May the Force always be with you
When filmmakers lose a crown
This was meant to reach you yesterday, on Star Wars Day, but life got in the way. May the Fifth be with you.
In 1977, when Star Wars took the “domestic film rentals” crown from Jaws, Steven Spielberg wrote a congratulatory letter to George Lucas and had it printed full page in Variety—a charming move, tastefully done, that kickstarted a tradition amongst filmmakers and studios that continues to this day. The result: whenever some kind of box office record is broken, the loser of the crown, be it a director or studio, publicly pats the victor on the back with a nice message. Spielberg’s was accompanied by an illustration of R2-D2 snagging Jaws on a fishing line; six years later, when E.T. broke Star Wars’ record, Lucas returned the favour with a letter of his own, published in the same paper, beneath a picture of E.T. being held aloft by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Spielberg and Lucas even signed them. As far as I can tell, these popped up in Variety four times, the final one arriving in 1998 when Titanic sank Star Wars, for which George Lucas wrote a letter of three whole words—two of which were names—to James Cameron, beneath an illustration of the Titanic surrounded by Star Wars characters as it plunged into the ocean.
And then there seems to be a large gap, until 2015, when Jurassic World had a huge opening weekend that provoked a congratulatory message from Marvel boss Kevin Feige. Sadly, he just slapped it on his Twitter account because it’s cheaper, quicker, and will be read by more people than would ever pick up a trade magazine. All of which makes me, a grumpy, greying man with a letter obsession, feel sad.
Anyway, judge for yourself. Below are the ones I could find. If I’ve missed any, let me know in the comments.
The letter that began it all. Star Wars defeats Jaws.
[2nd December 1977]
Last week “Star Wars” moved ahead of “Jaws” in domestic film rentals.
Your hyperspace performance package really did the trick.
Congratulations to the Cantina crowd and all the forces of your imagination that made “Star Wars” so worthy of the throne.
Wear it well.
Six years later, E.T. topples Star Wars at the box office.
Congratulations to you and your Extra-Terrestrial buddy. This week E. T. moved ahead of STAR WARS to take first place in domestic film rentals.
E.T.’s adventure on earth and his gift of intergalactic friendship continue to touch us all.
May the Force always be with you.
Thanks to the theatrical release of the special edition of the Star Wars trilogy, E.T. is knocked from the top.
Congratulations for renewing the most enduring motion picture in history.
A year later, Titanic dethrones Star Wars.
Jurassic World has the largest ever worldwide opening for a movie, stealing the title from Avengers.
Marvel Studios congratulates Jurassic World on being the new opening weekend KING!
And almost immediately, Star Wars smashes the record.
Universal Pictures, Steven, Frank and Colin congratulate STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS on the BIGGEST OPENING WEEKEND IN GALACTIC HISTORY
Three years later, Lucasfilm hands the baton/lightsaber to Marvel following the success of Avengers: Infinity War.
From a galaxy far, far away… to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. CONGRATULATIONS on the biggest opening weekend in history!
From Kathy and everyone at Lucasfilm!
Avengers beats Titanic.
To Kevin and everybody at Marvel,
An iceberg sank the real Titanic. It took the Avengers to sink my Titanic. Everyone here at Lightstorm Entertainment salutes your amazing achievement. You’ve shown that the movie industry is not only alive and well, it’s bigger than ever!
Avengers: Endgame continues to break records, unseating Avatar.
OEL NGATI KAMEIE1, I SEE YOU MARVEL –
CONGRATULATIONS TO AVENGERS ENDGAME ON BECOMING THE NEW BOX-OFFICE KING.
Joker beats Deadpool 2 to become the top-grossing R-rated film of all time.
Avatar reclaims the crown from Avengers.