Originally, George Lucas had planned to film Episode 1 for about $ 60 to $ 65 million. However, the latest official reports from LucasFilm are that the budget will clock in with a final total of at least $ 115 million. Our own inside sources state the final budget will actually end up being closer to $ 150 million because the computer- generated special effects are turning out to be much, much, much more expensive to produce than I.L.M. had originally estimated. ILM plans to continue working on and perfecting the special-effects shots for Ep 1 all the way up to a few weeks before the May 1999 release. George is going to spend as much money as necessary to make Episode 1 the best possible Star Wars film.
According to our top Lucasfilm sources, Fox and Lucasfilm will spend a combined total of about $ 50 million to promote Ep 1 in North Amerca. Countless millions more will be spent by the Ep 1 product licensees to promote Ep 1 and the various Ep 1 related merchandise. The mass media (i.e., newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, cable TV channels, etc.) will likely dedicate many hours of TV time and printed space to Ep 1 prior to its release.
WHEN IS THE TEASER/TRAILER GOING TO BE RELEASED?
Our inside sources have told us for over a year that the Episode 1 trailer will definately not be coming out until late, late 1998 (November at the earliest). This has been confirmed on several occasions by George Lucas himself (in the Star Wars Insider and at the Sminthsonian question and answer session).
EPISODE 1 DIRECTOR:
Of course, Episode 1 is being directed by the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas. This is the first pic that George has directed since the original Star Wars film (1977). George has directed only three films in his distinguished career: THX-1138 (low-budget sci-fi film), American Grafitti (low-budget comedy celebrating the coming of age in 1950's America) and Star Wars (relatively low-budget "space opera"). Additionally, George served as the Executive Producer of the Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the Indiana Jones Trilogy. In the near future, Lucas plans to serve as executive producer for Indiana Jones 4 and he plans to direct some "lower-budget" feature films in the future.
According to our inside sources, the screenplay for Episode 1 was completely penned by George Lucas, with absolutely no outside help from any other screen writer or script doctor.
Rick McCallum, who served as the producer of the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Editions and the young Indiana Jones Chronicles, was tapped by George Lucas to produce the Prequel Trilogy.
HOW MUCH WILL EPISODE 1 EARN IT ITS FIRST WEEK AT THE BOX OFFICE?
Episode I will likely be the first film to gross over $ 100 million during Memorial Day Weekend. One way to estimate the first weeks earnings of Episode 1 is to look how other blockbuster films released during Memorial Day Weekend have faired:
Godzilla (Tues. 4.1 million) - (Wed. 8.4 mill) - (Thurs. 6.0 mill) - (Fri 12.7 mill) - (Sat. 17.1 mill) - (Sun. 14.7 mill) - (Mon.11.0 mill) = (Fri. to Mon. total = 55.5 mill) - (Tues. to Mon. total = 74.0) Theaters = 3,310 (1998)
The Lost World (Thurs. 2.6 million) - (Fri. 21.6 mill) - (Sat. 24.4 mill) - (Sun. 26.1 mill) - (Mon.18.0 mill) = (Fri. to Mon. total = 90.1 mill) - (Thurs. to Mon. total = 92.7) Theaters = 3,281 (1997)
Mission: Impossible (Tues. 3.4 million) - (Wed. 8.4 mill) - (Thurs. 6.3 mill) - (Fri 13.1 mill) - (Sat. 16.7 mill) - (Sun. 15.6 mill) - (Mon.11.4 mill) = (Fri. to Mon. total = 56.8 mill) - (Tues. to Mon. total = 74.9) Theaters = 3,012 (1996)
The largest one day gross in box-office history was the $ 26.1 million earned by The Lost World on its first Sunday. It is safe to assume that Ep 1 will surpass this figure on its first Sunday of release. Here is an estimate of how Episode 1 will do in its first week of full release in North America:
SW: Episode 1 (Tues. 20.2 million) - (Wed. 22.4 mill) - (Thurs. 23.5 mill) - (Fri 25.7 mill) - (Sat. 31.5 mill) - (Sun. 33.0 mill) - (Mon. 23.0 mill) = (Fri. to Mon. total = 113.2 mill) - (Tues. to Mon. total = 179.3 mill) Theaters = 3,750 (1999)
While most films that open on a Tuesday generally will only provide a sneak preview in some theaters, LucasFilm is planning a full release on over 7,500 theater screens because the first-day demand for Episode I will be greater than any other film in history (and that's an understatement to say the least) . . . start standing in line now.
Episode 1 should make approximately $ 180 million during its first week of release.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS EPISODE 1 GOING TO MAKE AT THE BOX OFFICE?
It is difficult to estimate the amount of money that Episode 1 will earn. SW: A New Hope Special Edition earned about $ 140 million in North America and the average attendee had already seen the film five times. So if you multiply $ 140 million by 5 you get = $ 700 million. However, there are many factors that will influence the final box-office tally for Episode 1.
First, will the film meet the unprecedented hype that is surrounding it?
It is hard to imagine how a film like Episode 1 can possibly meet the hype produced by 15 years of pining for a new Star Wars films. George Lucas has publicly stated that he is not worried about the box-office performance for Episode I. Lucas is a self-made movie mogul with a rumored net worth of over $ 5 billion. He is making this film because he wants to do it and is not doing it for the money. Lucas wants to finish the epic saga which details the rise, fall and final redemption of Anakin Skywalker.
The special effects will be beyond state-of-the-art and unprecedented in both scope and complexity. However, the story line of Episode I will carry the film and not the special efffects. And according to our inside sources, the story line is by far more "involved," complex and heart warming than the one that appears in the original trilogy.
But can George Lucas really expect for lighting to strike twice? Then again, each film in the Star Wars Trilogy was the number one box-office hit for the year it was released. Financial failure is probably impossible at the theaters.
Second, how many times will the hard-core Star Wars fans watch the film in its theatrical release?
Considering that the wait will have been 16 years in between ROTJ and Episode 1, the die-hard, core Star Wars fans will probably watch Episode 1 several dozen times in the cineplexes. Undoubtedly memorizing each scene word for word.
Generally, when a new Star Wars film is released, the die-hard fans will watch the film and then immediately get back in line to see the film again once the film is over. However, with the modern convenience of advanced ticket sells, fans in many cities will be able to buy tickets to every showing many weeks in advance if they so desire. Many of the larger theaters will also offer reserved seating similar to what is done for rock concerts, operas and Broadway shows. In other words, you will be able to buy a ticket for the aisle seat on row 4 if that is your preference.
Third, will Episode 1 match the unbelievable demographic appeal of Titanic?
Past Star Wars films have appealed to every conceivable demographic group of every age, race, creed and religion. But whether these movie patrons will see the film more than once depends on whether the story of Episode 1 inspires and captures their hearts like the grand love story that James Cameron successfully weaved in Titanic. While Episode I does not feature a full-blown love story like Titanic, it does feature an extremely emotionally compelling story that may leave some fans in tears at times.
Fourth, what other films will open in close proximity to Episode 1?
According to our sources at 20th Century Fox, no major studio releases will occur within 3 weeks of Episode 1's release. So this appears to be a non-issue.
Fifth, how soon will LucasFilm wait to release Episode 1 on video and laser disc?
According to our highest-level sources at LucasFilm, Episode 1 WILL NOT be released on video and laser disc until at least 2001. So if you want to see Episode 1 multiple times prior to 2001, you had better see it in the theaters. Episode I is unlikely to ever be released on the DVD format.
If Episode I fails to live up to the unprecedented hype and expectations that are building; then Episode I will make between $ 200 to $ 300 million in North America. If Episode I is as good as Return of the Jedi, then the prequel should make between $ 300 to $ 400 million in North America. If Episode I delivers on all the goods just like A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back then the sky is the limit with a domestic gross of somewhere between $ 500 to $ 700 million. Episode I should have a combined North American and overseas gross of more than $ 1 billion U.S. dollars . . .
WHEN WILL EPISODE 2 and 3 BEGIN PRINCIPLE FILMING?
Currently, George Lucas is planning to film Episode 2 and 3 back-to-back and simultaneously. Principal photography will begin on these films in late 1999 at the very earliest. New Zealand and Scotland have been scouted by Lucasfilm as possible live-action shooting locations.