Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Tops Box Office 40 Years After Original Release

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is topping the box office this week. The film returns to theaters this weekend with a $175,000 haul from 483 locations. Over the weekend, the film is expected to bring in around $500,000 in total. It's the latest in a series of classic films making returns to theaters during the coronavirus pandemic, following Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, and Jaws. The Empire Strikes Back was the top-grossing film in North America for eight weeks when it released in 1980. When the special edition of the film came to theaters in 1997, it held the top spot at the box office for two weeks.

The Empire Strikes Back is one of three Disney films returning to theaters this weekend. Black Panther is the second-highest-grossing film this weekend, with $110,000 from 336 locations. Pixar's Inside Out is also back in theaters, grossing $106,000 from 316 locations. Most of that business is coming from drive-in theaters, as most major theater chains remain closed.

Disney had planned to re-release The Empire Strikes Back into theaters as a 4k restoration. Those plans were scrapped following new surges in COVID-19 case.

In The Empire Strikes Back, "The adventure continues in this "Star Wars" sequel. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi master's help will Luke survive when the dark side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse)."

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The Empire Strikes Back is the middle chapter of both the original Star Wars trilogy and the larger Skywalker saga. Many fans regard it as the best in the franchise. Proponents note the film's darker, more mature tone than its predecessor, the depth it adds to the franchise's philosophy of the Force, multiple iconic planets and battles, and the reveal of Darth Vader's relationship to Luke Skywalker.

Marvel Comics celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back by relaunching its ongoing Star Wars series, which had the best-selling comic book of the past decade. The original series took place between A New Hope and Empire, but the new volume brings the heroes into the darker period between Empire and Return of the Jedi. Marvel then surprise launched Star Wars: Doctor Aphra on Star Wars Day, bringing the original Star Wars character created by Marvel into the post-Empire era.

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