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‘Independence Day:’ how the film’s title made it a July 4 mainstay

By now, the star-studded theatrical spectacle known as “Independence Day” has firmly rooted itself in the collective psyche of Americans every year around July.

After its release in 1996, the Hollywood blockbuster — you know, the one where a rag-tag team of humans led by Will Smith courageously repel an extraterrestrial threat? — has become as synonymous with Fourth of July festivities as hot dogs and fireworks.

In 1776, it was the escape from the grip of the British monarchy we Americans found cause to celebrate. Another 220 years later, the film imagined that we — ok, and the rest of humanity, too — moved on to fighting off a threat a little more … out of this world.

Thanks in part to a title that would resonate with American audiences from coast to coast, the film has cemented itself as a cultural icon — its annual televised re-runs around July 4 ensuring its continued relevance.

Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in 1996's original 'Independence Day.'

This year, though, you’ll only find the movie on STARZ, which has exclusive streaming rights through May 2024, a spokeswoman said.

“Come the Fourth of July, there aren’t that many choices (for festive films,) and here you’ve got this one sitting right in the catalogue and its labeled ‘Independence Day,’” said Robert Thompson, professor of television, radio, and film at Syracuse University. “The title invited itself into the annual resurrection of this film; even the older it gets, it gets to keep coming back.”