A long time ago, 30 years to be exact ...




Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory. During the battle, a rebel filmmaker managed to steal the hearts of movie audiences with the ultimate weapon: special effects with enough power to destroy all previous forms of action-adventures. Pursued by the eager masses, producers race ahead with plans for five more "Star Wars" movies that ultimately will restore entertainment to the galaxy. ... In the Beginning




"Star Wars" debuted in 32 U.S. theaters on May 25, 1977. (Other movies that year appeared in 200 to 800 theaters.) But within a few months, this classic battle of good versus evil was the most successful film in North American history, and kids everywhere were battling with plastic light sabers.




Two sequels followed. The original movie was retitled "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope," but it wasn't until 1999 that the beginning of the story (Episode I) made it into theaters.




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"Star Wars Episode IV" ranks second in all-time U.S. ticket sales ($460 million). It has worldwide sales of about $800 million. Other films in the series rank fifth, eighth, 19th, 20th and 25th.




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The 1977 "Star Wars" movie won six Academy Awards, including recognition for visual effects, film editing and sound. Sure, some of those special effects look a bit clunky now, but 30 years ago they were a big deal. Later technological advances allowed filmmaker George Lucas to redo the sound and some visual effects for a 1997 re-release of the film.




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Star Wars is a multibillion-dollar business. In addition to the six movies, there have been five TV series, dozens of video games and countless books, comics, toys and trading cards.




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Industrial Light Magic is a company that was essentially created by Lucas to do the special effects for "Star Wars." You can see the company's magic in more than 200 films, including the "Harry Potter," "Jurassic Park," "Back to the Future" and "Star Trek" series.




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The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a sheet of 15 "Star Wars" stamps on Friday. In addition, 400 mailboxes around the country have been decorated to look like the droid R2-D2.