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Flying High -The Empire Strikes Back Zooms Into New Jersey

By Bruce Chadwick

originally published: 05/16/2023

Flying High -The Empire Strikes Back Zooms Into New Jersey

Constantine Kitsopoulos, photo by Dan Graziano

The rebels emerged victorious in Star Wars, the epic science fiction masterpiece – film masterpiece – of the 1970s. Would the evil Darth Vader be vanquished? Would Princess Leia restore order to the galaxy? Was the Death Star really finished? Did the Force betray the good guys?

Would the bad guys simply walk away?

Hell no!

The bad guys, led by the evil Vader, are ready to fight back and with a vengeance. They do it the movie The Empire Strikes Back, the second Star Wars  movie, an epic good vs. evil outer space classic that is as popular today as it was back in the 1970s.

Only now, the good vs. evil battle in The Empire Strikes Back is being staged with live music from the New Jersey Symphony, one of the nation’s top orchestras. Movie fans at the theaters where the film concert is being shown can now enjoy live music in the film, played by the orchestra, which adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment for movie fans.

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Screenings of The Empire Strikes Back --  Thursday, May 18 at Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 19 at Count Basie Center for the Arts, Red Bank, 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 20 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark, 8 p.m.;  and Sunday, May 21 at State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick, 3 p.m.

The spaceship, er, movie, is a sequel to Star Wars and now, after all these years, is one of the nine Star Wars films. It flies in and flies out of New Jersey theaters this coming weekend.

These movie concerts have been quite successful.

“They are a huge revenue producer for the Symphony,” said Sarah Hornblower, a Symphony official. “People like them. People of all ages enjoy them. The film concerts that we’ve done have done very well for us – all of them, not just Star Wars.”

The conductor for the Symphony at the screenings this weekend will be Constantine Kitsopoulos. He has been conducting film concerts for many years (more than 40 of them). Many have been Star Wars films and many with the New Jersey Symphony.

He does not see the Star Wars films as just movies.

Flying High -The Empire Strikes Back Zooms Into New Jersey

Constantine Kitsopoulos, photo by Dan Graziano

“You go to a cineplex – several  small screens – to see a regular movie. Here, you go to a big movie theater, like the Mayo Center in Morristown or the State Theatre in New Brunswick; They are big, big movie theaters with large screens. It is a very different way to see a movie. The live music of the symphony adds a whole new dimension to the film, really makes it enjoyable. You go alone or you go with your family. These concert films are for everybody. You get the enjoyment of the film as well as from the music of the symphony. It’s a big, universal experience for you,” said Kitsopoulos.

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He pauses. “Live music makes the movie, any movie, come to life for the audiences. It’s sort of like a rock concert. You know the film scenes, like you know the songs at a concert, and you just can’t wait to see those scenes in the film’ the music helps in that, really livens things up for you,” Kitsopoulos said.

But why is The Empire Strikes Back and the other Star Wars films so popular with movie fans?

“I think that now we have nine Star Wars movies. They are all different, but all share the same story line and feature many of the same characters. It’s more than just an epic. The Stars Wars movies are a collection, oh, well, universe of their own. The story lines go on and on. Fans follow the storyline. The films have been on television. People talk about them There are very few movie series like that and now they have stretched over 40 years,” Kitsopoulos said.

And, too, he points out quickly, “They feature the music of John Williams, one of the best composers ever. You get a great film and great music. Good combination.”

Kitsopoulos has been involved with the New Jersey Symphony for years. “Back in the 1970s I started watching them. I became a musician and eventually joined the orchestra. Then this whole film concert series idea came up and I jumped at the chance to be part of it. I thoroughly enjoy it.”

All right, we’ve heard from Kitsopoulos on John Williams, movies, orchestras and even the large vs. the small theater. The big question remains. Which, of all the superb characters in the Star Wars nine film series is his favorite character? The rugged Han Solo? The gorgeous Princess Leia? Crafty Luke Skywalker?


“Favorite character?” he says without hesitation. “Yoda. I love that guy.”


“He is, at heart, a philosopher. I am, at heart, a philosopher. There you go…”

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And so, dear reader, may the force be with you……………

Flying High -The Empire Strikes Back Zooms Into New Jersey

Constantine Kitsopoulos, photo by Dan Graziano

Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as the arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national online weekly magazine. Chadwick holds a Ph. D in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on U.S. history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a history professor at New Jersey City University.



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