Author: Laura Dewis

Small Data: Star Wars release & broadcast dates

Updated Tuesday, 17th February 2015
Do the lengths between US, UK & UK TV debuts of the first six Star Wars film tell us anything about changes in the entertainment industry?

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Line for the May 19th midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode I at the Stuart Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska. May 18, 1999 A queue to see the 1999 Phantom Menace in Nebraska. But are Star Wars less patient now? You used to have to be quite patient as a British cinema fan - films would open in America, and then, eventually, they'd find their way across to the UK. If you didn't enjoy going to the movies, or lived too far from a cinema, you'd have to be even more patient waiting for the film to turn up on TV. 

The changing nature of the entertainment industry - driven in part by digital media - has made the wait times shorter, and even - for some blockbuster films - virtually non-existent for a transatlantic transfer.

The first six Star Wars films, which cover a period of time (in our galaxy at least) between 1977 and 2005, give an interesting insight into how what was once a gap of years has shrunk.


Film title Theatrical release in US Theatrical release in UK Days between US & UK release UK free to air first broadcast Days between UK cinema & Free to Air TV debut Pay TV first broadcast Days between UK cinema & TV debuts
Star Wars 25/05/1977 27/12/1977 216 24/10/1982 1762   1762
Empire Strikes Back 21/05/1980 20/06/1980 30 25/12/1988 3110   3110
Return Of The Jedi 25/05/1983 02/06/1983 8 26/12/1989 2399   2399
The Phantom Menace 19/05/1999 16/07/1999 58 03/12/2002 1236 16/04/2001 640
Attack Of The Clones 16/05/2002 16/05/2002 0 29/11/2005 1293 15/11/2003 548
Revenge Of The Sith 19/05/2005 19/05/2005 0 07/11/2007 902 30/09/2006 499
  • Download an xls spreadsheet of this data
  • First UK free to air broadcast in each case was on ITV; first pay TV broadcast was on a Sky Movies channel - Sky Premier or Sky Movies 1. Release date is for first general release, and doesn't include restricted access events such as royal premieres.
  • Sources: Wookiepedia,, TV Times,, The Times, Birmingham Evening Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Express

This article is part of our Star Wars collection. The articles in this special dedicated to Star Wars pay homage to the films and franchise while looking at out of this world themes. You can help Yoda sort out his syntax, decipher a moon from a fully operational deathstar, find out whether jediism is a religion and much more. Look now, you must. 

You may also like to view our pages on Astronomy - just in case you fancy heading to a galaxy far far away any time soon! 



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