Highlights from EW’s Return of the Jedi 30th Anniversary Screening

ROTJ screening 30th anniversary may-4-2013

There was plenty to behold for the 30th anniversary screening of Return of the Jedi at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as part of Entertainment Weekly’s first CapeTown Film Festival. Held on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, the set of four screenings of the no-longer-final installment of the Star Wars saga brought out fans and celebs alike. With Jedi being my favorite Star Wars film, I was stoked to see it again on the big screen – twice! While we’ve already covered the news of Mark Hamill’s appearance after the evening screenings, there’s plenty more to share, including a visit from The Clone Wars cast and more! (Also check out my full photo album on Flickr!)

There were four screenings of Return of the Jedi at the Egyptian: three open to the general public, and the first one of the day reserved for Lucasfilm and some other special guests. They showed a 35 mm film version of the 1997 Return of the Jedi: Special Edition, which was fantastic to see again on the big screen – I think for most fans like myself, the last time we had seen this in the theaters sixteen years ago – although there were a few people who were seeing this film for the first time!


Attending the 10 AM screening were a huge bunch of the Lucasfilm family, including a group of voice actors from The Clone Wars, who posed for a group photo op with the Gentle Giant Darth Vader. From left to right above: James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Cat Taber (Padme Amidala), T.C. Carson (Mace Windu), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul), Anna Graves (Satine Kryze), Stephen Stanton (Tarkin), Tom Kane (Yoda), Dee Bradley Baker (clones). Who else was seen hanging around the Egyptian theater at this time? Composer Michael Giacchino.

Besides the Vader statue, Gentle Giant also brought out their Jabba the Hutt display for photos outside, and I’m sure that Jabba felt right at home with the Egyptian Theater’s sandy tones akin to Tatooine. Also out in full force among the crowds were members of the 501st Legion (theater security kept out the regular Hollywood sidewalk Vader and troopers in their Rubies costumes). Hasbro brought out their giant mock-up of the ROTJ Darth Vader action figure card, and a top LEGO builder, Nathan Sawaya, had been commissioned for a life-size LEGO Han Solo in Carbonite. Inside the lobby, several poster boards had behind the scenes images from the upcoming Making of Return of the Jedi book. During the seating periods, they showed vintage Kenner Return of the Jedi toy commercials, in full VHS glory. The Imperial Shuttle ad where the kid flicks the blinds open and shut as a code is a classic!

Kyle Newman’s short film, Return of Return of the Jedi, which was a great tribute to Episode VI, with tons of stars/SW fans like Kevin Smith, Donald Faison, and Pete Wentz talking about Jabba, Ewoks, Palpatine, Lando, metal bikinis, Ackbar, Anakin unmasked. Seth Green and Clare Grant (who both are in it) came out to introduce the short at the 2 PM showing, and even brought director Kyle Newman up to the front of the theater. The tribute was a great way to see favorite bits from Return of the Jedi talked up by different celebrities, and it ended with the interviewees all trying to dance and sing the Yub Nub song. Also before each screening was a commercial from the event sponsor, TNT’s Falling Skies, which fell on crickets chirping at the 2 PM show, and got a little mocked by the 6 PM crowd.

After the 2 PM screening, the EW host came out and started a trivia game for fans (I won a Threepio Pez dispenser for 4th place) while stalling for a mystery special guest to materialize (who sadly did not).

Mark Hamill at ROTJ 30th anniversary screeningThe 6 PM screening had a few sound-alike contests (Chewbacca, Salacious Crumb) before bringing out Mark Hamill as a surprise contestant in the Luke Skywalker sound-alike contest, which turned into a lengthy on-stage interview with a few audience questions. Hamill talked about how he first learned about the sequel trilogy at lunch with George and Carrie Fisher, how he learned about the Disney deal (in the news), and recounted some stories about being on the set of the original trilogy, and doing some impressions of Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and his Joker laugh. Also, he commented on his preference for traditional models over computer generated imagery, how his kids are more into tracking Star Wars developments that he is, and the tribulations of being nominated for voice acting awards. WalkingCarpet.net’s Jason Ward taped the whole interview (~40 min):

After the interview with Mark Hamill, I met up with LEGO Star Wars writer Michael Price, and we chatted about the upcoming Yoda Chronicles specials, and I’ll have more later in the month on that. I went to check out the line for the final showing at 10 PM, and it wound around the Egyptian’s courtyard before going down Hollywood Ave and around the corner.

I was fortunate enough to catch the 2 PM and 6 PM screenings with some friends, and also ran into quite a few Star Wars fans that I know from around California, as well as met new friends, including a fan who had come from Wichita. The 2 PM crowd was pretty mild, with a few minor rounds of applause during the movie, although the biggest applause was when Sebastian Shaw appeared as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker at the end. The 6 PM audience was much more vocal in their screening, with cheers and applause at nearly every first appearance of a major character (and Wedge got two cheers) and major hero moments, and plenty of laughs, especially with some of Han’s lines. Both screenings had plenty of applause during the credits, though again, the 6 PM fans were louder.

Watching Return of the Jedi on the big screen was awesome – the destruction of Jabba’s Sail Barge is my favorite Star Wars explosion, and with a big screen and great sound system, it was magnificent. The film print was in good condition, but there were definitely specks and scratches on screen, and a few scenes were definitely grainier or blurrier than others. But on the big screen with full theatrical sound, so much more of the movie pops out at you – 30 years later, and I’m still finding things I haven’t noticed before: like how long the echo of the sniper shots at Leia & Wicket last in the forest, or the reversed frame shots of Lando with the Falcon matte painting, or just how many Rebels aboard Home One seem to be wearing baseball caps, and of course, trying to identify every alien in Jabba’s Palace. And does Nien Nunb have some snot? Did I mention that I like Ewoks and Jedi is my favorite film? I could probably get fired for saying that here.

Big thanks to EW for bringing Return of the Jedi to their CapeTown film fest lineup, TNT for sponsoring the screenings, and Lucasfilm, Gentle Giant, the 501st Legion, Hasbro, and Random House for bringing the fun.

If the Luke Skywalker impression contest was the way to bring Mark Hamill on at the 6 PM show, I wonder who the special guest for the 2 PM show would have been since the trivia game was to keep naming Harrison Ford films…

4 Replies to “Highlights from EW’s Return of the Jedi 30th Anniversary Screening”

  1. Absolutely stellar report James. Wonderful play by play and such cool pix. Thanks for sharing all with us.

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