November 1998 -- starwars.com announces that TPM's first teaser trailer will be sneak previewed in 200 of the nation's most state-of-the-art movie houses. The trailer is subsequently released in cineplexes nationwide and is broadcast in full length on many TV outlets such as Entertainment Tonight, Hard Copy, CNN, etc. Lucas later states on starwars.com that he is overwhelmed by the phenomenal response that the fans had after viewing the first trailer.
1999 -- George Lucas announces that he will probably direct Episode 2 and has begun to more fully "develop" the story for Episode 2.
January 1999 -- Lucasfilm's promotion of TPM remains low key to avoid over-hyping the newest Star Wars film.
February 1999 -- In the Star Wars Insider, Rick McCallum states that Lucasfilm will release a more "traditional" movie trailer by March or April 1999.
March 12, 1999 -- Lucasfilm releases the second TPM promotional trailer.
First Week of May 1999 -- Lucas shows The Phantom Menace (TPM) to theater owners.
May 16, 1999 -- TPM is exhibited in several cities to raise money for children's charities.
May 19, 1999 -- TPM makes its theatrical debut in North America and breaks many box-office records.
Many diverse, "insider" sources divulged snippets from the actual script of The Phantom Menace. It became evident from these leaks that TPM will be very similar to A New Hope as Lucas had earlier promised. While Obi-Wan Kenobi serves the role of a venerable Jedi Knight who introduces the young Luke Skywalker to the ways of the Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn serves as a venerable Jedi Knight who introduces the young Anakin Skywalker to the ways of the Jedi.
Meanwhile, while Han Solo served as the wise-cracking renegade in ANH, Obi-Wan Kenobi acts as a wise-cracking renegade in the first prequel. Just as Princess Leia is rescued from the bad guys in ANH, Queen Amidala (Leia and Luke's future mom) is rescued from the bad guys at the beginning of TPM. Likewise, R2-D2 and C-3PO reprise their roles from the first film. R2 helps the heroes when needed while C-3PO serves as comic relief in his brief appearance.
Just as the cheif villain in ANH was named "Darth," we learn that the chief bad guys of TPM are named "Darth." There are actually two Darths in TPM: Darth Maul and Darth Sidious. While the exploits of Luke Skywalker are key to the defeat of the death star, the exploits of Anakin Skywalker are key in Naboo's defeat of the Trade Federation's fighters. Hence, there are many similarities between the first Star Wars film - Episode 4: A New Hope -and the newest one - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Lucas states that: "There was a cinematic innovation in the first Star Wars film that made people say, 'Gee, I'd never seen that before. I have the opportunity to do that again with the prequels. The fun part for me is to say, 'You want me to come back and do that for you? I can do that. I'll do it. Here."
After a sixteen year lull, a new Star Wars movie finally returns to theaters on Wednesday, May 19, 1999. Some considered Episode 1 to be the most anticipated film since Gone With The Wind. On its first day of release the Phantom Menace shatters box-office records with the largest single day gross in history: over $ 28 million in North America. Episode 1 goes on to earn over $ 431 million domestically and over $ 461 million overseas for a worldwide total of over $ 922 million. Episode 1 ends up becoming the second highest grossing film of all time second only to James Cameron's Titanic.
2000 -- Filming begins on Episode 2 with the older Anakin Skywalker played by little-known actor Hayden Christensen.
May 2002 -- Episode 2 opened in theaters on May 16, 2002. The film earned $ 110 million in its first four days of release in North America.
June 2003 -- Starwars.com opens its special Episode 3 content called Hyperspace. Subscription fee is $ 19.95 per year.
July 2003 -- George Lucas is scheduled to begin filming Star Wars Episode 3 in Sydney, Australia.
November 7, 2003 -- The Star Wars Clone Wars Epic Micro Series debuts on the Cartoon Network.
February 2004 -- Lucasfilm announces that the classic Star Wars trilogy (Episodes 4 to 6) will be released on DVD on September 21, 2004.
April 2004 -- Lucasfilm reveals that Episode 3 will be released in cinemas in North America on Thursday, May 19, 2005.
July 2004 -- Lucasfilm announces that the title of Episode 3 will be Revenge of the Sith.
September 21, 2004 -- Lucasfilm finally releases the classic Star Wars trilogy on DVD.
November 4, 2004 -- The first movie teaser trailer for Revenge of the Sith debuts at starwars.com Hyperspace.
November 5, 2004 -- The Revenge of the Sith trailer is previewed with the Pixar film called The Incredibles.
November 8, 2004 -- starwars.com debuts the Revenge of the Sith trailer for the general public.
March 10, 2005 -- Lucasfilm debuts the second Revenge of the Sith trailer on the Fox TV Network. Trailer appears with the computer-animated movie called Robots beginning Marth 11. Available to all fans at starwars.com on March 14.
May 19, 2005 -- Revenge of the Sith opens at theaters all around the world to record box-office grosses.
November 1, 2005 -- Lucasfilm releases Revenge of the Sith on DVD.
May 2006 -- Lucasfilm announces that the original theatrical versions of the classic Star Wars trilogy will be released on DVD in September 2006. This will be the first versions shown in cineplexes without any of the 1997 special-edition updates.
June 2006 -- Lucasfilm announces that Celebration 4 will take place in Los Angeles, CA, USA in May 2007.
1974 -- George Lucas' first hit film, American Grafitti, was released during August of 1973. It became incredibly successful. The film grossed over $ 115 million at the box office and was dollar-for-dollar the most profitable film in the history of Hollywood at the time. Lucas' profit participation in Grafitti earned him over $ 7 million. Lucas was now a millionaire and one of the most sought after young directors in the world.
Alan Ladd, Jr. (who at the time was the head of Twentieth Century Fox) saw a smuggled print of American Grafitti before it was released in theaters and absolutely loved the film. Ladd was determined that Fox was going to be the next studio to profit from Lucas' genius.
1975 -- George Lucas conceives of and writes the basic story of Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall and ultimate redemption. This story becomes too large for one film and Lucas divides the story into two trilogies. The first trilogy focuses on the life of a young Anakin Skywalker while the second trilogy focuses on the life of Anakin's son, Luke Skywalker. Lucas chooses to make the second trilogy first since it appears to be the most exciting one to film at the time.
Lucas offers his Star Wars films first to Universal Studios, the film company that financed American Grafitti. Universal passed on Star Wars because they considered it to be an unfathomable and silly movie idea. This decision ended up costing Universal hundreds of millions of dollars. Every single studio in Hollywood passed on the project except for 20th Century Fox. Fox gave Lucas $ 10 million to make what is perhaps the most influential film in the history of cinema. Fox released Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope in May 1977.
On May 20, 1977 Variety set the tone by stating: "Star Wars is a magnificant film. George Lucas set out to make the biggest possible adventure-fantasy out of his memories of serials and older action epics, and he has succeeded brilliantly. What Lucas lacks in originality is more than made up by enthralling special effects." Star Wars' opening day totaled $ 254,309 from just 32 theaters. By the end of its first theatrical run, Star Wars was the most successful film in North American history with a gross in excess of $ 290 million. Lucas' cut from the box office was more than $ 50 million. Alec Guinness negotiated for 2.5% of net profits, which eventually earned the actor over $ 6 million.
When Lucas negotiated his deal with Fox to make Star Wars, the studio was shocked to learn that the hot director was not asking for a lot of money. Instead, Lucas wanted control. He wanted to have the right to the final cut of the film, 40% of the net box-office gross, all rights to future sequels and ownership of all the merchandising rights associated with Star Wars. At the time, science fiction films were not very profitable. Hence, Fox thought they were ripping Lucas off. Sequel and merchandise rights to science fiction films were worthless at the time. In the end, this deal would eventually make Lucas a billionaire and cost Fox an untold fortune in lost revenues.
1978 -- George Lucas began to discreetly buy up land in San Rafael, California. Lucas purchased the 1,882 acre Bulltail Ranch for $ 2.7 million. Production on the sequel to Star Wars called the Empire Strikes Back was underway. The film was budgeted at $ 18 million to be entirely financed out of Lucas' own pocket. The film encountered severe budget overruns and eventually cost over $ 30 million. Empire hit theaters in May 1980 and grossed $ 222 million in North America. It was the highest grossing film of 1980.
1983 -- Return of the Jedi premieres in theaters in May 1983 and grosses over $ 265 million at North American cinemas. After the release of Return of the Jedi, Lucas retires from making Star Wars movies to pursue other projects. Lucas vaguely promises to make a Prequel Trilogy one day when special-effects technology advances enough and becomes cheap enough so that Lucas can make the films exactly as Lucas envisions them without artistic compromises. True to his word, Lucas walked away from Star Wars and the Prequel Trilogy remained untouched in his five three-ringed notebooks for well over a decade.
1994 -- Front page of Daily Variety announced that: "Lucas The Loner Returns To Wars." Lucas tells Rex Weiner of Variety that work will soon begin on the long-awaited Prequel Trilogy. The first prequel is tentatively scheduled for a 1998 release. Lucas states that the recent advances in computer generated imaging (CGI) as seen in Jurassic Park and Casper make the filming of the new trilogy both inexpensive and technically possible. Also, Lucas states that he will direct Episode 1. This is the first time that Lucas has directed a film since the original Star Wars. The new CG technology will create a new way to make films where a writer's imagination can be fully released without restrictions. With the level of computer animation technology available, Lucas believes that he is now free to write more interesting and complex Star Wars scripts.
1995 -- Lucas is hard at work on writing the screenplay for Episode 1 . . . The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles helps pave the way for the Prequel Trilogy. ILM develops the technology and means to create virtual environments for this landmark television series. ILM packs each hour long episode with hundreds of special effects sequences at very reasonable prices. With the new digital effects techniques developed for Young Indy, Lucas believes that he will be able to make the Prequel Trilogy very economically: about $ 60 - 70 million per film.
May 1996 -- Lucasfilm announces that it has signed a deal (reportedly worth $ 2 billion) with Pepsico (Pepsi, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell and Frito Lay) for movie tie-ins related to the new Prequel Trilogy. Variety called this "the largest in size and scope the entertainment industry has ever seen."
Late 1996 -- Lucasfilm announces that pre-production on Episode 1 has begun.
September 1996 -- Lucasfilm announces that Leavesdon Studios in Britain will be used to film portions of Episode 1.
Late 1996 -- ILM celebrates its twentieth anniversary.
November 1996 -- Lucasfilm announces that ILM is developing revolutionary computer software that will be used to create the 2000-plus effects sequences that will be seen in Episode 1.
1997 -- Fans learn that Ewan McGregor will play the role of the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson will play the role of a venerable Jedi Knight. Natalie Portman won the pivotal role of the young Queen while Samuel L. Jackson will appear as a Jedi Master in Episode 1.
June 1997 -- Principle photography for Episode 1 begins. Lucasfilm's unique style of ultra secrecy is utilized on the set. Despite this security, the plot line of the film is leaked bit by bit to the Internet. By the end of 1998, SuperShadow.com has posted an accurate summary of the Episode 1 script. Thus, SS.com becomes the center of Star Wars fandom on the Internet.
September 6, 1997 -- The first phase of principle photography for Episode 1 ends.
April 1998 -- Lucasfilm announces that 20th Century Fox has won the rights to release the Prequel Trilogy. Fox is rumored to receive only a small distribution fee and will not share in the box-office gross. Fox had lost the right to future Star Wars films when Rupert Murdoch bought the studio in the mid-1980's. Fox' contract with Lucas had a "key man" clause that terminated their rights to future Star Wars films if the studio were acquired by new owners.
While some believe that in 100 years Star Wars will be a religion, the humble Lucas states that one day Star Wars "will be nothing more than a pretty minor footnote in the pop culture of the 1970s and 1980s."
starwars.com announces that Episode 1 will be released in North America on Friday, May 21, 1999.
September 1998 -- starwars.com announces that Episode 1 will be subtitled The Phantom Menace (TPM). This subtitle is presumably inspired by the old Republic movie serials that Lucas grew up watching.
I see you have made a new Star Wars page like young Schubert... The Force is strong with both of you... You both might just yet be turned to the Dark Side of the Force... if I offer some popcorn and soda...