“Star Wars” opened 40 years ago on May 25, 1977. It wasn’t until subsequent re-releases that the “Episode IV: A New Hope” subtitle would be added.
George Lucas’ original space epic has since spawned a multibillion-dollar movie franchise set to release its 10th feature-length film, “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi,” in December. The series has branched into television, novels and comic books, and one doesn’t have to look far, far away to discover an array of merchandise with the series’ iconic characters (as observed in this Dec. 2016 story by the Herald-Leader’s Fernando Alfonso III).
What kind of fanfare met the original film’s release when it came to Lexington? Scroll below for some historic articles from the time leading up to the release of “Star Wars” in the city.
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The first discoverable reference to the film in the Herald-Leader’s archives was in a column by local movie critic John Furcolow in the July 20, 1975, Sunday edition of the paper.
A little less than two years before the film’s release, Furcolow wrote that George Lucas was “still at work on ‘The Star Wars,’ a Flash Gordon-like sci-fi adventure story. “The Star Wars” was one of several original working titles for the film
A year and one day passed before the next mention of “Star Wars” by the Herald-Leader. It was news from the Associated Press that Peter Cushing had been cast as “the evil governor of a galactic battle station.” The evil governor played by Cushing, who died in 1994, was the commander of the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin.
Year of release
The next mention of “Star Wars” was 14 days before its release on May 11, 1977. Furcolow mentioned the film as part of a column looking ahead to summer movies.
“Star Wars” opened on May 25, 1977, but it didn’t screen in Lexington until a month later. Original ads in the paper leading up to its release promoted a date of June 24, but “Star Wars” eventually premiered on June 15 at the Turfland Mall Cinema and the Lexington Mall Cinema 1-2.
The two malls promoted the film with a half-page ad in the Sunday paper ahead of its June 15 release.
About two years after his first mention of “The Star Wars,” Furcolow gave the original film a glowing review the day before its Lexington release.
“It’s super entertainment, one of the most purely enjoyable films in a long time and surely one of the best films of 1977,” wrote Furcolow. “... It’s the kind of movie you want to see again and again because it’s just so easy to take and so enjoyable to just sit and watch, the kind of film you want to take your friends and kids to because you feel sure they’ll enjoy it as much as you did.”
Sounds like Furcolow knew what he was talking about.