'The Empire Strikes Back' is Back at the Top of the Box Office Again

The force of the pandemic box office is with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which found itself at the top of the box office charts again, 23 years after the release of the Star Wars special editions also took the number one spot. It’s a fitting achievement for the 40th anniversary re-release of the acclaimed Star Wars sequel, even if it’s just the latest reissue of a beloved feature film to lead the box office charts amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For the first time since the February 1997 reissue, The Empire Strikes Back is at the top of the box office charts again, according to Deadline. The 1980 sci-fi classic is expected to take in between $400,ooo to $500,000 total once the weekend totals are fully counted. That brings the lifetime gross of the Irvin Kershner-directed movie to $290.4 million.

It sounds like peanuts compared to the overall gross of The Empire Strikes Back box office, but it’s quite an achievement amid uncertain times when the majority of theaters across the nation remain shuttered. Drive-in theaters continue to bring the most business, despite representing only a third of the roughly 1,000 theaters still open in the U.S. Deadline reports that “there’s a lot of financial upside for exhibition on catalog titles,” with studios typically charging theaters a flat fee of just $250 for a title.

The Empire Strikes Back follows in the footsteps of other successful reissues of beloved classics like Ghostbusters, which took the number one spot at the box office last weekend, and Jurassic Park and Jaws, which ruled the June 19-21 weekend. All of them took in roughly half a million dollars over a weekend in less than 500 locations.

But Disney is doing well since joining the re-release game in early July, with re-releases of family-friendly hits like Zootopia and superhero blockbusters like The Avengers consistently taking the top spots. It ruled this past weekend too, with Empire Strikes Back at number one, Marvel’s Black Panther at number two with an estimated $110,000 at 336 locations, and Pixar’s Inside Out with $106,000 at 316 locations.

But it’s no surprise that Empire Strikes Back would win the top spot, as it has climbed to the top even during non-pandemic times. According to Box Office Mojo, the sci-fi sequel held the top spot for eight weeks following its May 21, 1980 release, and would take the lead with a 1982 re-release and a revived 1997 edition. A 4K re-release of Empire Strikes Back was meant to help revive U.K. theaters, but Disney walked that plan back, instead releasing the regular edition of the beloved sci-fi classic.

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