Matchup of the Day: The Other Side of Midnight vs. Star Wars
There are a number of recent articles discussing the odd connection between the original Star Wars and the epic melodrama The Other Side of Midnight. For those of you who weren’t aware of their place together in cinematic history, today’s matchup will fill you in.
Back in 1977, before there was such a thing as the Star Wars phenomenon, The Other Side of Midnight was being held up as the upcoming summer box office hit of the year. Based on the 1973 bestseller of the same name by author Sidney Sheldon, the film was believed to possess all the ingredients necessary to be a success. 20th Century Fox was not as confident, however, in the George Lucas directed science fiction flick. Midnight offered a star-studded cast and lurid romance. Star Wars was mostly lacking in a name cast and was considered a kid’s movie.
Initially, Star Wars received minimal theater booking. In order to increase showings, 20th Century Fox required theaters that wanted to show Midnight to also book Star Wars. Back in the early days of Hollywood, studios would often require theaters to show their lesser films as a condition of having the rights to their more prestigious fare. This was called block booking, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 1948. As it turned out, Star Wars became a surprise sensation and Midnight‘s reception was much less enthusiastic than anticipated. Fox then turned around and started demanding theaters that wanted to book the sci-fi hit also take Midnight. A Federal judge later fined Fox $25, 000 for the stunt. This was a small price to pay, since Star Wars raked in enormous amounts of money.
The Supreme Court ruling against block booking was one of the factors that contributed to the decline of the studio system in Hollywood. By the late 60s, the changing demographic of filmgoers and the influence of European cinema opened the doors for the New Hollywood movement. The studios gave greater creative control to the filmmakers, which lead to a period of more unconventional, realistic motion pictures. Star Wars is frequently cited as one of the death knells of New Hollywood, as studios saw how much money could be made off of such a hot property. It’s amusing that the Old Hollywood practice of block booking was in part what ushered in the Star Wars-era and brought an end to the New Hollywood period.
(NOTE: The articles “The Strange Case of The Other Side of Midnight” and “Did Star Wars Kill the New Hollywood, Pave the Way for Reagan, and Make Us a ‘Nation of Eight-Year-Olds’?” offer further insight into the topic.)