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.