Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two filmmaking legends whose names have become synonymous with the summer blockbuster. Their collaboration and mutual admiration helped shape an era of filmmaking that focused on entertainment for the masses. Spielberg’s Jaws laid the groundwork for the summer blockbuster, just two years prior to George Lucas’ Star Wars.

Back in 1977, few could have predicted the global impact Star Wars was about to have on the film industry and pop culture itself. Not many in the industry had much faith in its potential. The production executives and even the actors in the film felt that the blend of science fiction, drama, and fantasy didn’t seem destined for mainstream success at the time. Even Spielberg was skeptical of Lucas’ space opera film.

Steven Spielberg during the filming of Jaws
Steven Spielberg during the filming of Jaws | Credits: 1975 Universal Pictures Company, Inc.

Jaws shocked the industry by opening to $7 million, which extended to a historic $272 million domestic gross (equal to around $1.5 billion today). It became the highest-grossing film ever at the time. Little did Spielberg know that his own record would be smashed just two years later, that too by his good friend George Lucas, with his little sci-fi project called Star Wars.

Star Wars Wildly Surpassed Everyone’s Expectations Including Steven Spielberg

Original Star Wars poster
Original Star Wars poster | Credit: Lucasfilm

According to Lucas himself, his own box office projections for Star Wars ranged from just $15-20 million. However, his friend Spielberg was a bit more optimistic. In an interview, Spielberg admitted he foresaw the film being a big hit,  but he predicted it to gross $50-60 million at the box office. Although the numbers were impressive, still they were just a fraction of its actual record-breaking performance.

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When the Star Wars movie went onto screens on May 25, 1977, it almost immediately proved critics and even optimistic backers like Spielberg wrong. Opening in just 32 theaters, it quickly expanded and began shattering records. It remained the #1 movie at the box office for over six months as it grossed an unparalleled $775.8 million globally (around $3.8 billion at present).

Star Wars hadn’t just become a big hit as Spielberg predicted. It became a pop culture phenomenon. It dwarfed both Lucas’ own $15-20 million expectation as well as Spielberg’s $50-60 million forecast. In doing so, it stole the all-time box office crown from Jaws itself.

Steven Spielberg’s Congratulatory Ad to George Lucas After Star Wars Success

George Lucas receives an award
George Lucas receives an award at the Tuskegee National Convention | Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In a sweet gesture, Spielberg took out a congratulatory ad in Variety celebrating Lucas’ success. The ad depicted R2-D2 reeling in the shark from Jaws, with text praising Lucas and signing “your pal, Steven.”

Also read: 1 Classic Steven Spielberg Film Gets Voted By Fans as an Untouchable Movie Over Its “Lightning in a Bottle” Vision

It was like the passing of the torch, one visionary to another. The master of the summer blockbuster had been matched by his own protege. Decades later, the franchise has only grown larger. Star Wars’ staggering financial performance remains even more impressive when considering the humble circumstances surrounding its creation and release.

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