'Star Wars' Flashback: What Happened When 'The Phantom Menace' Teaser Debuted

In 1998, the teaser was greeted with a "near-hysterical reaction" and boosted attendance at a Westwood theater showing the clip by 1,147 percent
© 2012 Lucasfilm Ltd.
'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace'

There will be Star Wars this weekend: 88 seconds' worth.

The news that Disney will debut a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in more than two dozen theaters nationwide over Thanksgiving weekend brings to mind the last time that an outsized reaction greeted a brief clip for a new version of the series. One day was Tuesday, November 17, 1998, where moviegoers gathered to watch a sneak preview of The Phantom Menace trailer that would hit theaters nationwide days later.

Below is an excerpt from a 1998 Hollywood Reporter column recounting the scene.

Nov. 19, 1998"Menace" II society: 

If Tuesday's attendance figures for The Siege at Westwood's Mann Village theater are any indication, "eagerly anticipated" probably doesn't do justice to 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. A sneak preview of the Star Wars trailer, which ran at the Mann Village before and after The Siege, not only drew a near-hysterical reaction from the crowd, it also boosted the Denzel Washington starrer's attendance by 1,147%. According to Mann execs, 2,007 people Tuesday paid to see The Siege, compared with some 175 people a day earlier. The trailer played on 756 screens in 26 states as well as Canada, primarily in conjunction with Universal's Meet Joe Black and Buena Vista's The Waterboy. Although Star Wars won't be released until May 21, the trailer will go wide Friday. — THR column edited by Stephen Galloway. 

Episode I Teaser Trailer on Disney Video