40 years ago Stars Wars opened in the UK

On the 27th December 1977 Star Wars opened to a British audience who had spent months waiting for the film to hit British cinemas, but in those long months from the film opening in the USA in May of that year to the UK opening, fans had plenty to keep them going.

Today a big blockbuster opens wordwide generally at the same time, or even places like the UK get say, a Marvel film, a week or two before our American cousins. In the 70’s a film would take on average six months between American and British openings, and even then it’d likely be a limited release so London, Glasgow, Birmingham, and the larger cities before it opened in the smaller cities and towns.

For those of us who managed to get hold of American magazines like Famous Monsters, we were teased something we’d not see for months, but for many British SF fans the one thing we had was the novelisation by George Lucas.

Also one of the biggest effects the original Star Wars had on the UK was the launch of 2000AD in the February of 1977 so by the time of the film’s release that December, 2000AD was firmly established and its readership lapped up the comic’s publicity for the new film.

We also had the Marvel Comics adaptation. Not the black and white weekly which didn’t launch in the UK til February 1978, but the American issues, well, some of them at least as we never had the first issue distributed in the UK but we did have the second to the sixth issue distributed. The reason for this was that Marvel’s US style comics were restricted in distribution with only 15-20 titles per month deemed fit for UK distribution as Marvel UK’s reprints would be printing Spider-Man, Hulk, Avengers and other titles which mean large runs of US Marvel Comics in the 70’s and 80’s are ‘non-distributed’ so are scarcer in the UK than they may be in the US. We did however get the treasury editions (large over-sized comics) of the film adaptation.

Eventually though December rolled round and the film finally opened, well, for those of us living in cities like Glasgow or London , and we finally saw what the fuss was all about. Of course the film was a huge success as it had been in the US, but it took time to spread across the UK which is why Star Wars (later Episode IV: A New Hope) had incredibly long runs at cinemas in most of the UK’s big cities.

Upon the film’s release the floodgates opened as magazines like Dez Skinn’s Starburst tried to cash in on the film…

While Marvel UK finally released their black and white reprints of the comic adaptation…

I loved my little paper X-Wing Fighter!

Even the late Barry Norman liked it.

The rest is of course history. The film seeped its way across the UK and wherever it went it brought the huge queues that’d been part of the film’s history since it’d opened just after Christmas 1977. See this was the thing; you had to work to get most things Star Wars related. You had to search out the comics before Marvel UK released their version. You had to hunt out the few toys that sneaked over the Atlantic that Christmas. As for the film, in the few cinemas it was opening in they’d sold out tickets months prior, so like me you waited in the cold as wee child to see a film you’d waited to see for nearly a year, then you felt you’d earned it. Though to be honest I prefer popping online and booking tickets. Far easier…

So remember when you’re moaning that you have to wait a week for a Big American Blockbuster opening what it was like in the analogue days when seeing these films involved a lot of patience because if you didn’t have that then you’d go insane with the wait.

Ah, simpler times…

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1 thought on “40 years ago Stars Wars opened in the UK

  1. I remember queuing with a mate outside the Beau Nash cinema in Bath for what seemed like ages to get in. There was an independant newsagent opposite and all afternoon he had a steady stream of punters snaffling any sci-fi mags that were in there (judging by the number of kids reading the same magazines while we were waiting he’d stocked up!). On the subject of judging – I’d forgotten Walter the wobot had a speech impediment! And I when did Starlord come out? I loved that comic! I have fond memories of the 2 part big Star Wars comic; pulled off the front cover of part 2 and back cover of part 1 and sellotaped them together to make a single comic… don’t tell me they’re worth a fortune now!

    Liked by 1 person

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