Join our STARLITE PAGE mailing list.
How Steven Spielberg Made Millions Off 'Star Wars' After A 1977 Bet With George Lucas

March 26, 2014 By Frank Pallotta

A long time ago on a film set far, far away, two directors made a friendly bet about a small space-fantasy film called "Star Wars." Steven Spielberg would go on to win the bet and take millions of dollars from George Lucas over time. Here's how the out-of-this-world wager came to be.

The Troubles Of "The Star Wars"
In the mid-1970s, science-fiction films weren't very popular. 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey" led the way for the genre but made just $56 million at the box office. So when a young director named George Lucas was trying to sell a script called "The Star Wars," based on "Flash Gordon" space serials, not many studios were eager to make it. It wasn't until Lucas took his script to 20th Century Fox that the film finally received backing — but even then it was more because of the success of Lucas' previous film, "American Graffiti."

The challenges didn't stop there. A delayed, over-budget production caused the troubled director to visit a friend shooting his own sci-fi film in Mobile, Ala. That friend was Steven Spielberg and the film was his 1977 classic, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

The Bet
According to an interview with Spielberg for Turner Classics Movies, Lucas came to the set of "Close Encounters" out of sorts after problems with his passion project. Needing to recharge, Lucas spent a couple of days on set.

Troubles with the production caused Lucas to believe that "Star Wars" was going to completely bomb.

"George came back from 'Star Wars' a nervous wreck," Spielberg said. "He didn’t feel 'Star Wars' came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids' movie."

After a few days, Lucas realized something else: Spielberg's "Close Encounters" was going to be so much more successful than "Star Wars." So much more that he felt like making a bet with Spielberg.

Spielberg would later say: "He said, 'Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than 'Star Wars'! This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time. I can't believe this set. I can't believe what you're getting, and oh my goodness.' He said, 'All right, I'll tell you what. I'll trade some points with you. You want to trade some points? I'll give you 2.5% of 'Star Wars' if you give me 2.5% of 'Close Encounters.' So I said, 'Sure, I'll gamble with that. Great.'"

"Close Encounters" would indeed be a hit, making $303 million at the box office. However, "Star Wars" would go on to become one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

A Financial Empire
Spielberg's gamble paid off. Big time. Released May 25, 1977, on a budget of $11 million, "Star Wars" — later retitled "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" — went on to make $460 million in the U.S. alone. Adjusted for inflation, the film has made $1.48 billion at the box office, making it the second-biggest box-office hit of all time — only behind "Gone With The Wind." By our calculations, this means Spielberg's 2.5% could have made him nearly $40 million.

"'Close Encounters' was just a meager success story. 'Star Wars' was a phenomenon," Spielberg said a few years ago. "Of course I was the happy beneficiary of a couple of net points from that movie, which I am still seeing money on today."

Sequels "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" would also go on to be great successes leading to prequels, rereleases, and merchandising, making the "Star Wars" franchise one of the biggest in Hollywood, reportedly worth $30 billion and growing.

Join the website for industry friendly movie reviews. Link your reviews to our site. fans turn out 							new episodes of Star Trek for you to enjoy. Find everything 							STAR WARS Animated 							bunnies star in 30 second versions of famous movies 							you would have seen at the starlite drive-in Watch some public 							domain movies online...these will change often; so 							come back often and see what is new. Watch 							vintage televsion shows Watch some 							interesting video shorts for fun A collection 							of short video clips Be Patient 								While Superman page loads The great BETTY BOOP 							in some of her 	artoons Curly, Larry, Moe, 								Shemp and Curly Joe ham it up in complete shorts Watch complete 							cartoons of Bug Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and more Join the entire POPEYE 							gang in some great cartoons Here is a 							collection of various vintage cartoons. HAVE A 							DRIVE-IN THEATRE IN YOUR BACKYARD FOR PARTIES