The March 1979 issue of The Atlantic contained this amazing profile of George Lucas, who at the time was only a couple years removed from releasing Star Wars.
Star Wars was manufactured. When a competent corporation prepares a new product, it does market research. George Lucas did precisely that. When he says that the film was written for toys (“I love them, I’m really into that”), he also means he had merchandising in mind, all the sideshow goods that go with a really successful film. He thought of T-shirts and transfers, records, models, kits, and dolls. His enthusiasm for the comic strips was real and unforced; he had a gallery selling comic-book art in New York.
From the start, Lucas was determined to control the selling of the film, and of its by-products. “Normally you just sign a standard contract with a studio,” he says, “but we wanted merchandising, sequels, all those things. I didn’t ask for another $1 million—just the merchandising rights. And Fox thought that was a fair trade.” Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company George Lucas set up in July 1971, “already had a merchandising department as big as Twentieth Century-Fox has. And it was better. When I was doing the film deal, I had already hired the guy to handle that stuff.”
I didn’t even know that Star Wars opened in only 25 theaters and made only $9 million in the first two months. Heck the film’s biggest grossing weekend was 43 weeks after the initial release. Wow!