Star Wars Timeline

An essential guide to important Star Wars dates including the evolution of the Star Wars toy lines.

May 14, 1944
George Lucas is born in Modesto, Calif.

Fall 1964
Lucas enrolls at USC’s film school.

August 1966
Lucas graduates from USC’s film school.

1971
Lucasfilm is established.

March 11, 1971
Lucas releases THX 1138, first full-length feature film.

February 1972
Lucas begins writing the treatment for what will become Star Wars.

Summer 1973
Universal Studio passes on Lucas’ idea for Star Wars..

August 1, 1973
Lucas’ American Graffiti becomes one of the year’s biggest hits. Lucas renegotiates his deal with Fox for Star Wars and forgoes a six-figure raise in exchange for merchandising and sequel rights.

July 1975
Lucas creates Industrial Light & Magic to supervise his films’ special effects.

March 15, 1976
Lucas adds the opening ”A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” to a fourth and final Star Wars script.

March 22, 1976
Lucas and crew begin shooting Star Wars in Tunisia.

May 25, 1977
Star Wars premieres. In its opening weekend, the film grosses $1.5 million. Six months later, it surpasses Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as the all-time domestic box office champ.

Christmas 1977
Caught unprepared by the Star Wars phenomenon, Lucas’ toy-making partner Kenner sells 600,000 empty IOU action-figure boxes during the holidays. In 1978, Kenner sells 42,322,500 action figures.

April 3, 1978
Nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Star Wars wins for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound.

September 1978
Lucas buys considerable acreage in Marin County, California that will eventually become Skywalker Ranch.

Nov. 17, 1978
CBS broadcasts The Star Wars Holiday Special. Aired only once, the special includes the debut of Boba Fett.

Nov. 18, 1978
Carrie Fisher hosts Saturday Night Live, further cementing Star Wars as an American icon for fans and satirists alike.

March 5, 1979
Shooting begins on The Empire Strikes Back, with Lucas as executive producer and Irvin Kershner as director.

May 21, 1980
The Empire Strikes Back premieres. In its opening weekend the first sequel grosses $6.4 million.

March 9, 1981
NPR begins a 13-part radio dramatization of Star Wars, featuring Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels (C-3P0).

April 1981
Fox re-releases Star Wars in theaters with the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope.

1982
Parker Brothers releases the first Star Wars videogame, ”The Empire Strikes Back,” for Atari and Intellivision.

January 11, 1982
Revenge of the Jedi begins shooting. Shortly before its release, after some posters and publicity materials have already been created, Lucas decides that Jedi do not seek revenge, and the title is changed to Return of the Jedi.

June 1982
THX Sound System is developed by ILM.

May 25, 1983
Return of the Jedi premieres. The final installment of the original trilogy sets single and opening day box office records.

November 25, 1984
ABC airs a prime-time special called Ewok Adventures.

September 7, 1985
ABC premieres two Saturday morning cartoons: Droids and Ewoks.

November 24, 1986
ABC airs another prime-time special, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.

January 8, 1987
Disneyland opens “Star Tours,” a Star Wars-themed ride.

May 24, 1987
Ten years after Star Wars’ release, Lucas announces plans for a second trilogy — and hints at the possibility of a third.

1991
Hasbro acquires the Tonka Corporation, including its Kenner Products and Parker Brothers divisions, giving Hasbro control of the Star Wars toy license.

June 1991
Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, the first of a literary trilogy picking up from the end of Return of the Jedi, hits shelves and quickly becomes a best-seller.

September 1993
Fox releases Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection on laserdisc.

November 1993
LucasArts releases ”Rebel Assault,” a CD-ROM game that sells 400,000 discs in its first three months.

Summer 1995
Hasbro, having acquired Kenner, releases a new collection of Star Wars toys called the Power of the Force 2.

September 1995
The Star Wars Trilogy is released on VHS.

October 1996
Rhino Records re-releases 1980’s ”Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas.”

January 31, 1997
Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) premieres. It earns $35.9 million in its opening weekend in theaters, still the biggest January opening in box office history. Two weeks later, it beats E.T. as the all-time domestic box office champ.

February 1997
LucasFilm officially enters cyberspace, launching StarWars.com.

February 21, 1997
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition) premieres. It earns $22 million in its first weekend.

March 14, 1997
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Special Edition) premieres. It earns $16.3 million in its first weekend.

June 26, 1997
Lucas begins shooting Star Wars Episode I, the first of the prequels.

August 1997
The Star Wars Trilogy (Special Edition) is released on VHS.

October 31, 1997
”Star Wars: The Magic of Myth” exhibit opens at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

September 9, 1998
Lucas announces the first chapter of his new trilogy will be called Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.

November 17, 1998
The first trailer for The Phantom Menace is shown in theaters.

April 30, 1999
Lucasfilm sponsors the first Star Wars Celebration, drawing more than 30,000 fans to Denver.

May 3, 1999
The Phantom Menace toy line is offered for sale. On this day alone, Toys “R” Us sells 1.25 million units of Phantom product nationally, including 50,000 Lego sets.

May 19, 1999
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace premieres. It makes $28.5 million in its first day in theaters and reaches the $100 million mark in a record five days.

May 12, 2000
Lucas announces that actor Hayden Christensen has been cast to play Anakin Skywalker as a young adult.

June 26, 2000
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones begins production.

August 5, 2000
Sir Alec Guinness dies of liver cancer.

May 12, 2002
Director Kevin Smith hosts the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards on the Sci-Fi Channel.

May 16, 2002
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones premieres. The film earns $80 million in its first weekend.

June 30, 2003
Lucas begins shooting Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.

Sept. 21, 2004
The original Star Wars Trilogy (Special Edition) is released on DVD.

March 17, 2005
Lucas announces plans to re-release all six Star Wars films in 3-D, starting in 2007.

April 23, 2005
Appearing at Celebration III, a fan gathering in Indianapolis, Lucas announces plans for a Star Wars live-action TV series, with filming expected to begin in the middle of 2006.

May 19, 2005
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith premieres. It earned 158.5 million dollars for its first weekend of release.

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