Capturing the Spirit: 1978 Re-Release Campaign Graphics
The monumental success of Star Wars in its initial theatrical run in 1977 logically led to a nationwide re-release in the United States. That the re-release date would fall on July 21st, 1978 – literally one day after the film’s record-breaking first run officially ended – is something that neither Lucas or 20th Century-Fox could have ever expected. This remarkable box office longevity essentially classified the 1978 re-release as more of a "second wind," and it offered the opportunity for a revitalization of the film’s marketing campaign that would draw upon an unused concept that began its life over a year earlier as a candidate for the original release one sheet.
Painted by Charlie White III and Drew Struzan, the Style D “Circus” poster's artwork has always been a standout among fans and collectors. Its zesty imagery is quintessentially Star Wars, and as with all of the Original Trilogy’s theatrical campaigns, components from the one sheet would be adapted for use in print advertising throughout the country.
Standard ad slicks were produced for larger publications, but the poster’s imagery was also reproduced in the form of 8 x 10” black and white stills which serve as nice collectibles due to their manageable size and each component having its own unique representation. Labeled “Ad Art J,” these stills were presumably sent to smaller newspapers that didn’t need the larger ads from the standard set.
First we have an iteration of the complete ensemble which lacks the names of the cast and the credits block that would reside at the bottom of the final poster. The film’s famous preamble “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...” that appeared in the poster has yet to be incorporated, and the background behind Luke and Leia has some additional detail that does not materialize in the end product.
With the stylish graphic pairing of our hero and heroine (the interesting origin of which is explained in The Star Wars Poster Book), the starry backdrop and Tatooine-esque sand dunes that serve as scenery in the complete poster have been added. A similar style is applied to the singular graphic for Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers, which is a strong counterpart to the Luke & Leia image.
While the previous two images were fundamentally original compositions, the Han Solo likeness for the Style D campaign looks to be an inverted artistic recreation of one of the more recognizable publicity photos of the space pirate.
Finally (and perhaps my favorite), the image of C-3PO and R2-D2 on a joy ride in Luke’s Landspeeder captures a feeling akin to what would eventually characterize the Droids animated series seven years later.
Below are a handful of examples of the Style D graphics implemented in North American newspaper advertisements in various combinations.
Ads from the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner - Source: Charismatic Ephemera
From the Collection of Bill Duelly
From the Collection of Martin Thurn
The following Canadian Odeon Theatres ads from Ottawa, Ontario make sure to recommend Star Wars as "ADULT ENTERTAINMENT." I suppose that's to assure childless grown-ups that this movie isn't just for kids. Perhaps more salacious Canucks were disappointed to discover that it wasn't Star Babe.
From the Collection of Scott Bradley
Some interesting international examples from New Zealand (where the film also had a 1978 re-release) can be found here.
Last but certainly not least, the Style D graphics were also colorfully represented in the cover sleeve for the 1978 re-release of a 20th Century Records 45 vinyl album single featuring John Williams' Star Wars main theme and the Cantina Band music. Groovy!
From the Collection of Tony Damata
Special thanks to Scott Bradley, Todd Chamberlain, Tony Damata, Bill Duelly, Martin Thurn, and Pete Vilmur for their contributions to this post.