December 16, 2015 8:30 AM EST

These days, as The Force Awakens hurdles into theaters, it’s not a mark of distinction to love Star Wars. If you want to stand out, you have to line up days in advance, watch from space or shell out for rare memorabilia. But when the first Star Wars film was released in 1977, the world was stunned by the extent of some people’s devotion, as these news photos from the time show.

And those fans had a major effect on the Hollywood economy. “The price of shares in 20th Century-Fox, the maker of Star Wars, has more than doubled since the film opened in 32 theaters four weeks ago, leading a boom in movie and entertainment stocks generally,” TIME noted that June. “Produced at a cost of $10 million, Star Wars by most estimates will gross $100 million this year alone. Fox, which owns 60% of the picture (Director George Lucas and some partners share the rest) stands to gain $30 million. Add in Fox’s share of cult merchandise already inspired by the film —model spaceships, T shirts, 640,000 sound-track record albums, figurines of the movie’s fantastic characters, such as Artoo-Detoo and Chewbacca—and the company stands to stash away a lot of cash.”

Read TIME’s full Star Wars story from 1977, here in the TIME Vault: The Star Wars Explosion

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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