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Unnecessary Information: A NEW HOPE’s Opening Crawl is 18,000 Miles Overhead

Imagine that you got to see A New Hope opening weekend in 1977. Imagine the rumble of speakers and audible gasps after John Williams’ now legendary theme first hit your eardrums. Now imagine that the iconic opening crawl never stopped at the top of your movie screen. If it kept floating off into space, where would it be now?

Not that far, far away.

To calculate the distance the opening crawl has covered in the intervening 38 years, we have to make a few assumptions. First, though A New Hope pans down onto Tatooine right after the opening crawl, there isn’t a good way to gauge the crawl’s size from this. We need something more tangible.

Before the advent of CG graphics, the opening crawl for the Star Wars films was actually one of the hardest shots to get. What looked like planet-sized font was in fact a 1-foot by 6-foot model laid on the floor. A camera would very slowly pan over it to get the desired effect, which could take days.

“Everything has to be lined up just perfectly and you spend days running through tests,” said Return of the Jedi Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston. “Every little blemish shows up. Any little bump, any little movement of the camera is going to screw up this big 2,000-frame-long take.”

“Pure torture.”


If the opening crawl was 6-feet long, we then need to know how long it was on screen to get a speed. Going back to the movie, that’s around a minute and fifteen seconds. The opening crawl was moving at a blistering one mile per day.

Moving at this pace for the last 38 years, the opening crawl would be about 18,000 miles overhead as you read this. That sounds like a lot, but the words “A NEW HOPE” wouldn’t even be past our weather satellites in geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator.

Star Wars may have happened in a galaxy far, far away, but its opening crawl is much closer to home.

Kyle Hill is the Science Editor at Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

IMAGES: Walt Disney Pictures; Maxim

HT: Ian Hill

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  1. BobK says:

    I did see it opening night in 1977.  It did not say ‘Episode IV A New Hope’ then.

    • ed says:

      Yup– STAR WARS’ crawl is 18k above Tatooine. None of this Lucasfilm revisionist crap that suceeding generations have bought into…
      /old school Nerd

    • MrTodd1010 says:

      If I remember it right, didnt it say “Chapter IV, A New Hope!” or was it “From The Adventures of Luke Skywalker Chapter IV, A New Hope!”. I cant remember. 

  2. Aladan53 says:

    Do they pay you for these articles?