Thirty years ago, I remember UFO’s and disco!

posted by Eric Friedmann on October 31, 2007 at 8:00 am

By the end of 1977, I was ten years-old and had just come off of a summer dominated by STAR WARS mania! ABC-TV was ruling supreme with blockbuster shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie’s Angel’s (Cheryl Ladd had just arrived!), Happy Days and future classics like Three’s Company, Soap and The Love Boat had just premiered. Elivs Presley was dead, the Yankees had won the world series against the Dodgers (“Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!”) and Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States.

Two new films were about to be released. One would make science fiction history. The other would revolutionize the disco culture:

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was released in November 1977. It was Steven Spielberg’s third theatrical feature. Unlike it’s sci-fi competitor, Star Wars, it focussed less on action and more on the spiritual journey that mankind would experience upon it’s first encounter with alien intelligence. The special effects, in two words, were wonderous and awesome! It even made the cover of Newsweek magazine. I had the pleasure of seeing it when it premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. It remains today, my favorite Spielberg film of all time.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was released in December 1977. It starred an already-famous John Travolta, fresh off of Welcome Back, Kotter. It revived a disco culture that was already showing signs of fading away and inevitably became an explosion of music and dancing! The soundtrack provided by the legendary Bee Gees was a radio chart-topper, and still remains one of the highest-selling movie soundtracks of all time. It was the first R-rated film my parents ever took me to see at the cinema at North Shore Towers in Bellrose, New York, where my family lived at the time. It remains one of my favorite films of the 1970’s.

Movies are memories. Great movies and memories are forever.

Theaters in this post

Comments (30)

HowardBHaas on October 31, 2007 at 8:33 am

November 15, 1977 was the World Premiere, in 70mm of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, at the Ziegfeld.

HowardBHaas on October 31, 2007 at 8:37 am

Also, for an entire month, Close Encounters had an exclusive at the Ziegfeld. It was not in expanded release until December 14. Because of multiplexes and pirating, month long exclusives of mainstream movies don’t exist anymore. The Ziegfeld would do a lot better if they did!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on October 31, 2007 at 11:04 am

I think that many of us, when we look at our lives, can probably recall one particular year that was our favorite. 1977 was that year for me! Movies like STAR WARS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER helped to further define it for me.

It was only ten, and I wasn’t living in New York City during the horror of the July blackout, the high crime rate and the inability of Mayor Abraham Beame’s administration to do anything about it. However, I can remember fondly, not only the popular movies, but Reggie Jackson’s 3 home runs in Game 6 of the World Series against L.A., my insane schoolboy crush on Cheryl Ladd and the awesome sounds of musicians like the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and Kiss!

I can also remember being glued to WOR-TV Channel 9 on Thanksgiving day watching the annual ape triple feature of KING KONG, SON OF KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, all while my mother was preparing a huge feast for us and the extended family due to arrive.

Finally, I remember a massive New York blizzard in December 1977 that kept me out of school for four days! Our apartment complex had golf course property surrounding it, making it perfect for sledding.

1977 was my favorite year and there may never be another year like it for me. So for the movies; thank you George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Travolta and even Woody Allen (Annie Hall) for helping me to appreciate my first adult-themed comedy.

moviebuff82 on October 31, 2007 at 11:41 am

Both movies would see additional success in different versions….Close Encounters would be re-released during the summer of 1980 in a version that would have a different ending (inside the mothership); that version was one of the first Spielberg movies to appear on VHS. Saturday Night Fever, on the other hand, didn’t fare well when Paramount cut out a lot of swear words and sex to make a family friendly version (PG) of the film, following the success of Grease the previous year (I guess Paramount did a trailer before SNF for Grease). Both versions came out on VHS and only the R-rated version is now available. As for the music, only SNF made more in record sales than Close Encounters.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on October 31, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Justin, I saw both re-releases of both films. The originals were still the best. Back then, though, before VHS tapes were made available and before my family got a VCR, studio re-releases were the only way I could enjoy a movie more than once. I would take it any way I could get it, be it Special Editions or PG-rated versions.

I can remember, very briefly, a double feature of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (PG) and GREASE. What kid could resist that at the time?

Speaking of GREASE – between 1978 and 1979, my family paid to see that movie six (6) times! That’s right! Six times! Two of those times, we stayed in the theater to watch it twice. Theaters often let you do that back then.

GaryParks on October 31, 2007 at 11:51 pm

I saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS soon after it opened at the Rio in Santa Cruz, CA.

Amazingly enough, though I spent the last years of the 70s (during high school) dancing to practically every song on the SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack, I didn’t see it back then, as my parents were extremely strict about my only going to see G-rated features until STAR WARS, which was my first PG. R-ratings were verboten. My first R was ALL THAT JAZZ, circa 1980.

I didn’t see FEVER until a restored print was screened in the late 1990s at the Towne Theatre in San Jose (then an arthouse but today a Bollywood venue)!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on November 1, 2007 at 6:05 am

Gary, my first PG-rated film was KING KONG in 1976. After having seen nothing on the screen but Benji, the Wilderness Family and Disney re-releases, this was a major movie event for me!

When my parents took me to see SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at the age of ten, they knew it was R-rated, but rationalized that perhaps the music and the dancing would be enough to make it safe for me. WRONG! My mother almost made us leave the theater because the profanity was so raw. But for a ten year-old boy, my first R-rated movie was like a rite of passage; my first exposure to profanity, mild violence and nudity! What’s not to love?

I would not see another R-rated movie for two years – AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. And then another three years – 48 HOURS. Talk about taking it ridiculously slow!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 1, 2007 at 7:16 am

Hmmm. I think my first PG film was the British horror omnibus “The House That Dripped Blood” in 1971 – when I was only six! I remember my Dad taking me to see it because I was already such a horror movie buff (Creature Features and Chiller Theatre on TV were early obsessions – along with Popeye and The Little Rascals!). I can’t remember the theatre, but the supporting feature was the 1966 pre-MPAA ratings system release, “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” with Christopher Lee as the Count. Oddly, while parts of “House” creeped me out (the image of Ferdy Mayne becoming a vampire and defying gravity at the end of his sequence haunted my dreams for years), I think the most brutal sight I saw on the screen that day would have to be the sequence from the Dracula flick where a body, strung up over the Count’s remains by a faithful manservant, is sliced open so that the gushing blood would revive the vampire.

A year later, while my family lived in Miami for a short time, we attended numerous double bills at the local drive-in theatre. While the main features were rated PG or even G, the supporting features were often rated R – and quite deservedly so. I would generally be fast asleep in the back of the car by the time the 2nd feature would role – and perhaps the programmers counted on this being the case for most families who patronized the theatre – and I remember my Dad telling me years later that he and my Mom were often shocked at how brutal some of the supporting genre flicks could be. Had I not fallen asleep, they’d have certainly left early during many of those films.

First R rated movie is harder to pin down, believe it or not. My Dad treated the PG-rated “Jaws” as if it were rated R when he took me to see that in ‘75. I think the first R rated movie I ever saw (again, with my Dad) was the Robert Aldrich thriller “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” in 1977. There’s a movie I’d like to revisit!

Anyway… great topic, Loves movies, and very well written – even though we got off on a bit of a tangent with “first R” and “first PG” recollections! These “news” items offer the best forums on CT for members to pursue random threads of conversation. The theatre pages (and I’m quite guilty of this charge myself) often stray too far from their intended topics – and tempers frequently flare as a result. Thanks!

jimpiscitelli on November 1, 2007 at 9:09 am

My first movie was Walt Disney’s “The Rescuers” released in 1977 at the M&R’s Sky-Hi drive-in (first G-rated). First PG-rated will be the box-office bomb “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, my first R-rated was “Caddyshack” three years later in 1980. All were at the Sky-Hi Drive in in Addison, IL.

As far as “Saturday Night Fever” it will always be my all-time movie along with “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of The Third Kind”.

BTW, the first PG-13 movie would be “Red Dawn” at the Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL.

GaryParks on November 1, 2007 at 11:59 am

Thank you, everyone, for showing me that my late-blooming when it comes to “grown-up” moviegoing, was not such an anomaly!

moviebuff82 on November 1, 2007 at 12:12 pm

My first movie was a re-issue of “Snow White” back in 1983 when I was a toddler, and it was my first g-rated film. My first PG rated movie would be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my first pg-13 rated movie would be Congo, and my first r-rated movie would be Donnie Brasco. The snow white movie was at the hyway theater in my old town of fairlawn, the turtle one would be in the wayne quad preakness, congo was in the now gone tenplex, and brasco was in Loews Wayne. As of right now, I have not seen an nc-17 rated movie at a theater and that’s because they’re not common in my multiplex.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on November 1, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Justin, the wicked witch turning into an evil-looking hag had to be intense, even for a toddler. My son is 22 months old and I don’t think I’d show him that movie yet. Besides, he’s too obssessed with the Wiggles right now to watch anything else.

You were a brave kid! Bravo!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 1, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Well… for the sake of completion, my first PG-13 movie was “Dreamscape” – which I probably saw at the Sunrise Cinemas multiplex in Valley Stream, NY. I remember making note of it, since the new rating was a big item in the news that summer. Actually, “Dreamscape” was to have an R rating – but a love scene was trimmed or cut out (I forget which) to take advantage of the new “in-between” rating.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an NC-17 film in theatres… but “Dawn of the Dead” in 1979 (at the Rivoli in NY) would have been my first unrated “adults only” film. And “Debbie Does Dallas” (ha ha) would be my first X rated film – at the Flick Theatre in Las Vegas, August of 1980! Hey, what happens in Vegas doesn’t ALWAYS stay in Vegas!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 1, 2007 at 12:35 pm

I couldn’t say what my first G-rated film would be. Some Disney film, no doubt, when I was a toddler. I wonder if my Mom would remember. Earliest film memories I have are of “Planet of the Apes,” “2001:A Space Odyssey,” and “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” – all rated G.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on November 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Ed, my one and only NC-17 film was SHOWGIRLS! No comment.

DEBBIE DOES DALLAS was partly filmed at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where I got my college degree. The story is that those that were running the college at the time didn’t realize that a porn film was going to be shot there. Just a single example of the ongoing stupidity of those involved.

jimpiscitelli on November 2, 2007 at 8:54 am

Speaking of NC-17 movies in theatres my first was “Dark Obsession” in 1991 at the Music Box theatre in Chicago. Most recent NC-17 in theatres is “The Dreamers” in 2004 at the Rivertree Court in Vernon Hills, IL.

Hopefully I can add “Lust, Caution” to that list.

tysonregal on November 18, 2007 at 6:32 pm

i saw lust caution -great film! my first nc-17 the cook,the theif,his wife,and her lover (1990) at the orleans 8 in phila.,pa.

as for close encounters-anyone who loves the film has to purchase the new dvd set. it has all 3 versions of the film (finally available)

original theatrical release
special edition
director’s cut

well worth the money

i saw close encounters.. at a drive-in . i think it was in new jersey but i cant remember the name. i think it was in moorestown or cherry hill,NJ but it was incredible on the big screen. i hope theatres will be around for years to come

mike from ne philly

tysonregal on November 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm

mr movie on 1210am sat nites midnite to 2am WPHT

anyone who likes this subject and obviously you all do tune in to your AM dial for this show. he did not give himself the nickname a reporter in philly gave it to him. but he really knows his subject

every sat at midnite WPHT midnite to 2am

signal reaches 38 states and canada

mike from ne philly

markp on January 10, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Hey Ed, I thought maybe I was the only person on earth who saw of or knew about “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t”. I first seen it at age 7 in Nov. 1966 at the State Theatre in Woodbridge, N.J. where my dad was projectionist. I also remember the re-releases in 1974 and again in 1979. As far as “Close Encounters” goes, I remember when we ran it at the Menlo Park Twin in Edison, N.J. for 6 months, preceded by a 6 month run of “Star Wars”, and followed by a 6 month run of “Grease”. Great movies in a great time in life.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 11, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Hi movie534. I think I caught CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T on a re-release much earlier than ‘74. I was too young to see it in '66 (having been born in January of '65) but I definitely had seen it before I was school age. I’m thinking that would have been December of '69 or maybe 1970 at the latest. I remember my mom bought me the companion coloring book not too long afterwards – probably at the Woolworth’s store on Junction Blvd across from the old Corona Theatre (which was a Bingo Hall at the time). I had that coloring book for many, many years.

KingBiscuits on January 16, 2008 at 7:58 pm

First G in a theatre: Beauty and The Beast
First PG in a theatre: Dunston Checks In
First PG-13 in a theatre: Happy Gilmore
First R in a theatre: The Last Samurai
First NC-17 in a theatre: Lust, Caution

Before then, I’d seen several PG-13 and R-rated titles on VHS and television (such as Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Speed, Terminator 2, The Running Man and Predator 2).

MPol on August 30, 2008 at 7:15 am

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Saturday Night Fever”

I saw both of those when they first came out-“Close Encounters” at the (soon to be defunct) Circle Cnema, which is right smack at the Boston (Brighton)-Brookline Line, in Cleveland Circle, and “Saturday NIght Fever” at a theatre in Lexington, MA, with some friends. I also saw “Saturday Night Fever” again years later, at the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 20, 2010 at 1:59 pm

1977 was the first real year of Columbia 1 and 2,having opened Christmas 1976.The biggest film ever to play there was “A STAR IS BORN” hands down.Stupid me I made a bet with my box office girl Susan ,that Clint Eastwood’s “THE ENFORCER” would be in town longer than that stupid musical.I was off about four months and see got the one-sheet to “A STAR IS BORN”.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Not that really matters…“see” was “she” She was Susan on above post and i even read it before i submitted it.

raysson on August 31, 2012 at 8:33 am

1977….the top four highest grossing movies at the boxoffice…..

“STAR WARS”-was still going strong during Christmas of 77



“SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT”-I put it there since it needed to be mentioned!!! In 1977,this was a runaway boxoffice hit becoming the 3rd highest grossing film of 1977 behind STAR WARS AND CLOSE ENCOUNTERS!!!…ANNIE HALL does not count!!!!

raysson on August 31, 2012 at 8:45 am


On Television….ABC had the top five TV hits in 1977.. “THREE’S COMPANY”, “HAPPY DAYS”, “CHARLIE’S ANGELS”, “THE LOVE BOAT”, “THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN”……..



raysson on August 31, 2012 at 8:50 am

Ed Solero and Mike Rogers: I’m surprised that NO ONE even mentioned SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT in the comments. This 1977 film became a boxoffice smash with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field and not to mention the comedical comeback of Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice….I remember going to see this movie around the summer of 1977 at the Northgate Twin Theatres in Durham, NC opening weekend….the lines were snaked from one end of the shopping center to the other with the first two matinee showings SOLD OUT…Very funny film that was “PG” rated….

raysson on August 31, 2012 at 8:54 am

First “PG” rated film….BILLY JACK in 1971…. First “R” rated film ..LADY SINGS THE BLUES from 1972 Second “R” rated film…WHICH WAY IS UP? from 1977 My first “G” rated film…Disney’s THAT DARN CAT My first “X” rated film…EMANUELLE from 1974 My Third “R” rated film…THE EXORCIST..I saw this…

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 5, 2013 at 9:18 am

My first R was Woodstock, but my older sister accompanied me. First R by myself was either Joe or Five Easy Pieces. Don’t remember my first M (the original version of PG). First X was easy to remember: A Clockwork Orange, because I was scared I’d be turned away from the theater for being 17 but looking 14.

To keep this comment on track, I saw Close Encounters at the Ziegfeld on the second day of its run.

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