Star Wars was released in a limited number of theaters in the United States on May 25, 1977. Director George Lucas had the idea for a science-fiction film in the vein of Flash Gordon around the time he completed his first film, THX 1138. He shopped around a treatment and ultimately settled with 20th Century Fox.
Lucas elected to forgo an option for an extra $500,000 in exchange for ownership of the merchandising and sequel rights for the movie—when turned out to be a smart move.
The film opened to critical acclaim, most notably for its groundbreaking visual effects. It grossed a total of $775 million, surpassing Jaws to become the highest-grossing film at the time.
In the following years and decades, the film became a pop-cultural phenomenon and launched an industry of tie-in products, including novels, comics, video games, amusement park attractions, and merchandise including toys, games, clothing and many other spin-off works.
The film was a huge success for 20th Century-Fox, and was credited for reinvigorating the company. Within three weeks of the film's release, the studio's stock price had doubled to a record high. When it unexpectedly became the decade's blockbuster, grossing $100 million in three months, Fox's stock soared from $6 to $25 per share and generated revenues of $1.2 million a day for the studio.
Star Wars helped launch the science fiction boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, making science fiction films a blockbuster genre. It also started the tradition of the summer blockbuster film in the entertainment industry, where films open on many screens at the same time and profitable franchises are born.
Star Wars remained the highest grossing movie until 1997’s Titanic.