Today Star Wars is known as a gargantuan success, loved by several generations throughout the world. And while George Lucas’ work, along with the litany of talented cast and crew, speak for themselves, the movie’s initial success was aided significantly by the film’s marketing.
The way that Star Wars was marketed and merchandized before, after, and during the film’s release had a profound impact on how future films would be promoted. Charles Lippincott, who served as advertising publicity supervisor on Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, was the man behind the marketing.
Lippincott read the script after bumping into George Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz on the Universal lot. Being a science fiction fan, he enjoyed the script, which led to a meeting with Lucas to discuss the project and possibilities for promotional tie-ins. After joining the film, one of the first things he did was to seek a higher budget for the production and to get it green lit.
He then worked on copyrighting Star Wars intellectual property to protect their rights over the film, its title, and characters. Lippincott approached marketing the movie based on what he’d want as a fan of science fiction. That led to publicizing the film at science fiction conventions in 1976, which helped build interest for the upcoming film.
Before the movie was released, he pitched a comic book tie-in to Marvel Comics in the hopes of getting comics in the hands of potential viewers before the film was out. Stan Lee, Marvel’s publisher at the time, wasn’t initially sold on the idea, but agreed following another meeting. After a six-issue adaptation of the film, the comic continued with original stories and adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, for a total of 107 issues and 3 annuals during the original run.
Perhaps the biggest success in marketing was the toy line from Kenner. They shopped the toy line before the film as a way to continue building anticipation, but were turned down because movie tie-ins were not proven successes since films were considered to be fleeting in the public consciousness. Lippincott and the marketing department were able to secure a deal with Kenner, and after the movie was released, the toy company was hit with a wave of demand. Because of the shortened timetable and overwhelming interest, they issued an “Early Bird Certificate Package” during the 1977 holiday season as a fill-in until toys could be shipped. The toys continued enticing Star Wars fans of all ages through the mid-1980s.
After the film was in theaters, Lippincott and the Star Wars crew marketed posters, costumes, clothing, books, albums, and fast food giveaways, as well as licensing to TV shows, including the Star Wars Holiday Special to keep it in the public eye. The merchandise kept audiences connected to the film well after it was out of theaters.
His work before and after Star Wars was released made Charles Lippincott an integral part of Star Wars.
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