History, Legacy & Showmanship
Saturday, 25 May 2013 14:49

Remembering Return of the Jedi on its 30th Anniversary

  • Print
  • Email

“The first triple crown of motion pictures.” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

Where Were You On Opening Day?

May 25, 1983… one of the most famous and memorable days in motion picture history.  If you are a Star Wars fan of a certain age, chances are you remember where you were that day.  Like countless others who ditched school or called in sick to work, you were probably standing in a very long line awaiting your opportunity to see the concluding chapter of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy.  Yes, believe it or not, Return of the Jedi has turned thirty years old.

The tributes and retrospectives have begun to appear in honor of Jedi’s 30th anniversary.  Now being promoted, J.W. Rinzler’s eagerly-awaited The Making of Return of the Jedi will hit book stores this autumn.  Earlier this month, the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles hosted the new (and hopefully annual) CapeTown Film Fest, the brainchild of Entertainment Weekly and former Los Angeles TimesHero Complex journalist Geoff Boucher.  The fest included a 30th anniversary screening of Jedi at one of the few surviving theaters where Jedi originally played and even included an appearance by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, who reminisced in a Q&A about its production and original release.  Also screened with Jedi was Fanboys director Kyle Newman’s amusing and heartfelt new short film The Return of Return of the Jedi: 30 Years and Counting.  And it’s now The Bits’ turn to get in on the anniversary action, and what better way to take you back to the time and place of experiencing Jedi for the first time than by showcasing a list of the theaters in which it opened?

    Opening Day for Return of the Jedi   Opening Day for Return of the Jedi

Yes, what follows is a list of the movie theaters in the United States and Canada that opened Return of the Jedi on May 25, 1983.  (There were, of course, hundreds of additional theaters, primarily in smaller cities, that played Jedi later that summer, but this retrospective focuses on the first wave of its release.)  Following the list of original engagements is a collection of box-office data, which places the movie’s performance in context, as well as some reviewer quotes and production & release trivia.

Up to that point in time, Return of the Jedi was arguably the biggest motion picture event ever, with fans in some cities lining up days in advance to be among the first to see the movie.  It may be difficult to comprehend or recall in the Internet/Social Media age, but never before had the industry witnessed this level of frenzy during the launch of a new movie.  News coverage was beyond saturated with the opening making the front page of many a newspaper and even prompting some television news broadcasts to bump “if it bleeds it leads” stories to second place in favor of Star Wars.  George Lucas even made the cover of TIME.

Jedi’s release is noteworthy as it was the first Star Wars movie to get a wide release, at least by 1980s standards, which offered a chance for millions of fans to experience the movie when it was brand new (as is common practice today albeit on a smaller scale).  Jedi launched on just over 1,000 screens in about 800 theaters. In comparison, the opening weekend of the original Star Wars was in a mere 43 theaters.  The Empire Strikes Back’s opening weekend theater tally was 127.  Both movies took several weeks to reach a nationwide saturation level.

Aside from hopefully sparking good memories of seeing Return of the Jedi, this article provides a snapshot of sorts of the movie business in 1980s and offers a striking reminder of how going to the movies has evolved.  So, without further ado… where were you on opening day?

- Michael Coate


Opening Day for Return of the Jedi

Opening Day for Return of the Jedi



  • Birmingham – Cobb VILLAGE EAST TWIN  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Decatur – United BELTLINE 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Dothan – Davis NORTHSIDE MALL CINEMA 6  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Florence – Martin CAPRI TWIN
  • Gadsden – Gadsden GADSDEN TWIN
  • Hoover – Cobb HOOVER TWIN
  • Huntsville – Martin WESTBURY TWIN  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Mobile – Giddens & Rester BEL AIR TWIN  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Montgomery – Martin EASTDALE TRIPLE
  • Oxford – Litchfield CHEAHA CINEMAS
  • Tuscaloosa – Cobb FOX 4


No theaters in Alaska opened “Return of the Jedi” on May 25. 


  • Calgary – Famous Players PALACE  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Edmonton – Famous Players WESTMOUNT A & B  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)


  • Flagstaff – Nace FLAG EAST
  • Mesa – American Multi-Cinema FIESTA VILLAGE 6
  • Phoenix – General Cinema METRO CENTER MALL CINEMA I-II-III  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Phoenix – General Cinema WESTRIDGE MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V-VI
  • Phoenix – United Artists CHRIS-TOWN MALL CINEMAS 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Scottsdale – Nace KACHINA  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Tucson – Plitt FOOTHILLS 4  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Tucson – TM EL CON 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Yuma – PLAZA 5


  • Fayetteville – Malco RAZORBACK TWIN  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fort Smith – Malco MALL TRIO  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Hot Springs – Rand MALL CINEMA 4
  • Jonesboro – Malco MALCO 5  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Little Rock – United Artists CINEMA 4  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Little Rock – United Artists CINEMA CITY  (Dolby Stereo)
  • North Little Rock – General Cinema McCAIN MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Pine Bluff – Commonwealth BROADMOOR 3


  • Vancouver – Odeon VOGUE  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Victoria – Odeon HAIDA  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)


  • Albany – Foster ALBANY 1-2  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Anderson – United Artists GATEWAY CINEMAS 4  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Antioch – Stamm STAMM  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Arcadia – General Cinema SANTA ANITA CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Auburn – Redwood STATE TWIN
  • Bakersfield – General Cinema VALLEY PLAZA CINEMA I & II  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Belmont – West Side Valley BELMONT 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Brea – United Artists MOVIES 4
  • Campbell – United Artists PRUNEYARD 3  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Carlsbad – CINEMA PLAZA 5  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Cerritos – United Artists CERRITOS MALL TWIN  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Chico – United Artists EL REY  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Citrus Heights – United Artists SUNRISE 4
  • City of Industry – American Multi-Cinema PUENTE 10  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Corte Madera – Marin CINEMA  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Costa Mesa – Edwards TOWN CENTER 4  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Davis – West Side Valley CINEMA 2
  • Dublin – Enea DUBLIN 6  (Dolby Stereo)
  • El Cajon – United Artists PARKWAY PLAZA 3  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • El Centro – VALLEY CINEMAS 1-6
  • Encinitas – American Multi-Cinema WIEGAND PLAZA 6
  • Eureka – Redwood STATE 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fairfield – Tegtmeier FAIRFIELD CINEMA 1 & 2  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fremont – Syufy CINEDOME 7 EAST  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fresno – Festival REGENCY CINEMAS
  • Fresno – United Artists MOVIES 4
  • Grass Valley – United Artists DEL ORO 3
  • Hayward – United Artists HAYWARD 5  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Hemet – HOLIDAY 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • La Mirada – Pacific LA MIRADA 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Lancaster – Great Western MOVIES 7
  • Long Beach – United Artists MOVIES 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (Eagle Rock) – Pacific EAGLE ROCK PLAZA 4
  • Los Angeles (Hollywood) – United Artists EGYPTIAN I-II-III  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (North Hollywood) – United Artists MOVIES 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (Northridge) – General Cinema FASHION CENTER CINEMA I-II-III
  • Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks) – General Cinema SHERMAN OAKS CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (University Park) – UNIVERSITY VILLAGE 3
  • Los Angeles (Westwood) – General Cinema AVCO CENTER  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo) (THX)
  • Los Angeles (Woodland Hills) – United Artists WARNER CENTER 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Marina del Rey – United Artists CINEMA 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Marysville – United Artists STATE 3
  • Merced – United Artists REGENCY 4  <opened May 27>
  • Mission Viejo – Edwards MISSION VIEJO MALL 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Modesto – Festival FESTIVAL CINEMAS
  • Montclair – United Artists MOVIES 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Monterey – United Artists CINEMA 70  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Monterey Park – Edwards MONTEREY MALL 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Morgan Hill – GRANADA I & II  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Mountain View – American Multi-Cinema OLD MILL 6  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Napa – Syufy CINEDOME 4
  • National City – Pacific SWEETWATER 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Newhall – Great Western PLAZA
  • Newport Beach – Edwards NEWPORT CINEMAS  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Oakland – Foster PIEDMONT  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Orange – Syufy CINEDOME 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Palm Springs – Metropolitan CAMELOT 3  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Pleasant Hill – Syufy CENTURY 5  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Porterville – PORTER CINEMAS I, II & III
  • Redondo Beach – General Cinema SOUTH BAY CINEMA I-II-III-IV  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Redwood City – United Artists REDWOOD 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Richmond – Plitt HILLTOP MALL 1-2-3-4
  • Riverside – United Artists TYLER MALL CINEMA 4  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Sacramento – United Artists ARDEN FAIR 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Salinas – Syufy NORTHRIDGE 8  (Dolby Stereo)
  • San Bernardino – General Cinema INLAND CINEMA I & II  (Dolby Stereo)
  • San Bruno – United Artists TANFORAN  PARK 4
  • San Diego – Mann RANCHO BERNARDO 6
  • San Diego – Pacific CENTER 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • San Diego – Pacific LA JOLLA VILLAGE  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Diego – United Artists GLASSHOUSE 6  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Francisco – United Artists CORONET  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Luis Obispo – Mann FREMONT
  • Santa Barbara – Metropolitan ARLINGTON CENTER  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Santa Clara – United Artists CINEMA 150  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Santa Cruz – United Artists RIO
  • Santa Maria – United Artists MOVIES 3
  • Santa Rosa – United Artists MOVIES 3
  • Simi Valley – Metropolitan LARWIN TWIN  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Sonora – West Side Valley PLAZA TWIN  (Dolby Stereo)
  • South Lake Tahoe – Luxury STATELINE  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Stockton – Plitt SHERWOOD
  • Thousand Oaks – United Artists MOVIES 5  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Ventura – Metropolitan VENTURA  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Victorville – Western Amusements MOVIES 7  (Dolby Stereo)
  • West Covina – Sanborn WESCOVE 3  (Dolby Stereo)
  • Westminster – United Artists WESTMINSTER MALL TWIN  (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)

Contact Michael Coate

Please type your full name.
Invalid email address.
Please send us a message.
Invalid Input

Bits Latest Tweets

RT @BillHuntBits: FYI: These are existing live action, deep catalog BD & DVD titles coming back into print with Mill Creek distribution. No…
The Digital Bits
BREAKING on The Bits – Mill Creek signs a multi-year catalog home entertainment distribution deal with Disney—and we have exclusive details! thedigitalbits.com/columns/my-two…
RT @BillHuntBits: Heads up @thedigitalbits readers: @MillCreekEnt has just announced a multi-year distribution deal with Disney to release…