Happy 30th, Star Wars!
Thirty years ago today, “Star Wars” was released.
As many of us know by now, “Star Wars” opened in 32 theatres on that fateful day in May of 1977, plus 11 more on the 26th & 27th of May bringing its first-week total to 43. So, is the legend true that 20th Century-Fox could find only a mere 43 venues to open their movie, or did Fox believe all along that they had a huge, history-making hit on their hands and instead opted to launch the movie in a calculated, limited-market “platform” in an attempt to create an event?
On this historic occasion, I thought it would be interesting to ask Cinema Treasures readers to offer up their memories of the first time they saw the original “Star Wars.” When? Where? Anyone see it on May 25, 1977? Who resided in a small town and had to wait weeks or months to see it? What was your reaction? How was your life or moviegoing habits changed? Etc…
And…identified below to honor the occasion are those original 43 theatres that were immortalized for being the very first to play “Star Wars.” (Do we dare ask how many of them survive today as operational theatres?)
Opened Wednesday, May 25, 1977
Phoenix: Plitt Cine Capri
Los Angeles: GCC Avco Center (70mm-Dolby)
Los Angeles: Mann Chinese (70mm-Dolby)
Orange: Plitt City Center (70mm-Dolby)
Sacramento: Syufy Century 25
San Diego: Mann Valley Circle
San Francisco: UA Coronet (70mm-Dolby)
San Jose: Syufy Century 22
Denver: Cooper Highland Cooper (Dolby)
Claymont: Sameric Eric Twin Tri-State Mall
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Washington: RKO/Stanley-Warner Uptown (Dolby)
Milan: Redstone Showcase Cinemas (Dolby)
Indianapolis: Y&W Eastwood (Dolby)
Louisville: Redstone Showcase Cinemas (Dolby)
Boston: Sack Charles (Dolby)
Southfield: Nicholas George Americana (Dolby)
Roseville: Northwest Roseville 4 (Dolby)
St. Louis Park: GCC St. Louis Park
Edison: GCC Menlo Park
Lawrenceville: Sameric Eric Twin Lawrenceville
Paramus: RKO/Stanley-Warner Route 4 Triplex Paramus (70mm-Dolby)
Pennsauken: Sameric Eric Twin Pennsauken
Hicksville: Mann Twin South (70mm-Dolby)
New York: Loews Astor Plaza (70mm-Dolby)
New York: Loews Orpheum (70mm-Dolby)
Springdale: Redstone Showcase Cinemas (Dolby)
Beaverton: Luxury Westgate (Dolby)
Fairless Hills: Sameric Eric Twin Fairless Hills
Monroeville: Redstone Showcase Cinemas East (Dolby)
Philadelphia: Sameric Eric’s Place
Salt Lake City: Plitt Centre
Seattle: UA Cinema 150 (Dolby)
Opened Thursday, May 26, 1977
Overland Park: Dickinson Glenwood (Dolby)
Opened Friday, May 27, 1977
Calumet City: Plitt River Oaks
Chicago: Plitt Esquire (Dolby)
Lombard: GCC Yorktown
Northbrook: Lubliner & Sterns Edens (Dolby)
Des Moines: Dubinsky River Hills (Dolby)
Creve Coeur: Wehrenberg Creve Coeur CinÃ© (Dolby)
Omaha: Douglas Cinema Center (Dolby)
Dayton: Chakeres Dayton Mall (Dolby)
Dallas: GCC Northpark I&II
Houston: GCC Galleria
[You can read more about the original release of “Star Wars” in my retrospective article May 25, 1977: A Day Long Remembered.]
Theaters in this post
- AMC Dine-In Yorktown 18
- AMC Loews Paramus Route 4 Tenplex
- AMC Uptown 1
- Centre Theater
- Century 22
- Century Stadium 14 Sacramento
- Charles Cinema
- Cine Capri Theatre
- Cinema Center Complex
- Cinemagic 5 Tri-State Mall
- Cooper Theatre
- Coronet Theatre
- Creve Coeur Cine'
- Dayton Mall Cinemas
- Eastwood Theatre
- Edens I & II Theaters
- Eric's Place Theatre
- Eric Twin
- Esquire Theatre
- Galleria Cinema IV
- Glenwood Theatre
- iPic Westwood
- Loew's Orpheum Twin Theatre
- Menlo Park Twin Cinema
- Mid-Plaza 6
- Northpark West 1 & 2
- Palladium Times Square
- River Hills Theatre & Riviera Theatre
- River Oaks Theatre
- Showcase Cinemas East
- Showcase Cinemas Louisville
- Showcase Cinemas Milan
- Southfield City 12
- St. Louis Park Theatre
- TCL Chinese Theatre
- UA 150
- Valley Circle Theater
I saw “Star Wars” at the mighty, opulent, and sadly demolished Creve Coeur Cine' in St. Louis, MO. My dad (R.I.P.) took me when I was 4 ½ years old. I remember the theatre being packed. I remember the audience cracking up when R2 got shot by the Jawas and that moan he made before he plopped onto the ground. I remember the audience going “Wooooo” during Darth Vader’s Force choke of the dude who was questioning his strategy. I remember the audience going nuts when the Death Star blowing up. I remember the audience bursting into hysterics when Chewie “talked” during the award ceremony. Lastly, I remember thunderous applause when “Directed By George Lucas” flashed on the screen.
We went back to see it again at the Creve Coeur and later to the Airway Drive-In when it expanded into wide release. Hard to believe that was 30 years ago. Wow!
I shared this already a couple of years back on the Loew’s Orpheum page, but it’s apropos here. The theater was on 3rd Ave at E. 86th Street in NYC’s upper east side and had, by this time, been twinned into two separate theaters – the Loew’s Orpheum on the orchestra level and the Loew’s Cine up in the former balcony.
The only time I had ever visited the theater was to see “Star Wars” during its initial run in June, 1977. My Dad took me. We lived in Queens, so had to trek in to the City. I think he chose this theater rather than the Astor Plaza because he worked nearby and was more familiar with the Orpheum. I remember we were shut out of one screening and purchased tickets for the following show a couple of hours later. To kill time, we went across the street to a diner/restaurant which had big windows that looked directly across to the theater marquee. I can’t recall the details too vividly. I think the marquee was on 3rd Ave and I recall after eating that my dad and I rushed back across the street to get a decent spot on the rapidly growing ticket-holder’s line.
As there was so much time before they would start letting us in, my Dad agreed to let me take a stroll around the neighborhood while he held our place on line – I was 12 years old and this was the first time I would be taking a stroll in the City all by myself. So, I headed east on 86th Street with a goal of making it all the way to the East River. Ultimately, I found a park stood in my way of getting to the water’s edge (Carl Schurz Park where the mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion is located, I would later learn) and had to make a retreat back towards the theater. When I got back to 3rd Ave and could see the line was moving into the theater, I got a bit nervous. When I made my way to the entrance, I found my Dad waiting there and a bit peeved that he had to let a lot of people in ahead of him as he waited for me. I remember accepting his anger and being thankful that he was more upset that I mosied around oblivious to time then he was nervously wondering whether I had gone missing somewhere in the big bad City (he may well have fretted over that prospect, but if so, he certainly didn’t let on to me about it).
Once inside, I recall the theater was quite large with a center orchestra section and two narrower sections on either side. I don’t recall the decor, but the hues were dark and I seem to recall a red curtain in front of the screen. The seats were plush and we wound up sitting on the right aisle in the center section about ¾ of the way back. There may have been a break in the sections with a cross-aisle closer to the screen, but I can’t recall exactly as we sat more to the rear. I thought there was a balcony, but I realize now this might have just been the lower ceiling former by the former loge/mezzanine that had been converted to the separate Loew’s Cine auditorium.
As for the film, I remember similar reactions to the sequences mentioned by Chris Utley in his post. Most memorable was the cheer from the audience when Luke carried Leah across the chasm between the retracted foot bridge landings on a rope – like something out of an old Errol Flynn movie. Also the great eruption of laughter at Han Solo’s line to Luke, “Great shot, kid. Don’t get cocky!” during the dog fight between the Millenium Falcon and the Empire fighters. Ah, yes, and more laugther when the camera cut to C-3PO on the deck of the Falcon tangled up in wires and calling for help!
The memories are flooding in… That’s why I love this site so much!
On May 25, 1977 I was 22 years old. My brother Tom was 14. We often went to the movies together, and I was planning to go into New York City from New Jersey to see “Star Wars” because it looked like a good sci-fi movie, and I’d enjoyed George Lucas' “American Graffiti” very much. For some reason Tom did not want to make the trip to New York on that Wednesday afternoon. We argued about it for a while, then I just gave up and went by myself. I was convinced he was going to miss out on a good thing. Little did either of us know just how good …
There was no big line outside the Loew’s Astor Plaza in Times Square, but once I got inside the lobby was filling up fast. All patrons were given a “May the Force Be With You” button at the box office. We had to wait in the lobby till the previous show’s audience got out. When they started coming out, someone in the waiting group shouted out “IS IT A WAR, MAN?” Everyone laughed. When I got inside the actual theater the end credits were still scrolling up, but I noticed an unusual thing: most of the audience were still in their seats, watching the credits and APPLAUDING things like the special photographic effects artists and the Dolby System logo. I said to myself, “Hey, this must be good.” The floor was littered with discarded “May the Force Be With You” buttons, an inconsistency I still haven’t figured out.
Then the movie began. Two hours of sheer entertainment that I would return to again and again, almost every weekend in that summer of ‘77. The jump to hyperspace got the biggest reaction that first night. The audience went crazy. I stayed to see the beginning a second time up to the scene in Ben Kenobi’s house – that was as long as I could stay without missing the last train home. You could still do that then – there weren’t 45-minute breaks between shows. I got home and put the souvenir program on the kitchen table for my brother to see when he woke up on the 26th. I think I also said something to him on the order of “You JERK!” when I saw him that morning. And I still have my button. I should’ve worn it to work today.
I didn’t wait in line. I saw the first show on opening day at the Stanley Warner Route 4 Triplex in Paramus NJ, for no reason than we had nothing to do that day. I, nor my friend, had any idea what the film was or was about. It just looked like an interesting sci-fi film to waste a few hours on. The theater was empty for that show, maybe 10 people in that huge auditorium. At that time the huge screen was still installed in what I believe they called “Theater 1”.
The film started, and 5 seconds in, during the Fox fanfare, the 70mm print jammed and melted. The lights came up, we waited 10 minutes, and they started it again from the beginning, only now there was a splice in the fanfare music!
As the film started, and those crazy infinity credits scrolled by we laughed and laughed. This film was going to be a joke.
That HUGE ship came out of screen top “over your head” with the rear surrounds pumping the sound effects at you. We stop laughing…
We left the theater awe struck.
In two days you couldn’t get into that theater if your life depended on it, and it stayed that way for weeks!
Saw it at Hicksville twin south with mom and dad as i was 12…Waited on line for what seemed like hours….
I saw it at the Plitt Century Plaza and Chinese near the end of summer to avoid the long lines. Of the two theatres the Chinese had the most awesome presentation in 70mm.
Currently the official Star Wars convention is now going on at the Los Angeles Convention Center to commemorate Star Wars 30th.
I saw “Star Wars” at the May 24th press screening at the Loew’s Astor Plaza. One memento I have from that night: a “May The Force Be With You” T-shirt, which is a little tight thirty years later! What a screening. Enough to require a repeat visit that weekend but at the Loew’s Orpheum uptown where we sensibly got our tickets a few hours before showtime. A few days later, I met Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, who appeared on a local TV show I was producing in New York. So I can truly say I was a fan very early on!
I saw “Star Wars” at the Showcase Cinemas in Monroeville, PA soon after it came out. I don’t remember the exact day and I didn’t realize that at the time it was one of the original 32 theatres showing the movie. I remember being blown away by the opening shot of the star cruiser entering the screen directly overhead; it went on and on and I thought to myself “What an incredible opening shot for a movie” (I was a film major at the time, so you tend to think these things while watching movies). When I got back home to Penn State U. I had to tell everyone about it and when it opened at the Garden Theatre in State College, PA, we had a large group waiting in line for tickets.
I moved to NYC in 76. Movies were still events and theatres were usually pretty nice. I remember walking by the Loew’s Astor Plaza (which was built by Walter Reade, as the Read Theatre, but was bought by Loews just before opening) I saw big colorful theatre displays for something called LOGAN’S RUN, advertised as being in 70mm. Went to see that. Pretty decent afternoon. At that time I’d watch just about everything. The following Spring I see the LAP has big, colorful displays for something called STAR WARS, also in 70mm. Figured it was another sci-fi thing, so on the afternoon it opened, I went down to check it out. Got a nice seat, popcorn, (Loew’s popcorn was usually popped offsite and brought in big yellow bags, but it was big and fluffy) So the curtains open on that big screen, with 6 channel stereo sound. When that big airship roared overhead in cool detail and and sound (like it really did fly overhead) the whole audience burst into cheers and it became clear this was not just another movie. I am not a sci-fi fan, but the big screen, full sound, entertaining plot and wildly enthusiastic audience swept me along, and I was caught up in it. After the exhilerating ending, I walked out with the crowd in a good mood, feeling like i had seen something special that I would tell friends about. At the escalator, we were handed blue buttons, about 2" at most. I was expecting the nifty STAR WARS logo, but the thing just said “May the Force be With You.” What the heck is this? I threw it out.
I had worked for the Dickinson circuit managing theatres for them, and had been hired by the Mann circuit district office in Wichita, Kansas and was working as a assistant manager learning their system before being transfered to manage one of their theaters. One of my assignments was to the Mall Cinema in Wichita, which was installing a ‘dolby system’ before the opening of ‘Star Wars.“ We ended up playing 'Star Wars’ for 52 weeks, changing prints at Christmas because we wore out the first one, we even had to hire a new janitor because the one we had quit because of the mess people were creating. Actually got robbed once, and even had a bomb scare. We were so busy that you feet just throbbed at night when one sat down to catch your breath. I have never seen the picture completely, becuase we were just that busy, I probally should take the time someday.
I just felt a great roar of anguish! A disturbance in the force? No, the sound of millions of diehard STAR WARS fans howling about how much that discarded button is worth!
As far as the date, all I can remember for sure it was a Saturday night. But I will never forget the place: UA Cinema 150 at Laguna Gardens in Puerto Rico. â€œStar Warsâ€ did not open there until later in the year. My dad took me, my brothers and two cousins. The opening shot with the cruiser (I actually â€œbelievedâ€ that it was coming down through the roof!), the first jump into hyperspace, the light saber, the music, all this and many more just blew the audience away. It was pure fun. A Samurai-Western-WWII science fantasy all rolled into one. I remember that when we left the theater, one of my brothers said â€œI canâ€™t wait for the sequelâ€, to which someone in the crowd replied â€œSequel? No way! It will never happen. It would ruin everythingâ€â€¦
Oddly, I began to appreciate SW much more after â€œThe Empire Strikes Backâ€, which in my opinion is the crown jewel of the series. Regardless, what came out that May 25, 1977 and its effects, both positive and negative, in terms of how the film industry changed, will be debated for years. But today I look fondly to that Saturday night, a long time ago.
Star Wars had aleady been out for two and a half months by the time I first saw it. The theatre was the relatively humble UA 41st Ave. Playhouse in Capitola, CA. The little triplex still exists as the 41st Ave. Cinema. The reason I waited so long to see it was that right after 8th Grade graduation, my parents and I drove up the Coast to Oregon for a couple of weeks. Right after that, I went to summer camp for five weeks. While there, I met a few kids who had seen this movie called Star Wars. From their hyper descriptions, all I could gather was that there were spaceships, lasers, and a princess. I was intregued, mildly. But then, my best friend Jeff (one of my very best friends to this day) wrote me a letter and described it as like being “solid 2001, but way more neat stuff.” I knew I could trust my friend’s assessment, and by the time I got home from camp, he was ready to see it again. So, he, my parents, my cousin Grant, and my adopted grandma Margaret all went to see it. I was blown away. I remember walking out of that matinee showing gesturing wildly about all the ships diving and swooping. I saw it a couple of other times before 9th Grade began, and saw it on video the following Christmas. What? Saw it on video? In 1977? Well, my oldest cousin (also named Gary) was a projectionist for UA in the L.A. area, and he and some buddies hooked up one of those gigantic video recorders to the projection system, and produced a tape which he allowed my cousin Grant and I to watch as many times as we wanted to over the Christmas holiday on their TV. The images were slightly squished vertically, and the sound was inferior, but we didn’t care. This was our own personal Star Wars tape for several days. We watched it five times before I had to leave to go back home to Northern California. All my school friends thought I’d gotten the best present.
When Star Wars was re-released many years later, before the final Trilogy came out, I considered going to see it with as many of the people I had seen it with originally. This was impossible, however. Dad and my adopted grandma had passed away, Mom was not available, Jeff was living in Southern California. But my cousin Grant was going to UC Berkeley, and so he and I went to the Coronet in San Francisco and saw it. The old magic was still there, although we both agreed that by more recent standards it moved a little slow for an action-packed movie. One more memory—in the audience was then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, sitting with a gorgeous woman who was wearing a feminine version of the same (likely Armani) suit the Mayor was wearing. There were a couple of security guys nearby, watching over the Mayor. The Coronet was packed, and cheers and laughter welled-up in the audience much as they had in ‘77.
I was too young to see “Star Wars” in the theatres back in 1977 (I eventually saw it in the theatres during the 1997 “Special Edition” version at the long-gone General Cinema Franklin Mills 10 Theatre).
I did see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 at the long-gone AMC Premiere Twin Theatre, and Return Of The Jedi at the long-gone General Cinema Northeast 4 Theatre. I also saw the 1997 “Special Edition” of both of these films at the AMC Woodhaven 10 Theatre.
At thirteen, I finally got to see STAR WARS on May 25th, a nice Wednesday afternoon, after having read about it six months prior in the November ‘76 issue (#2) of Starlog Magazine. My best friend Greg, who lived near the Park theater in St. Louis Park Minnesota, and I had been anxiously awaiting its release. We walked the four or five miles from his house to the now closed Art Morderne theater just outside of Minneapolis. After about an hour, we came within sight of the theater and were surprised to discover a line wrapped around it! We quickly got into line, with still about a half hour to go before showtime, and watched it double while everyone in it began to comment on how many people there were! Once inside we realized that about the only place to sit together was about four rows from the very front and way over by the wall, it was so packed. It was one of those old theaters with just one screen and about a 1000 seats. Both of us were like; “What the hell is going on?”
I am not sure why, but I had this preconceived notion that what we were about to see would be in the same vein as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe it’s because that’s what I wanted to see; a serious science fiction film, real heavy like. The preproduction artwork, by Ralph McQuarrie, in Starlog had, what I thought was an austere quality, an emptiness. I laugh at the memory of how, early on I reacted snobbishly at the bickering between the two stupid robots in the desert, despite already having audibly produced a wow at the sight of that never ending giant triangular ship. Well, pretty quickly I gave up on the 2001 idea and let this new, flashy, gritty, noisy, exciting story have its way with my 13 year old brain.
THAT WAS THE COOLEST MOVIE EVER! or something like that, I said. The audience had reacted en masse to many scenes; uproarious laughter at the stunning of R2, stunned murmuring as the Millenium Falcon’s entry to hyperspace, cheers at the exploding Death Star.
Well, Greg’s 16 year old brother showed up to take us home, but instead we all went back into the theater, this time in much better seats. Then his parent’s found us after our little impromptu encore and yanked us all out as soon as the lights came back up, since it was now about eight or nine. Too buzzed to care that they were pissed at us, we planned our next trip back.
Over the next 60 weeks I think I probably saw STAR WARS 25 times at that theater, and that was before they got the 70mm reel later that December. One time during the following summer of ‘78, I sat through it three times in a row. I practically went through puberty while it ran there.
Tonight, 30 years later I drove by the place, the theater auditorium gone, but the spot were we waited in line was there, the front of the marquee, now a jewelry store, basically as it was and intact. I tried to imagine the line snaking around the side filled with people in 70’s attire. I followed that imaginary line to the back of the now smaller building and was pleasantly surprised to see six window-like squares in a row near the top of the exterior wall. I once sat directly under those windows while overhead projected some of the coolest light I’ve ever seen.
The Edens I in Northbrook, Illinois! A classic theater for a classic film! I remember wanting to stay and see it a second time, but they cleared the theater to accomodate the crowds—not something you saw a lot.
My father, my brothers and I saw it early in its run at the Edens Theatre in Northbrook, IL – I didn’t realize it at the time, but what a juxtaposition of views of the future there was between that building and that film…
When Fox released Star Wars they did not believe that anyone would want to see this film. I don’t remember what the “Big” fox film for 1977 was but if you were a theater owner and you wanted to play it you had to agree to take Star Wars also. As it turned out the “Big” film was a flop and Star Wars is part of movie history. We had 2 theaters in my home town of Aberdeen Wa. and they put Star Wars in the smaller house (Aberdeen Theater) thinking that it would only do a small amount of business. Boy were they wrong. The “Big” fox summer blockbuster for that year played at the Large theater (D&R) and did nothing.
senorsock, I must say I am extremely jealous. From what I’ve heard the Edens was one heck of place and what a movie to see there.
Ron Carlson: I believe the “big” Fox film that summer was supposed to be “The Other Side of Midnight”. I also read somewhere that Fox had much higher hopes for their sci-fi bomb “Damnation Alley” than they ever had for “Star Wars”.
One other thing about “Star Wars” that announced how great it was going to be right off, even before the overhead shot of the Star Destroyer: the Fox Fanfare played complete with the CinemaScope extension music, which hadn’t been heard at the beginning of a Fox film for something like 10 years.
In June 1977 I visited my cousins who had moved from Los Angeles to the Frisco Bay Area a year earlier. They wanted to see Star Wars. Although I had already seen it in Los Angeles in 70mm a few dozen times I wanted to see it again so I took them to a theatre in San Jose that was showing it. As expected the Star Wars phenomenon hit the Frisco area with a lot of force. As we waited in line for the second showing we watched as the first group was let out of the theatre. Every person leaving the theatre laughed and smiled as they talked about what they had just seen.
After our honeymoon, my new bride and I saw “Star Wars” once it had expanded into Queens theaters, probably late June, 1977. I believe it was at the Midway on Queens Blvd., but I won’t swear to that.
As a kid, Lucas must have enjoyed the same Saturday matinee fare that became so much a part of our collective childhood. It showed in his movie, and we loved it!
Topps, the baseball card gum company, quickly obtained marketing licenses and issued 5 separate series of cards from the movie between 1977 and ‘78. Boxes purchased at Brooklyn’s Farmer’s Market cost about $3.75 each. Stickers found within were far fewer in number, so later for-sale prices reflected that when you bought a set of 66 cards “plus 22 stickers.” We took 5 unopened boxes with us when we moved to CA later that year. Four years later, a Philadelphia dealer bought them all when I needed money for my car’s front-end work. Wow!
I will always respect the original because it was fun and it was the first, though I believe the darker “Empire Stikes Back” was perhaps the best, especially when compared to the third, a ploy for Ewoks and other new toys to sell to kids.
Today’s Native American casinos in SoCal have three slot machine variations of “Star Wars.” Last month, I hit a “Death Star” game bonus for 112 free spins (caused by 3 separate re-triggers) and an 11X multiplier. I cashed out for $305. Not bad for a 30Â¢ bet.
“Star Wars,” the movie and its characters, simply morphed into our consciousness and national fabric, for better or for worse. The movie held up; my marriage didn’t. That’s life.
Good job, Lucas!
I too was little when “Star Wars” came out. I originally saw it on ON-TV (scramble signal) on a black and white TV with a radio (stereo)simulcast (to hear the audio). I did later saw it on the Disney Channel in 1990 (when it was a premium channel) on a recorded VHS tape. “The Empire Strikes Back” I saw on VHS the first time and “Return Of The Jedi” the first time at Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL. In 1997, I saw the Special Edition of “Star Wars” at the Marcus Cinema in Addison, IL. I do own the original unaltered versions on RCA SelectaVision CED discs and the Special Editions on VHS.
As far as the prequel trilogy, “The Phanthom Menance” and “Revenge Of The Sith” I saw at the Cinemark Melrose Park, IL and “Attack Of The Clones” at the Crown Village Crossing 18 in Skokie, IL. I own the first two on VHS and “Sith” on DVD.
I did not realize that “Star Wars” was in limited release the first time it came out.
The earliest engagements of “Star Wars” in Queens began on Aug. 3, 1977, the film’s 11th week of release. Initially, the two Queens bookings were at the CONTINENTAL and RKO KEITHS TRIPLEX.
I was 6 on May 25,1977 and my parents went to see “Star Wars” at the Chinese in Hollywood on their wedding anniversary,leaving me and my sisters with a sitter that day. Flash forward to 1979 and the re-release that had the “Empire Strikes Back” trailer. It was at the original Boulder Theatre in Boulder City,NV. I lived in Henderson at the time. I was awestruck. it was awesome! When the “Star Wars” title card came on and the theme was blasting out through the speakers,i was hooked as was the audience. It was truly one of the greatest experinces of my life. Too bad it wasn’t a 70mm print.
Hello, I am new here and this is my first post after Michael Coate invited me to register and comment about my first recollection of the first STAR WARS film. Honolulu, where I live did not play
the film on opening day but on June 8, 1977. It played at two theatres- Consolidated’s Cinerama
and the Kapiolani. Both engagements were in 35mm mono because both teatrees were not set up for Dolby stereo at that time. THe Kaliolani played STARS WARS for only a short period of time because the theatres was alredy booked to play other films. The Cinerama continued the run and became the exclusive showcase for STAR WARS in Hawaii for well over a year. I had to fly to Chicago to attend a professional photographers convention in July of that year and had planned to see STAR WARS in San Francisco at the Coronet in 70mm on my way home but I got to see it in Chicago for free! I still do not know how it had happened but a special screening of STAR WARS was held in t
grand ballroom at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare during the convention and everyone was invited. The showing was in 35mm mono and the presentation on a very large portable scope screen was very impressive. I did get to see “STAR WARS again in 70mm a few nights later in San Francisco at the Coronet as originally planned but slept through most of it due to jet lag. When I returned to Honolulu, I decided to see it again at the Cinerama in 35mm and went back to the same theatre in
November 1977 and saw it in 70mm. The Cinerama in Honolulu was one of several theatres in the country that had it’s showings of STAR WARS upgraded to 70mm after Dolby Stereo was installed in the house. The next two STAR WARS films also played at the Cinerama in 70mm on a exclusive basis.
-Claude S. Ayakawa
Here is my Star Wars history:
I was 7 years old when it came out….
1&2: Roxy Theatre (twice), Tacoma WA (now the Pantages)
3: UA Cinema 150 (RIP), Seattle WA (70mm)
4: Narrows Theatre, Tacoma WA
5: Lakewood Theatre, Lakewood WA (1982 Reissue)
The Special Edition (UGH!):
Act III Crossroads 8, Bellevue WA – Dolby Digital THX
Act III Supermall Stadium 17, Auburn WA – Dolby Digital THX
American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre, Santa Monica, CA – Dolby Digital (2007 showing)
(I was hoping this would be the original version, but it wasn’t. They had made no indication on their website or Calendar as to which version it was).
I saw “Star Wars” at the the now missed Plitt Century Plaza Theatre on the move-over, three times that week. That main house long before Cineplex damaged it by cutting it up could Rock.
May 25th! A “holiday” for “Star Wars” fans. A classic day.
I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since this wonder of a movie came out. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in an age where I experienced it for the first time in a theatre. I was about 9 years-old when it came out. I can’t recall if I saw it before my birthday, which is in June, or not.
I must’ve been in the last days of school when my fellow classmates started talking about this movie called “Star Wars.” It had some giant bear-like creature named Chewbacca, a girl with “snail-like” hair and these amazing “light sabers.” I had to see this film.
My parents took me to one of the few venues that showed a 70mm print at the time, the long gone Plitt City Center in Orange, CA. Beautiful twin modern theatre located behind the old City Mall.
I can remember sitting in the front seat of my dad’s company car, a Ford LTD, while he drove. There used to be a very tall bridge that went over Interstate 5, and you could take it to get to the City Mall. As we were crossing the bridge, a news anchor on KNX-AM said that “Star Wars” was breaking all box office records. I pleaded with my dad to drive faster so we could get to the theatre. My mom said, “We might not be able to get in if it’s that popular.” My heart sunk.
We managed to get to the City Center. There was no one around the lobby or box office as I recall. My dad bought three tickets and we went to the snack bar. I didn’t want anything. No popcorn. No candy. I wanted to get into the theatre!
Above the theatre doors, someone had made a sign that said “Star Wars,” but it was a homemade job made of glitter. Still, it was cool. We made our way into the auditorium.
It was packed.
The only seats we could find were in the front row, looking up at the enormous screen.
I don’t recall off-hand if the curtains parted, but when the “Star Wars” logo blasted onto the screen, I jumped out of my seat. The Dolby Stereo sound was loud and very impressive. I had never heard sound that clear, that loud, before. Then the ships roared over head, lasers flying across the screen in those few and very memorable cuts to establish the story. I was hooked and my eyes didn’t look away from that screen for the entire movie.
I had never seen a movie have such an affect on myself or an audience up until that point. Every scene that is now classic, from R2-D2 getting fried by Jawas, to the final explosion of the Death Star, got laughs and cheers. When the audience is taken into the Death Star’s trench for the first time, I can recall grabbing onto the edge of the arm rests. This was like being on a roller coaster ride. And when Luke destroyed the Death Star (and after that shot of the Millenium Falcon flying into help Luke), I swear it was like experiencing your team coming in and winning the game at the last second. 900 or so people in that audience cheered, clapped and hollered in triumphant relief.
For some reason, my parents would always stay for the credits, even on terrible movies. But this one was special. The end credit music by John Williams invited the audience to stay. If I recall, most of the audience did stay for the final credits, and when the lights came up, there was more applause.
I don’t think I stopped talking about the film for a year. I can remember during class, I’d try playing back the amazing beginning of the film in my mind. Weird kid, I know.
When the film was re-released, I’d beg my parents to take me to see it again. “You’ve already seen it.” I didn’t see it again until 1979 at the crummy Orange Mall 6…you know, the type of theatre with about 150 seats, a tiny screen, and mono sound. A friend of mine hadn’t seen it, so I convinced him to come with me. He wasn’t impressed. Even at 11 years-old, I realized why he didn’t like it: the presentation was a HUGE part of that movie.
Even though I didn’t run around in Star Wars pajamas or go to Star Wars conventions, it was and still is a big part of my life. I got into movies because of it….and way before kids that weren’t even born claim that SW was the reason why they wanted to make films!
It’s kind of sad, at least to me, that the movies have been re-worked, and that most of the great theatres I saw the SW trilogy (the good, original one) are now gone.
But those memories of seeing “Star Wars” for the first time in 70mm, in a great big theatre, are forever etched in my mind. And May 25th is special for another reason. My daughter was born on that day.
The links below include articles on the City Center, and a number of retrospective “Star Wars” articles.
A big thx to Michael Coate for the corrected Queens theaters and timeline. I hadn’t realized it was already August when we’d seen “Star Wars,” but when the Continental was listed, Bingo! That was it! Tempus fugit and memory sometimes goes south… Again, thanks!
Forgot to mention in my initial post that the late “break-in” satirist, Dickie Goodman, had released “Star Warts” on 45 RPM later that summer. It was a hard piece of vinyl to find. I remember finally scoring a copy at Merle’s Record Rack on Chapel St. in New Haven that fall. Funny stuff!
Imagine, folks – 30 years now for “Star Wars” and 40 (on 6/1) for “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Where does the time go? whew!
I first saw Star Wars at the Loews Inverrary 3 on Oakland Park Boulevard in Lauderhill (right outside of Ft. Lauderdale), Florida. I was 10 years old. The theater was brand new back then, and even though it was a triplex the individual theaters were very large. Each almost the size of a single screen theater. I thought back then that Star Wars was a great film but I wasn’t as gaga about it as a friend of mine that lived in my apartment complex. Star Wars seemed to dictate every aspect of his life. He didn’t go around dressing like Luke or Darth or any of the other characters but he was a huge fan. I did like it enough to see it more than once, not something I did with movies back then. I usually saw them once and that was it. I think I may have seen it once or twice more at the Inverrary then I saw it at another theater at the Lauderhill Mall, the name of which escapes me. The Loews Inverrary 3 was converted to retail space not that long ago and the surrounding area has become low income and pretty shady. I’d like to say that it felt ‘like yesterday’ when I saw it, but it doesn’t. It was a long-ass time ago during a strange part of my upbringing. My parents' marriage was falling apart and things were getting weird. Nonetheless, a fun time to be a kid, and a great time for pop culture in America, way before the time of the CORPORATE pop culture we have to dredge through now. But back then it was great. Star Wars? Kiss? Peter Frampton on the radio? Mike Douglas & Merv on TV? It was a very cool time.
One of the 3 or 4 repeat viewings of “Star Wars” for me that summer was at the RKO Keith’s. Another was the Fox Theater out in East Setauket, LI, where I took the film in with my older cousins (a pair of identical twins named Phillip and James). The two of them were into the movie even more than I was and had seen it numerous times already. We sat way up front, as I recall, and I can remember Phillip pointing out to me a fleeting shot of R2D2 ambling down a flight of stairs during – I believe – the sequence where Obi Wan, Luke and the Droids make their way through Mos Eisley on Tatooine.
I saw Star Wars at the Americana theatre in Southfield, MI in June of 1977. The Americana was a 60’s modern, large (1700 or so seats on one floor) theatre that had most of the BIG showings in the area. I saw “Star Wars” during the time I was working as a projectionist downtown at the Summit Cinerama, running a retro-release of “2001 a space odyssey” in 70mm ultra-Cinerama, and there was some cause for comparison, but at the age of 18 (in ‘77) Star Wars just blew me away. I don’t really like sci-fi and would rather go to a vegetarian acoustical feminist concert while getting a root canal than watch anything “Star trek”, but I realized that Star Wars was part Saturday morning (western) serial and part WWI dogfight movie.
John Williams’ brilliant score was of keen interest to me, as I had just reciently discovered the work of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold (to whom Williams owes a LOT) and the other Hollywood “great era” composers. There had been a 10 year period, probably starting with films like “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate” where Hollywood discovered you can get away without a custom-composed score, just spin contemporary records (at a considerable $$$$ savings) and call it good, and the people will love it. That worked for those films, and other “small” films, but after the 20th Century Fanfare (with Cinemascope tag) died down and the that Sfortzando opening chord followed by the cleanest, most glorious brass started into this 19th century fanfare I was hooked.
A few years later I wound up playing theatre organ in one of the many pizza parlors that had transplanted theatre instruments, and we (I) played Star Wars several times a night. I still get shivers down my spine when I hear the Throne room sequence, its as though Williams was channeling William Walton or Edward Elgar
ED that FOX theater was one of the best theaters on longisland…
I saw it at Grauman’s Chinese on the very day those two robot characters and Darth Vader put their prints in the cement of that famous theater. I believe it was sometime in August of 1977. I didn’t plan it that way, I was just passing through LA on my way from the Bay Area to San Diego and swung out to Hollywood to take a look at what was left of the theaters on Hollywood Blvd. It seemed like a perfect time to catch the by that time quite popular film and it was impressive indeed in 70mm and Dolby stereo on the big Chinese screen. I later saw it again in 70mm at the Warfield in San Francisco where it was preceded by the Warner Brothers cartoon, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century”, also blown up to 70mm.
Saw it at the great Mann Southtown in Bloomington Minnesota. It did play there at some point, I think the week or so after it opened elsewhere. Great screen, great presentation, great movie.
Did “Star Wars” really play at SOUTHTOWN? In checking my notes and newspaper ad photocopies for Minneapolis, I show it playing initially at ST. LOUIS PARK and then, later, also at SOUTHDALE, NORTHTOWN, and MANN.
Is it possible that the SOUTHTOWN is being confused with the similar-sounding SOUTHDALE or NORTHTOWN, or being confused with a re-issue or sequel engagement? (Of course, it’s also possible that since my research does not account for the entire 1977-78 timeframe, that it could have played at SOUTHTOWN at some point.)
I was ten years-old when STAR WARS opened in May of 1977. I was completely unaware of its opening or what kind of a film it was. I was still standing around waiting for the remake of KING KONG to be re-released so I could see it again. I remember a friend asking me if I wanted to go see STAR WARS with him. Because I knew nothing about it, I said no and told him I’d rather see FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI instead because Benji was already a familiar movie character (What in heaven’s name could I have been thinking????).
About a month later, my dad told me he was taking me and my little brother to go see it. We went to see it at the theater in East Hampton, Long Island. To make a long story short, I’ve been hooked for the last 30 years!
Just thought I’d add these two “list” thoughts…
Popular 1977 films when STAR WARS was released:
Popular 1977 summer films after STAR WARS was released:
At the time I had just moved to the Frisco bay area from Indiana (got tired of freezing each winter) and I thought I would like to see Star Wars at the Chinese theatre in Los Angeles so we took an Amtrak train from Oakland to Los Angeles and ended up seeing Star Wars five times, once each day we were there.
I won 2 tickets to a noon press screening at the Coronet in San Francisco from a local radio station (KYA I think) which was 2 days before the actual opening. I remember how loud the sound seemed and thought R2D2 and C3PO resembled Laurel and Hardy. At the conclusion of the film the audience went wild. It felt more like going to a major event than a movie, you could tell it was going tom be really popular. I went back several more times during the initial 7 month run and enjoyed it more each time. My friends and I would get stoned first, then sit in the front row.
I saw it in 1977 in theatres with my dad, uncle and cousin….I was pretty young and fell asleep when R2D2 and C3PO were walking through the sand dunes. I decided to rent it a couple of years ago and give it another shot…well I fell asleep more or less in the same part. I think for me it’s one of those movies that gffnrkk.sx&2:dddd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..
I was five when “Star Wars” was released-I lived in Middletown, N.Y.,about fifty miles from Manhattan. The closest place showing “Star Wars” to us was The Monticello Twin Cinema in the catskills, about thirty minutes away. This was around July of 1977. A few Drive-Ins showed it later on, and it never really got a wide release in the Middletown area till July of 1978! I remember the Monticello theater showing it every hour on their two screens. Not unusual now, but it was back then. I more remember seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” because I was eight. We went to the Dtive-In-the second feature was that Dom Deluise film-“Fatso”– my Aunt got grossed out and we bolted! I wish I was living in California and older when it first opened at the Chinese Theatre. Must have been awesome!
Yes, it did play at Southtown. Perhaps someone else can verify that, but it was an awsome presentation when Southtown was still a single screen. I don’t know if it was 70mm or not, but the screen was huge.
MC, just thought, why not contact the author of the MSP article I linked to, he could probably search the archives and find the Southtown listing.
I did contact the author of the article in question last week after reading his piece. He has not replied. Anyway, Iâ€™m beginning to think that you are confusing the original â€œStar Warsâ€ with â€œThe Empire Strikes Back.â€
Consider the following: I am in possession of entertainment section newspaper advertisements from the Minneapolis Tribune from the following 1977 dates: May 25, Aug. 12, Oct. 13, Dec. 9, Dec. 25. â€œStar Warsâ€ was not playing at SOUTHTOWN on any of those dates.
May 25: â€œStar Warsâ€ was playing exclusively at ST. LOUIS PARK (â€œRockyâ€ was at SOUTHTOWN)
Aug. 12: ST. LOUIS PARK, SOUTHDALE, NORTHTOWN, MANN (â€œThe Spy Who Loved Meâ€ playing at SOUTHTOWN)
Oct. 13: ST. LOUIS PARK, SOUTHDALE, NORTHTOWN, MANN (â€œThe Other Side Of Midnightâ€ playing at SOUTHTOWN)
Dec. 25: ST. LOUIS PARK, NORTHTOWN (â€œClose Encounters Of The Third Kindâ€ playing at SOUTHTOWN)
It seems doubtful to me that the SOUTHTOWN would have played a brief run of â€œStar Warsâ€ in between the dates I listed. (Itâ€™s possible, although unlikely; however, I will consult the microfilm in closer detail when I get a chance and will gladly correct myself if necessary.) More likely, is that it could have been a moveover from ST. LOUIS PARK some time during 1978 or that it played during the massive, nation-wide saturation 1978 summer re-release. Or, even more likely, youâ€™re thinking of the SOUTHTOWNâ€™s 1980 engagement of The Empire Strikes Back. The SOUTHTOWN was still a single screener when â€œEmpireâ€ was released, and they showed it in the â€œgreat presentationâ€ 70mm format.
Also consider that the book â€œShowhouses: Twin Cities Style,â€ which gives a history of movie theatres in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, contains no references to â€œStar Warsâ€ in its SOUTHTOWN section.
MC, please let me know, perhaps this is the first indication of my deteriorating mental status.
Okay, Budyboy100â€¦Iâ€™ve researched in closer detail the Minneapolis “Star Wars” situation and have come to the following conclusion…which you probably won’t like. :–)
From what I can determine, “Star Wars” did not play at SOUTHTOWN during its original 1977-78 release. It appears you may be confusing the original “Star Wars” with “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return Of The Jedi.” (“Empire” played at SOUTHTOWN during 1980; “Jedi” in 1983.) Or, perhaps the confusion relates to another sci-fi movie from â€™77 that played at SOUTHTOWN: “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.”
For the record, the Twin Cities “Star Wars” bookings from the original release were as follows:
25 May 1977 â€¦ Roseville: ROSEVILLE 4 (55 weeks) Dolby Stereo
25 May 1977 â€¦ Saint Louis Park: PARK (57 weeks) 70mm-Dolby Stereo from December
15 July 1977 â€¦ Blaine: NORTHTOWN CINEMA I-II-III (35 weeks)
15 July 1977 â€¦ Bloomington: FRANCE AVENUE 3 DRIVE-IN (13 weeks)
15 July 1977 â€¦ Edina: SOUTHDALE CINEMA I-II-III-IV (23 weeks)
15 July 1977 â€¦ Maplewood: THE MOVIES AT MAPLEWOOD (24+ weeks)
15 July 1977 â€¦ Minneapolis: MANN (17 weeks)
15 July 1977 â€¦ West Saint Paul: CINA 4 (24+ weeks) Dolby Stereo from November
Also of note: During the summer 1978 re-release period (July 21-Sep 7), where “Star Wars” played citywide, the SOUTHTOWN was showing “Grease.”
My information was sourced from microfilm of the Minneapolis Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press newspapers, the book “Show Houses: Twin Cities Style” (Kirk J. Besse, Victoria, 1995), and Dolby Laboratoriesâ€™ sound-system installation records.
Well, I will continue to disagree, and probably have to go back to verify that I, and the local (National) paper haven’t lost our minds. But, I acknowledge that may well be possible!
The book and the labs, ‘farrumph’. What was playing at the Southtown in May/ JUNE of 1977? On its
Huge Screen, with the alternating red/maroon/off-maroon curtains, as we (of questionably accurate minds), sat in our red/white Mann rocker seats, behind the white smoking/non-smoking sections, after walking through the huge lobby with its gold wall-paper, its very long marquee with all the blinking lights. ??
Well, it was Star Wars. You are correct, it likely was not an Original Release ie, first day release, which you document, but it was the release I saw. And many others saw it too. Despite your incomplete evidence for the period, you are wrong. Or I have Dementia.
Budyboy100, you’re beginning to sound like a crackpot!
The ST. LOUIS PARK theater had an exclusive for the Minneapolis market from May 25 until July 14. The additional area runs identified in my earlier post started on July 15th.
Regarding my “incomplete evidence” for May & June 1977, the SOUTHTOWN during this period of time was showing “Rocky.”
Still not convinced? Here’s industry trade VARIETY’s take on the matter from their issue of July 27, 1977, page 16:
“Now in ninth week, ‘Star Wars’ played its first seven weeks exclusively at suburban St. Louis Park before splitting to other sites.”
Mr. Coate is right. Star Wars was not at Southtown. The Besse book is full of errors, by the way.
Budyboy100…Hopefully, this will put to rest any question of whether or not “Star Wars” played at SOUTHTOWN per your memory. What follows is a week by week breakdown of the bookings for the SOUTHTOWN during the 67-week run of “Star Wars.” As you can see, at no time during that original release did “Star Wars” play at SOUTHTOWN.
05.27.1977 â€¦ ROCKY
06.03.1977 â€¦ ROCKY
06.10.1977 â€¦ ROCKY
06.17.1977 â€¦ ROCKY
06.24.1977 â€¦ ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
07.01.1977 â€¦ ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
07.08.1977 â€¦ ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
07.15.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
07.22.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
07.29.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
08.05.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
08.12.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
08.19.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
08.26.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
09.02.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
09.09.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
09.16.1977 â€¦ THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
09.23.1977 â€¦ A STAR IS BORN
09.30.1977 â€¦ A STAR IS BORN
10.07.1977 â€¦ THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT
10.14.1977 â€¦ THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT
10.21.1977 â€¦ THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT / TOM THUMB
10.28.1977 â€¦ CARRIE
11.04.1977 â€¦ DAMNATION ALLEY
11.11.1977 â€¦ CAMELOT
11.18.1977 â€¦ LED ZEPPELIN: THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
11.25.1977 â€¦ POCO: THE ADVENTURES OF A LITTLE DOG LOST
12.02.1977 â€¦ 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
12.09.1977 â€¦ LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
12.16.1977 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
12.23.1977 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
12.30.1977 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
01.06.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
01.13.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
01.20.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
01.27.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
02.03.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
02.10.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
02.17.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
02.24.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
03.03.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
03.10.1978 â€¦ CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
03.17.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
03.24.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
03.31.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
04.07.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
04.14.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
04.21.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
04.28.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
05.05.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
05.12.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
05.19.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
05.26.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
06.02.1978 â€¦ THE GOODBYE GIRL
06.09.1978 â€¦ HERE COME THE TIGERS
06.16.1978 â€¦ GREASE
06.23.1978 â€¦ GREASE
06.30.1978 â€¦ GREASE
07.07.1978 â€¦ GREASE
07.14.1978 â€¦ GREASE
07.21.1978 â€¦ GREASE
07.28.1978 â€¦ GREASE
08.04.1978 â€¦ GREASE
08.11.1978 â€¦ GREASE
08.18.1978 â€¦ GREASE
08.25.1978 â€¦ GREASE
09.01.1978 â€¦ GREASE
Source: Minneapolis Tribune
Star Wars I and Star Wars II (The Empire Strikes Back): I remember seeing both of these Star Wars Episode films at the now-defunct Charles Cinema, in what’s now Boston’s old West End neighborhood. It was wonderful.
Michael, how do you find access to all these newspapers around the country?
I saw Star Wars at the Charles Cinema in Boston, when this film first came out. It was a cool film, and it was worth going to.
While I worked for the Wehrenberg Theatre Creve Coeur I was told that back before Star wars was released our film booker at the time was out on a fishing trip with the Fox rep and he told him that he had a sci-fi film coming up. He didn’t think that this film was going to do anything at all our booker said sure he would take a copy and put it at our Creve Coeur theatre. Little did they know that the film was going to be as big as it was. Luckly at the time Creve Coeur was a single screen that sat over 900 and it sold out almost every show. When they released Phamtom Menace by that time I was working there and the theatre had been remodeled and split into 3 screens we put it in the big theatre that seated 510 we only sold out one night and that was opening night & that was because of me and my big mouth getting on the radio and having the DJ’s annouce that we still had plenty of tickets available. I lost count of how many people told me and my staff that they saw the original there when they were younger.
I had just turned 13 year’s old, my 7th grade class had been keeping up on the filming of Star Wars thru a monthly pamphlet sent to our school, there was a contest to win a trip to see the first showing, as luck would have it our class won and on May 25th 1977 I sat front row center seat at the Southfield Americana, which had a 30'x60' screen in 35mm dolby stereo, after the first scene as the Starship passed over my head and kept getting bigger and bigger, my life was changed, I no longer played with my Evil Kinevil, Star Wars brought me out of childhood to adolescense. When I got home that night I retold the whole movie for my little brother’s who for the first time in their live’s sat quiet as I told of Light saber’s the Princess & Darth Vader. It will always be my favorite movie. The theatre is gone now, but everytime I drive by the location I point out to my kid’s “that’s were I first saw Star Wars”, they alway’s reply “we know dad, we’ve heard it a million time’s”.
I saw it at the Fox Twin in Hicksville, but I think it was called Mann’s North and South, anyway, it was May 25, 1977, and I came for the early evening show, I think it was 7ish, and the Time and Newsweek reviews were beyond amazing, so I had to see it. There was a line, but I managed to be early enough. I was 21 years old. I was a big science fiction fan, too, and had been disappointed in Hollywood’s attempts at making a serious sci-fi movie, so I came in very cynical, and even as the film started I was noticing things that I liked, and things I didn’t. That didn’t last long. It happened the moment the TIE fighters started to attack the Millennium Falcon. Something about this sequence, with John Williams music, turned me into a drooling idiot. I could not believe the excitement of the scene! I really think it was the very first time a space battle of that kind had ever been put on film that didn’t look like Flash Gordon or Star Trek. As the movie progressed I could feel the audiencebegin to be taken in as well, with hoots, and applause. By the end ofthe movie, even though there were problems with the sound (the channels were not properly mixed, the middle channel was drowned out when the rears were full blast) I was so knocked out! The editing was frantic, and the throne room music was awesome, and the credits suddenly popped up—-thunderous applause! Like I had never heard before! I sat there thinking, this is going to be BIG, and as a film music fan I knew John Williams had conceived music that would be adored by young people for decades. I walked out of the theater high as a kite, unable to believe what I had just seen, and hoped to see it again soon and take as many as I could. I was hooked. I can rightly say, I never have again felt that particular high again after seeing a movie.
I saw the premier of Star Wars – with a High School buddy I had to ‘talk into it’ – on May 25th in Dolby stereo at the Roseville 4 Theater in Roseville, Minnesota. I remember I had got a pair of tickets for free, from a younger kid who had himself won them on a call-in promotion to one of the TwinCities radio stations (maybe KQRS?). Anywho, he was a busboy at the Stillwater restaurant we both worked at (Vittorio’s)and I recall he had to work that night; seems nobody would take his shift nor was anybody else he had offered very much interested in going to see some unknown show. I even forgot I had the tickets, so I had called around to a couple friends before I caught up with and convinced my buddy Dean at the last minute. So to put it in perspective, our expectations were pretty low for this unknown movie, on a mid-weekday night at some suburban theater, miles from our local and accustomed venues… BUT Of COURSE – IT WAS FABULOUS!!! People in spaced-out costumes selling popcorn, spaceship props hanging from the ceilings, the dolby sound like it was living inside our heads, and the visuals and effect like nothing anybody had ever seen on a big screen ever before. We were sensory stunned by the time we left the theater to go home. And the rest is… not just cinematic history, or a fond memory, but a definitive moment in our life experience we both still share and like to revisit; forever a part of our personal life histories too.
If anyone is interested, a revised and updated version of this “Star Wars” article can be found here.