‘Return of the Jedi’ Is Coming Back to Theaters For Its 40th Anniversary
The announcement at this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 that three new Star Wars films are in development is certainly exciting, but old-schoolers in particular will also be interested in another announcement that was made:
Return of the Jedi (or, if you prefer, Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi), the third installment of the original trilogy, is returning to theaters in the U.S., U.K. and other regions for a limited run just ahead of its 40th anniversary (it originally premiered in theaters May 25, 1983).
And it will be a very limited run — U.S. screenings will only run about a week, from April 28-May 4, 2023.
Just as with the 40th anniversary theatrical re-release of The Empire Strikes Back in 2020, ROTJ‘s re-release is accompanied by another cool new theatrical poster by artist Matt Ferguson, which was posted on social media Saturday by Industrial Light & Magic, the iconic visual effects company behind Star Wars and countless other blockbusters:
According to starwars.com, this is ROTJ‘s first official theatrical release in 26 years. So that last release would have been in 1997, when the Special Editions of this film, as well as the original Star Wars and Empire, graced the big screen ahead of George Lucas‘ prequel trilogy, the first of which, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, was still two years away at the time.
Anyone who remembers seeing those original trilogy special edition re-releases in 1997 knows how exciting a time it was to be able to watch Star Wars on the big screen, in a sort of new way, following a 14-year drought after ROTJ‘s release. Even at the time, some of Lucas’ additions to the films seemed unnecessary and kind of cheesy, especially with the comparatively primitive state of the CGI being used then, but, hey — it was Star Wars in a movie theater!
And now you can again enter a movie theater and enjoy Return of the Jedi, despite its own cheesy qualities that were inherent well before the Special Editions, notably the addition of the Ewoks.
The opening sequence when Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando (Billy Dee Williams), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) escape the “clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt” (in 1983, it was pretty awesome to finally see Jabba, after feeling his presence looming just through mentions in the first two films!) with a newly unfrozen Han (Harrison Ford) offsets the later Ewoks scenes, and is an exciting standout in the original trilogy.
We also got to see the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) fully in action for the first time, as well as Luke’s final clash with Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) and our first look at Anakin Skywalker (in the form of Sebastian Shaw), so that was all pretty cool.
So, will you be going to see Return of the Jedi on the big screen again (or for the first time)?
Any memories of when you first saw it, whether in the theater, or on home video? Did you have (or do you still have) any ROTJ action figures and playsets?
The beloved legend will receive the posthumous honor on May 4, 2023 (Star Wars Day, fittingly) in a ceremony that will be livestreamed. Billie Lourd will accept the star on her late mother's behalf.