One of the most celebrated American films in cinematic history returns to the screen Thursday night in a remastered anniversary edition, and, for a change, it doesn't involve new scenes with Jabba the Hutt.

Francis Ford Coppola is reintroducing The Godfather, spiffed up for its 25th anniversary with a clean print and digital stereo sound. In other words, the director's making an offer true movie fans can't refuse.

Based on Mario Puzo's pulp novel, the film was released in 1972 and was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. Even the normally crusty Pauline Kael gushed in praise, calling The Godfather "a wide, startlingly vivid view of a Mafia dynasty, in which organized crime becomes an obscene nightmare image of American free enterprise. The movie is a popular melodrama with its roots in the gangster films of the '30s, but it expresses a new tragic realism, and it's altogether extraordinary."

The film became the first to break the $100 million barrier in its inititial release, was nominated for 10 Oscars and won three--best picture, best actor and best screenplay adaptation, and, in 1990, was selected by the Library of Congress to be included in the Naitonal Film Registry.

Despite its legend, industry observers don't expect Star Wars-type bonanza for the film, especially since it's opening in just 20 cities. "The Godfather will only have a limited appeal. It's more or less for the film buff who wants to see a fresh print and hear the new sound," said John Krier, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Paramount will unveil the capo classic to the public on Friday, but Thursday night the filmmakers and stars (minus Marlon Brando) will convene in San Francisco for the premiere bash. Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan will join Francis Ford and a covey of Coppolas (Sofia, Roman, Christopher and Francis' sister, Talia Shire) at the Castro Theater. Other celebrants will include Dennis Hopper, Teri Garr, Andy Garcia, Phillip Kaufman, Don Novella, Ed Pressman, Frank Mancuso, Danny DeVito, Fred Fuchs, Chris Columbus, Saul Zaentz and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

While we don't know what will be served at the post-premiere party, but chances are it won't top the movie's hyper-caloric wedding feast, which included, according to the press kit, several thousand cookies, yard-wide trays of lasagna, great baskets of fruit, barrels of beer, gallons of wine and a six-foot-tall cake.

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