After the very mixed critical and audience reactions to Episode I and II of the "Star Wars" prequels, a combination of trepidation and high expectations met Episode III in the weeks and days leading up to its worldwide premiere May 19. With a large decline in box-office grosses for 2002's "Attack of the Clones," it was uncertain what fate would befall "Revenge of the Sith," as not only was there the pressure of outgrossing its predecessors, but a desire from the movie industry, in general, to see it succeed.
Movie theater attendance has been in decline for years, and has been particularly lagging this year, with very little that could be considered a box-office hit. Notable exceptions have been "Hitch," with Will Smith, the computer-animated "Robots" and (God help us) "The Pacifier," with noted thespian Vin Diesel. All three went well past the $100 million mark, but their success may have been more notable for the lack of quality films out at the time of their release, rather than the impressiveness of their product. "Hitch," in particular, was probably a can't-miss formula (Will Smith + romantic comedy + Valentine's Day release date = lots of money).
So can "Star Wars" jump start an entire industry's performance and get audiences back into the seats? It certainly did its part opening weekend, earning $158 million between May 19-22 and more than $300 million worldwide. But it seems unlikely that that trend would continue over the course of the year, as the problems that people have with today's movie theaters (high ticket prices, talking customers, endless amounts of ads before the movie) are quite unlikely to subside. Meanwhile, the DVD market continues to soar, allowing consumers the chance to create their own home theater experience without any of the aforementioned annoyances.
Still, it's good to see that after domestic grosses of $451 million for Episode I and $311 for Episode II, the final installment of the prequels (and as unfortunate as it may seem, the "Star Wars" movies, in general) will send the series out with a bang, not a whimper, as it seems potentially headed towards a couple of years ago.
Balance in the galaxy has been restored once more.