilm disc was a behind the scenes on ROTS thing where Ian McDiarmid admits to being in five of the movies now.

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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I got this quote off of the website nohandluke suggested, and this quote by Kershner is the best description of the PT I have ever heard.

"The thing that you learn in directing is that no matter how complex the shooting, you have to remain sensitive to the people around you or the machine will ultimately take over. If you don't keep in mind the essential humanity of it all, technique will dominate. Then, suddenly, all you've got are technically fine shots, technically fine performances, a story being told but with something lacking, something that is mysterious and indefinable. What is really lacking is someone guiding the mechanism, the ghost in the machine."


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Originally posted by: nohandluke
I'm glad this topic came up - I have compiled an exhaustive analysis of the creative conflicts throughout ESB through interviews with Kershner and Kurtz and Lucas at this website: www.geocities.com/mfbespinluke

There are photos and the text is color coded to differentiate between quotes and analysis. Hope you enjoy it because these quotes are from the mouths of the horses, so to speak.


Wow, great website you've made there. A very interesting read.

"Now all Lucas has to do is make a cgi version of himself.  It will be better than the original and fit his original vision." - skyjedi2005