When George Lucas first told his director friends – including Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma – his ideas for Star Wars, they were encouraging. But no one, including Lucas himself, thought it was going to be a hit. No one that is, except for Steven Spielberg. Even after it came out, and there were lines around the block, it took a long time for Lucas to realize that it really was going to be huge. He only truly believed it when Walter Cronkite told him.
During a 2015 Tribeca Film Festival panel (via Insider), George Lucas explained how long it took for him to realize that Star Wars was going to be a huge success. “I showed it to all of my friends early on, but it was mostly stock footage of old war movies, and all kinds of stuff. They saw it and said ‘Poor George. What were you thinking?’ Steven [Spielberg] had jumped up, and said, ‘This is going to be the biggest movie of all time.’ Everybody in the room looked at Steven and said, ‘Poor Steven.'”
Immediately after the release of Star Wars, Lucas headed to Hawaii, which incidentally, is when the first seeds of Indiana Jones were sown. “I don’t read the reviews. I just go, lay on a beach. Steven [Spielberg] was there.”
But Lucas said he received a call from Alan Ladd Jr, the president of 20th Century Fox. Laddie (as George Lucas calls him), told him, “It’s a fantastic hit! Every single paper! There are lines around the block. You can’t believe this!” Lucas responded; “Laddie, calm down. It’s a science fiction film. Science fiction movies get a good old group of sci-fi fans. They’ll go to anything the first week. Wait for a couple weeks, and you’ll see what it’s really gonna do.” Lucas added that he told the studio, “Well, look, let’s not get too excited here.”
It was only after the first Star Wars movie had been out for a week or more that Lucas truly believed the hype. “I got a call from Laddie after the first weekend. He called and said, ‘George, turn on the news. Turn on CBS. Walter Cronkite. You gotta see it.’ I turned on the news, and they had this huge story on the sensation of Star Wars, and lines around the block. Everybody was going berserk about it. That was the first time I understood that it was a big hit.”