Hardcore Star Wars fans are well aware that Episode VI: Return of the Jedi had a very different name until late in its production, and now a new trailer that originally promoted Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi in the early 80s has surfaced online.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently unearthed the short teaser trailer, which was first distributed in 1982, according to Blastr. Promising that the third film in the trilogy would arrive in cinemas over Christmas of 1983, the teaser was originally attached to a limited double feature of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back that was shown in the UK during 1982 while Return of the Jedi was still in production.
The teaser depicts just a few images from the film that are now familiar, but they must have caught audiences off-guard in the early 1980s. Aside from a shot of Luke dressed in black and standing next to Vader, several of the images offer glimpses of a carbonite-free Han Solo (with no spoiler warning given). The rest of the core cast is featured as well, though no actual footage from Jedi is included in the 30-second-spot.
— Radio Times (@RadioTimes) May 27, 2016
As many Star Wars fans are aware, George Lucas shifted Episode VI’s title from Revenge of the Jedi to Return of the Jedi based on the fact that revenge is a concept associated more closely with the Sith and not the Jedi order. The title wasn’t changed until late in the production of the film, however, meaning that there are more than a few artifacts in circulation among fans that still bear the Revenge moniker. The new teaser, while interesting, isn’t the only trailer in existence that once advertised Revenge of the Jedi, as the Academy noted in their official statement regarding its discovery.
“The Academy Film Archive holds several trailers from the United States with the initial Revenge title, most of which announcing a May 25th 1983 release date which coincided with the anniversary of the original Star Wars stateside release in 1977. However, this peculiar and very brief Revenge of the Jedi teaser trailer originated from a cinema in the United Kingdom, where the film was originally being considered for a Christmas 1983 release.”
— The A.V. Club (@TheAVClub) May 26, 2016
Both Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox were debating as late as March of 1982 whether to give Return of the Jedi a Christmastime release in the UK, as Cinema Blend notes. The studios thought that such a release date would be a boon for marketing while simultaneously making available props and costumes that would otherwise be needed for the film’s United States debut, which took place that summer. Eventually, these plans were scrapped, however, with Jedi making its way to theaters just one week after its initial American premiere, which took place on June 2, 1983.
— Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) May 26, 2016
It appears also that UK audiences were the first to get a glimpse of Revenge of the Jedi, as this new trailer would have been shown during May of 1982 when the double feature originally ran. American audiences waited until August of 1982 for Star Wars to be re-released in the theater, bringing with it their first introduction to what was, at that time, the conclusion of the Star Wars saga.
George Lucas would go on to recycle the unused early title for 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, yet the period in which the third act of the original trilogy was still known as Revenge of the Jedi remains one of the most compelling and fascinating in Star Wars history.