Charles Lippincott (October 28, 1939 – May 20, 2020) was an American comic book editor who edited the comic adaptation of Alien for Heavy Metal Communications. He also served as an advertising and publicity consultant on the 1979 film Alien.
In many ways Lippincott could be said to be the man responsible for the modern face of movie merchandizing, as the first head of merchandizing for George Lucas' Lucasfilm and the Star Wars film series. This could be said to include the eventual creation of all modern expanded universes for such properties as Star Wars, Aliens, etc.
Lippincott's other film publicity and advertising credits include Flash Gordon, Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars' Mark Hammill.
Surrounding the release of the original Star Wars in 1977, Charles Lippincott was hired by George Lucas's production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., as marketing director for Star Wars. As 20th Century Studios gave little support for marketing beyond licensing T-shirts and posters, Lippincott was forced to look elsewhere. He secured deals with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Marvel Comics for a comic book adaptation and with Del Rey Books for a novelization. A fan of science fiction, he used his contacts to promote the film at the San Diego Comic-Con and elsewhere within fandom. Wary that Star Wars would be beaten out by other summer films, such as Smokey and the Bandit, 20th Century 20th Century moved the release date to Wednesday before Memorial Day: May 25, 1977. However, few theaters ordered the film to be shown. In response, 20th Century Studios demanded that theaters order Star Wars if they wanted an eagerly anticipated film based on a best-selling novel titled The Other Side of Midnight.
The film became an instant success; within three weeks of the film's release, 20th Century Studios's stock price doubled to a record high — before 1977, 20th Century's greatest annual profits were $37,000,000; in 1977, the company earned $79,000,000. Although the film's cultural neutrality helped it to gain international success, 20th Century President Alan Ladd, Jr., who had long championed the movie and fought against the odds to get it produced, became anxious during the premiere in Japan. After the screening, the audience was silent, leading him to fear that the film would be unsuccessful. Ladd was later told that, in Japan, silence was the greatest honor to a film. Meanwhile, thousands of people attended the ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where C-3PO, R2-D2, and Darth Vader placed their footprints in the theater's forecourt. Some cinemas continuously screened the film for more than a year.
Little Star Wars merchandise was available for several months after the film's debut; only Kenner Products had accepted Lippincott's licensing offers. Kenner responded to the sudden demand for toys by selling boxed vouchers in its "empty box" Christmas campaign. Television commercials told children and parents that vouchers within a "Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package" could be redeemed for toys "between February 1 and June 1".