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"The Phantom Menace" -- A Force to Be Reckoned With

"The Phantom Menace" -- A Force to Be Reckoned With

Is it a movie classic in the making -- or will the new "Star Wars" film not live up to the hype?

by Mark Gillespie


With less than two weeks before the most-hyped movie premiere in years, lines have already formed at theatres in several major U.S. cities for the May 19th debut of "The Phantom Menace." Episode I of the "Star Wars" series details the life of Anakin Skywalker, the young boy who grows up to become a Jedi Knight (and if you've seen even one of the original three "Star Wars" films, you know the rest of the story).

Despite its status as one of the biggest box office successes ever, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds one in four American adults has never seen the original "Star Wars" -- either at the movies or on video. Twenty-four percent have seen it between three and nine times, and 17% (perhaps those who are already in line for "The Phantom Menace") have seen it at least ten times.

When the sneak preview of the film showed up as a "coming attraction" this past winter, there are widely told stories of people who paid full-price admission for movies in which they weren't interested just to see the preview -- and then left before the feature film. As of last weekend, in fact, over one-fourth of Americans had been exposed to the preview, either at theatres or by downloading it from the Internet, including 38% of those 18-29.

How eager are Americans to see "The Phantom Menace"? Apparently, despite the extraordinary build-up being given the movie, many Americans will wait for the hype to die down before plunking down their money to see it. Only 6% plan to stand in line on opening weekend, while 32% plan to see the movie during its first theatrical run. Another 36% predict they might eventually see the film, although not immediately, while 25% plan to ignore it.

Who is most interested in seeing the movie right away? Americans between the ages of 18-29 -- those who were very young children when the original "Star Wars" premiered in 1977 -- are the most likely to stand in line on opening weekend. Sixteen percent of Americans in that age group plan to see "The Phantom Menace" as soon as it opens, far more than any other age group. And, it is clear that senior citizens -- those 65 and over -- are those who are most likely to ignore the movie totally. Only 6% of this group plan on seeing "The Phantom Menace" either when it opens or in its first run, while 58% say they can ignore it altogether.

Fifty-six percent of Americans say that "The Phantom Menace" will most probably live up to its hype, and will be as good as or better than the original movie, while only 16% expect it to be worse.

Gallup interviewers asked Americans about those long lines building outside some theatres. When the question was posed, "What would you think to yourself if you saw someone you know standing in line for 'Phantom Menace' tickets to go on sale," only 11% said "Get me a ticket, too." Eight out of ten Americans said, "Get a life!"

For results based on the sample of national adults (N=1,014) surveyed April 30-May 2, 1999, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

How many times have you seen the original "Star Wars" movie, including in a movie theater, on video, or broadcast on TV?

  99 Apr 30-May 2
Number of Times
Zero 27%
One 19
Two 12
Three-Nine 24
Ten+ 17
No opinion 1

Mean (incl. zero) 6.02
Mean (excl. zero) 8.23

As you may know, the fourth installment of the "Star Wars" series, called "The Phantom Menace," will be opening in movie theaters next month. Do you expect "The Phantom Menace" to be better, about the same or worse than the original "Star Wars" movie?

Better 25%
About the same 31
Worse 16
No opinion 12

In terms of seeing "The Phantom Menace," which of the following statements best describes what your plans are -- [ROTATE 1-5/5-1: 1) You will try to see it on opening day or weekend, 2) You will try to see it soon after it's released, 3) You will definitely see it while it's in theaters--but you won't rush, 4) You might see it eventually, but you're not sure, 5) You will definitely not see it]?

1. Opening day/weekend 6%
2. Soon after released 9
3. While in theaters 23
4. Maybe eventually 36
5. Will not see it 25
No opinion 1

Not including still photos or film clips that last only a few seconds, have you happened to have seen an official two-minute preview of the new "Star Wars" movie, "The Phantom Menace" either in a movie theater, on TV or on the Internet?

Yes 27%
No 72
No opinion 1

What would you think to yourself if you saw someone you know standing in line waiting for "Phantom Menace" tickets to go on sale, even though the movie won't be released for another three weeks? Would you think -- [ROTATE 1-2]?

1. Get a life! 80%
2. Get me a ticket too! 11
No opinion 2

(vol.) volunteered response

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