What Surprising Film Got the Original Star Wars Into More Theaters Than Expected at First?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Fox made any theater that wanted to show the film The Other Side of Midnight agree to also show Star Wars.

As we have noted a few times over the years, like when George Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster to write a cheap sequel to Star Wars or when Lucas talked about how he was fine with killing Darth Vader because he didn’t think he was all that great of a character, in the time between the completion of the original Star Wars film and the release of the movie, there really was no way to know that the movie would be one of the most successful films of all-time.

The closer the film came to actually being released, it was more and more apparent that the film WOULD be successful, although no one knew just HOW popular it would become. However, that was long after they had to make their initial sales of the film to the theaters of the United States. When they did the initial sales of the movie, Fox did not know if they had a hit or not, so they actually made an unusual deal where they paired Star Wars with another film, a very different type of film called The Other Side of Midnight.

The Other Side of Midnight began as a 1973 novel by Sidney Sheldon about two women born in the same year but turned out much differently, in great part due to their different circumstances (one was born in Chicago and one in France). World War II played a major role and the same pilot entered both of their lives and almost led both of them to their deaths. It was filled with lust, revenge and murder. It was a major success.

The book got an amusing reference recently in the HBO drama The Night Of, where a prisoner explains to a new prisoner that he’s taken under his wing that the two most popular books in prison are the Art of War and The Other Side of Midnight…

The book was such a huge hit that the film adaptation was hotly anticipated.

It was SO anticipated that Fox decided to use some of the hype about this new film to help sell their other 1977 release, the aforementioned Star Wars. If a theater wanted The Other Side of Midnight, they had to also agree to book Star Wars, as well.

The Other Side of Midnight actually WAS a mild success, more than doubling its budget, but it obviously paled in comparison to the success of Star Wars. But who knows if Star Wars would have been AS successful if it wasn’t in all of those extra theaters? Obviously, we’re only talking a matter of degree, as Star Wars was going to be a blockbuster no matter what, but being in all of those extra theaters had to help SOMEwhat!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of films.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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