The year was 1977. I was 9 years old. I can't think of a more perfect age to be to see Star Wars for the first time. I had seen commercials on TV about Star Wars. Those 30 seconds were awesome as space ships blasted laser beams, heroes wrestled against villains and explosions...oh the explosions. Here's an example of what we saw back then:
Compared to all the marketing, social media and TV we have now it was something of a surprise for everyone. My parents are movie people. They love going to the movies and unless it was rated R, I was usually in tow. I got to see a lot of movies but this one was different. The weekend that Star Wars was released the news picked up on it very quickly as lines were staggered around the block at every movie theater. My parents watched as people snaked down the street to see this new film. They decided we would all go that Sunday.
I saw Star Wars on a bright sunny day in Walnut Creek, CA at the Festival Theater.
We stood in line for about 40 minutes as you could hear people discuss what this movie was all about. As we filed in we found seats about half way towards the front, I sat in the best place possible so I could see the screen. I was pretty small as a kid and if anyone tall sat in front of you at the theater, you had no choice but to move to another seat. I didn't have to move that day and I haven't moved since.
From the openning fanfare of the 20th Century Fox logo to the STAR WARS logo I was hooked. This movie was nothing that I had seen before. Sure, I had seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. The special effects are great but the movie was slow and borring to a young kid. This had the best of both worlds, awesome effects and an exciting story and the ending...oh the ending was triumphant. But let me go back. By the time we saw the movie on Sunday, it seemed as if half the audience had already seen it once or several times. That was pretty rare back in the day, especially for the openning weekend. How did I know this? When Darth Vader stepped onto the screen there was a borage of "boos" that rained down from the audience. What's this? People already know he's the bad guy and are interacting with the screen. This was new to me. I was always taught to be a quiet as possible during the movies. This type of behavior continued as people laughed at the jokes, "Let the Wookie win," and erupted when the Death Star exploded. This movie was the first time I ever remember people clapping and cheering at the end of the movie and watching the credits just to hear more of John Williams' awesome score.
My Aunt worked for a company in the same city and that summer she asked my parents if she could take me to work and have me do some chores around the office. They would pay me cash, it would get me out of the house and I thought that was a pretty good deal. I only went in when they needed help. My efficiency of getting work done led me down a Star Wars path that I never imagined. I would get picked up by my Aunt and taken into the office, they would assign me work (filing or breaking down boxes, etc.) and by lunch time, I'd be done. They would pay me cash, I really don't remember how much, but it was money in my hand. My Aunt knew that the Festival Theater was just a block away and suggested I go to the movies. She called my Mom and would arrange for me to be picked up after the show. So, on my own I would walk over to the theater buy my matinee ticket (it was only 2.50), buy some popcorn and candy and go in and watch the Star Wars again...and again...and again until the summer was over and I had seen it 17 times!
You have to remember, there was no 'on-demand' back then. If you liked something you saw at at the movies and then waited a year or two before it was the Sunday Night Movie, on one of our 3 network stations. So if you wanted to see a movie again, you had to back to the theater. I know my story isn't too unique. Many people saw it several times that summer. It ran from May through the entire summer and into fall. I grew up with Luke, Han and Leia. I collected the comic books, saved my money to buy the action figures and anything else that had Star Wars on it. It changed the way I look at movies, books and story telling in general. For all the flak that George Lucas receives now after his the Prequels, he was still a visionary that created his own Flash Gordon. He changed the way we look at film, marketing and merchandising. So for all the negative words I've said in the past, I do want George to know that I thank him for every laser blast, every light saber and every bit of smart and funny banter. Thank you George! Thank you Mom and Dad! Thank you Aunt Eileen! Thanks to my sister who dressed up as Leia, to my Luke...oh how we didn't know then how true that actually was. Star Wars is a part of me. I'm happier for it.