The Book





Star Wars Memories

In this article, I wish to take you back to a simpler time, when movies cost less than $20 million, when there was no internet to leak every bit of plot trivia, when a film's marketing campaign didn't cost more than the film itself, and when personal films still ruled the box-office.

In May of 1977, the most successful film was still The Godfather, though Jaws had recently beat it in box-office dollars. Movie tickets cost about $2 (or $4 if you went to a fancy theater), disco was just beginning to become a mainstream dance craze, Sanford and Son was enjoying its last season on television and Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States. On the 25th day of May, 32 theaters in the United States started showing Star Wars. The film had already developed some buzz about it, since big budget fantasy adventures had become a thing of the past. Logan's Run and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad had come out a few years earlier, but these paled in comparison to the vision this Star Wars looked to offer, especially with the director of super-hit American Graffiti at the helm. Star Wars opened to enormous success, not just with genre fans but with all audiences, and as the summer went on it became a true pop cultural fad--something no motion picture had truly done. By the year's end it had earned more money than any before it. Starwars.com has two very good primers for this era: Life in 1977, and The Star Wars Theatrical Experience.

Presented below are recollections of the experiences of first seeing the film that year. Many of these memories come from people who were only children themselves when they first saw the film. As far as the internet is concerned, more and more of these people are growing older and getting on in their lives, for the net is primarily the domain of 20-somethings and 30-somethings, and as such the actual "first generation" of viewers have slowly become a fading presence, and are now seldom seen. What is captured here are the memories of growing up in the 70's, of childhood before the era of internet and video games, and of a cinematic experience that has never been quite repeated again.


           "I was the perfect age in 1977... a senior in high school. By the time the movie came out, I was already hyped for it because for an entire year it had been plugged by the late TV show (Creature Features) that I watched. The host (Bob Wilkins) kept saying there was this movie coming out that was going to be incredible and we weren't going to believe our eyes. He was right.
          The only thing at all similar was "2001". But it was a different sort of thing because it was so cerebral and slow. Certainly a fantastic movie, and I saw it in the theater too (I was 8), and loved it even at my young age. But Star Wars promised to be more entertaining, accessible, and with ground-breaking special effects.
          As it turns out, when the movie hit the theaters I was away from home for a high school math retreat, with about 75 other "nerdy" kids like myself. You can imagine how many times we would walk en-masse to the theater to watch Star Wars. I know I saw it at least 3 times just in the week it came out, and more times thereafter. (the walk to the theater involved going through a cemetary at night, which sorta added to the intensity).
          When I got home, I dragged everyone in my family out to see it. I'd like to know what percentage of the U.S. population then saw it - 90%?... you just HAD to see it, there was never anything like it before. Even people who didn't like sci-fi went to see it. It was in the theater for many months.
          Then for the next several years there was all this Star Wars "stuff" you could get - trading cards, figurines, lunchboxes, board games, etc. etc. Video games didn't exist yet, so it was all this other stuff. The characters became icons and part of our daily language. Everyone knew "the force" and "Darth Vader" and "R2D2" and what a "Princess Leia hairdo" was, and "ObiWan Kenobi", and "light sabers". I swear there was probably a segment of our population that thought it was all true.
          Of course, I also saw the prequel movies, more than once. But there really is no comparison. They were fun movies but just didn't (and couldn't, for that matter) have the impact, and I think over time they will fade into obscurity because at their core they simply weren't nearly as good movie-wise (script, acting, etc.).
          Star Wars was by far the most memorable movie-going experience in my life. It is one of my fondest memories. And, my greatest regret is that I never saw it on 70mm... I'm jealous of everyone who did!"


          "To give you a little perspective on how Star Wars impacted movies in 1977, just think back to the success of Titanic in that winter of 1998 and times that by 100. It was a must see for all age groups, EVERYONE I knew went to see, it was an event. What drove its success was of course the special effects that had never been seen before. The great uplifting story, the humor spread throughout the movie, and the cool characters from Han to Darth Vader. The one thing that will always stick out to me seeing it in the theater was when the Death Star blew up, the crowd went crazy, it was almost like every person in that theater beat the Empire! The crowd clapped after the movie, which is very rare today, and within a week, Star Wars had taken over the movie-biz. 
          Back then there were no DVD, VCR, you had to see it in the theater, as it did good business ALL summer, not just the 3-4 week window of today, and then it hits DVD by the fall. It took 6 years to come to HBO, so after I had seen it in 1977, and loved the movie to death, I didn't get to fall in love with the movie again until 1983, when I watched it endlessly on HBO."


          "[My dad] had heard from just about everyone that this movie was fantastic and had to be seen. He took my mom to see it some weeks after its release and couldn't believe it when he got to the theater, it was so jam packed and the line was so long. They were completely sold out so they came back to see it another day. He said that the theater was so full that they had people sitting on the floor of the aisles and you could not have gotten up to use the rest room in the middle of the movie if you had wanted to. Sometime later after it left theaters and the hype had died down, but before Empire Strikes Back was released, he was at some kind of get together with a bunch of friends and they had checked out a section of reel from Star Wars from the local library. It was a piece of the trench run at the end of the movie. They hooked up the projector and watch that same scene over and over again. Everytime it would finish someone would ask if they could run it again."


          "I'm 45. For my generation (I was 15 when Star Wars came out), there wasn't the entertainment stimuli that there is now. We didn't have video games, computer games, internet, cell phones, video iPods, DVD players hooked to our 50” plasmas with surround sound, or 200 channels of TV. We weren’t wired into the public conscience the way people are now. We had books, radio, prime-time TV (about 5 channels - that went off the air at midnight), and movies.
          Our adventures, whatever they were, were all in our imagination. I don't have to tell you that sitting in the theater and seeing Star Wars for the first time was one hell of an experience. It was a very realistic representation of what, for many of us, our imaginations had always been – good guy goes off to rescue a beautiful princess and defeat the bad guys–and–it was in outer space, no less! There were space ships, laser swords, blasters, strange creatures from other galaxies, etc. Man, it had it all.
          I felt a million miles from home during the film – when I went on that adventure. It was an adventure I went on every week that year. If you have a way to see the original trailer for Star Wars, you can get an idea of how different a film it really was – both from anything that had come before it, as well as from what Lucas wants it to be now. That original trailer is so foreign and distant that it’s almost creepy. That was no little kid movie. It was an outer space, science fiction adventure. And - as you are no doubt aware – it took the world by storm. It was all anyone talked about. Everyone wanted to be one of the characters because everyone identified with one of them. In popular culture, it was copied, as well as spoofed. 1977 felt like Star Wars. It also quite literally changed the way the world saw outer space movies. Both in how they were made and what people expected out of them. 
          It was unlike anything that had ever come before it. It was pure magic. Because of the naiveté and innocence of the world back then, it was easy for it to grab the public conscience in a way that just isn’t possible anymore – for anything. The world is no longer innocent and people are accustomed to having perfect realizations presented to them. Sensory overload is the word of the day now. You aren’t required to have an imagination, nor are you allowed to absorb a scene. Everything is spelled out and it all happens very quickly. Lucas himself has long since given in to it.
          I’ve seen clips from Attack Of The Clones and I’m shocked at the amount of stuff happening on the screen at any given time. It’s a far cry from the long, solitary shots of Star Wars - 3PO walking through the desert alone with only the sound of his servos or Luke looking out at the sunset. We were allowed to feel isolated and far away. We were given time to feel emotions.
          Even Empire and Return weren’t the same because we already had expectations. The public fascination, the emotional attachment - it won’t ever be duplicated again. It can’t be. There could only be one summer of Star Wars – just as there could only have been one The Beatles, or one Apollo space program. That’s something Lucas continues to learn the hard way.
          I got my drivers license a few months later. My first car was a 1974, 6 cylinder Gremlin. It was used, had a few dents and scratches, and was sometimes hard to start. It was my speeder and those dents and scratches were caused by laser blasts during narrow escapes from bad guys and strange creatures. My imagination was alive and well. All that existed for us was a single film and it had to be seen in a movie theater. These days, kids get in their Elements or Four Runners and drive over to their friend’s house to watch the prequels in their theater room – that’s after they get on the internet to check for the latest downloadable fan edits. It’s an entirely different world now.
         This is where I went to see Star Wars every week in 1977. 

          Even the theaters looked different back then. It was torn down years ago. After it was fenced off and the wrecking ball had been used on some of it, I drove by to look at it. I could see inside the theater & the slope of the seating area was visible. It was a weird feeling. Now the street isn't even there. The whole area was razed and turned into a commercial shopping & dining mega-development - unrecognizable from 1977."


          "I was 9 in 1977 and saw Star Wars at our local drive-in. Drive-in theaters were unique and special... you got a completely different experience watching a movie in a drive-in.
          I saw Star Wars in the back seat of a '72 Olds Delta 88. Back then everybody would arrive at the drive-in hours before the movie started...(in order to get a good parking spot). Once we found a good spot, Mom would let us disappear to the drive-in's playground...all the kids would play in the playground area until it got dark enough for the trailers to start, then the moms would start shouting for their kids to come back to their cars....
          I saw Star Wars many times after that but only once in the drive-in. I know I didn't get the full effect of the picture and sound that others got when they saw it in a in-house theater but to me it was just as fun and awe inspiring....
          As a 9 year old boy in the 70's who's biggest thrills came from collecting baseball cards and on the weekends running my COX model dragster up and down my parents driveway, Star Wars was mind blowing....before Star Wars, movies in the 70's were all about crime, drugs, racial tension, war or anti-war.....we didn't go to the drive-in often, so Star Wars was radical because it was so different than what movies were about then....Star Wars was fun."


          "My obsession with the original Star Wars started when my parents took the family to see a movie. Whatever movie it was doesn't matter. What mattered was that there was this poster. This poster of a young boy/warrior lofting a blazing sword over his head, a dead-head-like visage floating in the background and two robots unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and finally a sultry princess at the boy's feet in a flowing, gossamer gown. How that poster fueled my imagination until my friends talked about it, hyped it, which only caused my imagination to explode!
          I did not get to see Star Wars for another YEAR, because I lived on a farm (like LUKE!) and it was hard to get away. Finally, the day came, and I was about to burst from excitement. You'd think after all the hype and build-up, that I'd actually be let down, but I wasn't, it was all and more than what I expected! After that, even though a year had gone by, my friends STILL talked about it, and it was fresh and new still to them after I saw it and could actually contribute to conversation.
          I saw Empire Strikes Back under different circumstances (although, it was still almost a year later before I saw it after its premiere!), and didn't catch the Vader-is-your-father storyline. It was all rather bizarre. When video became more available, and then I got to see it from start to finish and was blown away even though it was only a 24 inch television (big at that time!).
          I was eager to see Return of the Jedi, so much so that I bought the comic adaption and read it before seeing the film. To say the least I was confused and a little disappointed. It didn't feel like Star Wars to me anymore. Still, people talked about it, and there was a rejuvenated interest in Star Wars during the early 90's, especially with the talk of Lucas doing the prequels."


          "I was 10 years old in 1977, and my world was changing in many ways. In the summer of '77, my parents sold the house we'd lived in since before I learned to walk, and we moved a few miles to a different town (this was all in suburban Detroit). My paternal grandfather died that summer, and my parents were always occupied with the new house. I went to a new school in September, and it came equipped with My Own Personal Bully, so that was nice.
          During this time, I kept hearing about this amazing movie that was in theaters called "Star Wars". Sometime during the summer, playing with my cousins at my great aunt and uncle's house, they told me the basic storyline, and we ran around playing "Star Wars" all evening. While it didn't feel like it at the time, the new house was really stretching our family budget, so we never went to the movies that summer. We actually waited until October, and my sister's birthday, when my parents offered her the option of dinner at a restaurant, or going to see "Star Wars". Thankfully, she chose the latter.
          Think about that for a minute - "Star Wars" was initially released on a few screens in late May, and I didn't see it until five months later. "Star Wars" was still playing in some theaters a year after it was first released. Five months after it was released, you still had to show up and get in a mammoth line to buy tickets, not knowing (in many cases) which showtime you'd get in for. Also, for almost a year after it was released, there just wasn't much *stuff* to buy if you were a "Star Wars"-mad kid. There were trading cards, and comic books, and the novelization, and cheap t-shirts, but there were NO TOYS. Nobody thought the movie would be anything special, so the toy license was sold, very late, to Kenner, and they weren't even able to get toys out for Christmas, leading to the famous "empty box" Early Bird kit, which had a display stand for the original 12 action figures, some stickers, and a certificate to send in for the first four figures (Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and Chewbacca - no bad guys!).
          So, we finally saw "Star Wars" in October '77, and when the small ship and the REALLY, REALLY BIG ship passed overhead (nobody knew what they were called back then), the world changed again. Here was a fully-realized world, as big as my imagination, and it seemed so open and limitless. Given everything else that was going on in my life (taken away from school and friends, getting picked on at the new school, etc), I latched on hard to this galaxy "far, far away", and it remained a constant in my life for the next three decades.
          When "Empire" came out in 1980, a group of friends and I were driven to the theater by somebody's parents, but we were unable to get in to the show we wanted, so we had to buy tickets for a later show. This happened again a couple weeks later! When "Jedi" came out in 1983, my mom actually called the school to say I was sick the day after it opened, and took me to see it on a Thursday morning, to avoid the crowds.
          I won't dwell too much on the prequels. I have very fond memories of being part of the original "Star Wars Generation", though my fondness for it extends a bit further, right up until Darth Vader reveals his identity in "Empire". From that point on, the limitless place that I fell in love with in '77 started to shrink, and has continued to do so ever since. What had seemed like a place that could contain unlimited stories has finally revealed itself to be unable to support the one story its creator decided to tell, and that's disappointing. However, there's no denying that the experience of being there 30 years ago was magical, and I'm glad I was there for it."


          "It was the first movie I have clear memories of going to. The Chinese theater in Hollywood is really really big, and they showed it in 70mm, the screen opened up to be even taller and wider than it currently is. It was a rainy weekday and it had been out for a long time, (I believe it played in LA for the better part of 2 years with the re-release etc.) From what I remember, there was almost nobody in the theater but Dad and me. The screen was SO big, and the 6 track Dolby so loud, it was the closest thing to virtual reality I can think of. Strangely I don't remember the action scenes, just the quiet stuff like the dinner with Uncle Owen, or training on the Falcon. It was like being an observer just off to one side of that world."


           "I was 11, had no real idea about what I was going to see. In fact, my brother and I had an argument over which movie to see, he insisted on Star Wars, I lobbied for "White Buffalo" (a horrible movie which the cool kids in my class said was the best thing they had ever seen, I would not actually watch this movie until years later on cable).
          Prior to Star Wars, it seemed that every movie started out with about 45 minutes of "getting to know everyone" before the action finally began. (see Poseiden Adventure, Earthquake etc). My jaw dropped at the opening scene, amazed at the size of the star destroyer, especially since I thought that the hanger bay at the bottom of the ship was actually the end of the ship. I am not sure if my eyes ever blinked during the entire movie. I don't recall any of the pre movie hype, nor do I recall ever having to wait in line for the movie until it was out for about a month. I saw it about 10 times in the theater, including seeing it in a drive in theater. I also saw the star wars rip off movies......was anyone else suckered into watching "Message from Space"?
          I resented Han Solo for trying to take Leia from Luke. I had a major crush on Princess Leia (which was pretty remarkable considering that she was in competition with Farrah Fawcet Majors)."


          "Star Wars didn't open here until Jan. 1978. However, a few months previous I'd been hearing about this incredible movie which was a phenomenon, I'd seen some stills and thought it looked good.
          Then I read the novel. I just bought it, and read it in a couple of days, which was incredible, up until that point a novel would take me weeks, but I found the story absolutely compelling, it was immediate, it was like someone said: let's tell the best adventure story ever, with no restrictions; young bored kid (easy to relate to) goes on fantastic journey and ends up saving the galaxy, but all told in a credible way, with likeable characters.
          Up til this point adventure/action movies or stories always left me thinking: well that was good, but I wish this/that had been better, it might have good action scenes but be lacking in good characters or vice-versa, but Star Wars was the first time where I thought: Wow, I can't improve on that.
          Then I saw some clips, TIE/Falcon battle and it was like a revelation, the dynamism in the shots, it was so exciting. Previously space ship scenes just featured ships gliding left to right, this was POV, thrilling stuff .
          I went out and told my friend: Star Wars is the best movie ever made. He told me I had to see it first, which is right, but I was sure, it was like an earthquake, you can't deny it. Finally I got to see it. I booked tickets in advancee to see it twice on the first day (I wanted good seats). It was fantastic, it was so frikkin BIG, and it just looked like they'd gone on location to film it. This is something that CGI has failed to do somehow, Star Wars looked real , the hardware, the scale, the texture, the photography etc. And God did I love those characters! Han, Luke, Chewie, Vader, Leia, R2 and Threepio.
          I'd already seen it twice but I figured: Hell, why not? and saw it a third time that day."


          "I saw Star Wars in 1978 and I was eight at the time. The reason I had to wait was that in Sweden the censors thought the film too scary so they put an 11 year old age limit on the film so my parents had to pretty much sneak me into the theater. 
          When I saw Empire Strikes Back I also had to wait until I was 11 becasue the same censors though that movie very scary and put a 15 years old age limit on it so I was again sneaked into the theater. The censors later recut the film to make it acceptable to 11 year olds and the result was very bad and very silly. Ex. the scene when the walker steps on Luke's snowspeeder was too scary so that was removed as was the scene where Luke got shot down. So in the film Luke is flying one moment and the next he is on the ground."


          "I was 7 in '77, and I still remember the first time my grandmother took my sister and me to see the movie that summer. I recall that we all really liked it -- my grandmother laughed and told everyone how she "loved that dog!" (meaning Chewie). But amidst all my other loves (Sinbad movies, Batman TV show, Frankenstein and Dracula), Star Wars did not immediately have a life-changing impact on me. That phenomenon would occur the next summer, 1978, when my family and my best friends' family went together to the Westchase 5 in Houston, TX to see The Pink Panther Returns. Well, Star Wars was then in its first re-release, and my friend and I decided we wanted to see that one again rather than the dumb ol' Pink Panther! About halfway through the movie, during the shoot-out escape from the prison block, I remember my friend and I turning to look at each other with huge smiles emblazoned across our faces. We didn't have to say a word: Both of us recognized that this was it. The coolest movie ever. From then on, I was hooked. I saw the movie a total of seven times (which was alot in those days!) I got the Story of Star Wars book so I could re-live the movie when I couldn't see it (giving rise to false memories of Biggs and Luke chatting on Tatooine, and of Luke watching the space battle on his binoculars). My friend and I would play Han and Luke; we always argued who would play whom, because even though he was older than me, he had blonde hair and I had brown, so naturally I thought I should be Han! That Christmas my Mom got me a few of the Kenner action figures, and the following spring, 1979, I scoured the house for spare change so I could go the local Safeway supermarket and purchase every action figure I possibly could -- at $1.89 a piece! At some point during this time, I heard that Ben and Vader had duelled on a bridge over a pit of lava, and that Ben had knocked Vader into the pit, resulting in Vader's injuries. I had an orange sweatshirt that said "DARTH VADER LIVES!" on it, with a blue-ish pic of Vader himself. I knew that mechanical monster would be back!"


          "I saw it in July 1977 at 17, just out of high school going to college. I first heard about it around April 1977 from a kid I was babysitting for. He was really hyped up for it. I didn't say much about it, since I knew that all science-fiction movies were bad. This did not stop me from watching them all, but that was just on TV where they were free.
          But I saw the July Today Show interview with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, including that terrific clip of the escape from the Death Star. I wanted to see it. But Star Wars playing at a big screen theater across town and I needed a ride from my mother.
          Fortunately for me, Star Wars had the essential ingredient that would get my mother to go see a space movie, Alec Guiness. I didn't even have to ask twice. We also had our father's cousin Peter visiting at the time, an aging hippy who had never recovered from the 60's, and we didn't know what to do with him, so we took him too.
          Wow, I just can't recreate the feeling of seeing that huge star destroyer crossing the screen the first time, but there is no better satisfaction than knowing from the very first frame that a film is going to be terrific. And then have it pay off.
          When Obi-Wan Kenobi rescued Luke from the sand people, my mother nudged me and said 'that's Alec Guisness' just to make sure I knew. The audience cheered loudest when Han Solo saved Luke at the end. That just didn't happen at movies back then."


          "I was an adult when Star Wars came out - 26, married, working, not yet a parent. Opening weekend, my husband suggested that we go see something called "Star Wars". I said yes. We were and are both science fiction fans and had seen most of the sci-fi movies in the theaters. Keep in mind that most of the movies of that time were dark, grim, depressing, always ended badly with the world/galaxy/universe going to hell. So I didn't really think it would be much fun. Boy was I wrong.
          It wasn't opening in many theaters so we found the one near us and got in line. And what a line. It must have been 1/4 mile long. We could see the theater way in the distance - this was before indoor multiplexes and movie theaters attached to malls. Good thing it was a sunny day. It took a couple of hours waiting just to get in. I think I got burnt standing in the sun.
          As we saw the opening credits, I loved the crawl - so reminicent of Flash Gordon and the 30s movies. I figured that Lucas might just give us an entertaining movie. Then the movement of the camera down to Tatooine and the ship getting fired on and the long, long, long Star Destroyer. OH MY GOD. I was in love!
          I'd never seen such special effects before. They were always static and so unrealistic in their slow movement. Plus everything was always clean (2001 - a boring Space Odyssey) or else dirty in an unrealistic way. This movie made me feel like I was there, in that world.  The tension as the stormtroopers came in and started firing. The resignation in the Rebel's eyes as they saw Vader. The sheer evilness of the villian! Breathtaking in his armor and the way you couldn't see into his eyes. I was still going OH MY GOD.
          The appearance of the Princess (I love myths and Knights of the Round table stories) was great. Her spunk, the way she looked into Vader's mask and didn't flinch. Remember too that the woman's movement was really just getting going. Women were usually in subordinant roles and here was a woman. In charge!
          All I know is that when the credits started to role, I wanted to see that movie again. Desperately wanted to get back into line and see it again. I remember driving home and my husband said the same thing. We were flying in our x-wing, not a mundane car, and we HAD to see it again. I was literally twitching for the excitement of it. It was only later that I realized just how much I loved the music and the storyline. But at the moment I was too full, just too much energized by it. It literally changed my life."


          "I was thirteen years old and spending the summer up in the woods of Vermont, miles away from anything, when a friend wrote to me about how she had seen a cool movie called "Star Wars." When I got back to my hometown, I went to see it, in the local movie theater (waaaay before the cineplexes).
          I remember the star destroyer kept going, and going, and going...and I was hooked. 
          Star Wars was different from everything that people take for granted now. The special effects were far beyond what I expected. The pace of the movie was breakneck and fun, not plodding or bogged in ponderous philosophy. The idea that a princess would mouth off to her rescuers, that she was giving the orders and not becoming a burden -- this had a tremendous influence on this thirteen year old girl. Leia was the first female to kick butt. There would have been no Ripley if there wasn't a Princess Leia to lead the way.
          I've been watching movies for about 40 years, and Star Wars is the only one where people stood up and cheered."


        "I was ten years old in the summer of 1977 when I saw Star Wars for the first time at the Strand Theater in Madison, WI. The theater experience was quite different back then. The theater seated over a thousand people, and it was pretty full that night. After Googling the Strand tonight, I discovered that it just had a Dolby Stereo sound system installed that year for Star Wars. 
          I mainly remember my impression of the opening scenes and the droids in the desert. And how excited I was on the drive home. I had seen the "preview" in Issue #7 of Starlog magazine (my mom had gotten me a subscription) and I remember being skeptical, but wow was I wrong!"


          "I was two years old in 1977, and though they are very vague, I do have some memories from that era. My parents had been hearing radio ads for Star Wars for a couple of months, and were determined that the three of us would go see this movie. We went when it arrived at the Esquire theater in downtown Cleburne, Texas. The theater had only two screens, but they were massive, and mono sound. I would kill (actually take lives) to see it this way again. I do actually remember moments from that first viewing. I sat between my parents, I was so little that I had to sit toward the edge of the seat so it wouldn't flip up with me inside. I remember the openning shot of Tatooine, and the princess kneeling next to R2. After the movie, my dad bought me a few action figures, and The Story of Star Wars LP. I listened to the record at bed time quite a bit, and looked at the photos in the jacket. I also had a decent collection of the trading cards. In retrospect I'm not sure if I was into Star Wars or if it was my dad wanting me to be into Star Wars so he could justify all the attention he was paying to it. After all, I was only two, which in many ways is still an infant. I guess he was unintentionally brainwashing me, but it worked because it's 31 years later and here I am."


          "Well, I have always said I was the ideal age when Star Wars was released -- 5 years old -- because I got to revel in all three movies upon their initial releases AND was able to enjoy playing with the action figure toys during the entire run. I know that may sound like odd reasoning, but "playing star wars" defined my childhood.
          Though now I'm not so sure any longer that I was the ideal age. Being as young as I was, I didn't already have formative years before Star Wars, which would have then been drastically altered after seeing the film. I imagine the "experience" was much more dramatic for a teen. But if I had been a teen I would have missed out on the joy of playing with the toys and re-living the movie moments over and over (remember, we couldn't watch the films over and over on home video).
          But now to get to what I did experience. I clearly remember the time my sister and I saw a neighborhood teen wearing a red Star Wars shirt with a guy holding a light sword above his head with a woman draped at his feet. We both thought it looked unbelievably cool, but agreed there was no way that our parents would let us see that movie. A little a bit mature for us. But not long after we danced with glee as my dad announced, "Kids, we're going to see Star Wars!" It wasn't spoken as if by someone who must accompany his children to a "kids movie", but by a man who was genuinely excited himself about this movie that EVERYONE was talking about.
          Yep, we went and saw it at the drive-in (which was a whole other adventure unto itself). Not an ideal setting for such a film, but at my age I honestly wouldn't have known the difference if I had seen it in a theater. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen.
          A couple of things that stand out:
- In the late '70s early '80s, you could make a Star Wars reference and ANYONE would "get it". My dad would sometimes call my sister (Rebecca) "Chewbecca", and his friend Garth would be dubbed "Garth Vader". This is not a man who had/has any interest in Star Wars aside from it being a great/memorable film he saw when he was 36 years old.
- I was Darth Vader for three Halloweens in a row. Yeah, it was that crummy plastic suit with his picture on the chest -- not even his chest plate! My friend would go as Luke and we made our own light sabers with flashlights, long wires, and plastic food wrap. We used our imaginations back then. Those goofy vintage toy commercials where the kids use a styrofoam cup as the carbon freezing chamber? That's the sort of thing we did! Not everything was pre-determined for us. There weren't many playsets that were produced, so we created our own!
- Empire was an event too. I still remember sitting in the lunch room at school debating whether or not Darth was actually Luke's father. I firmly believed that Darth was trying to trick Luke. Of course, the psychic "conversation" they had as Luke was whisked away in the Falcon went over my head....
          Fast forward many years.............
          When the Special Editions came out in '97, my sister and I and our respective spouses went and saw them together and had a great time. We certainly didn't like all the changes -- Jabba looked lame, Greedo shooting first was deplorable, and some of the CGI add-ons were unnecessary. But it was okay 'cause it was all an excuse to see the Star Wars films in the theater once again. And we certainly didn't think these would REPLACE the original films. After all, they were called "Special Edition". Even the video release said as much. But then when that VHS set came out that didn't say "Special Edition" on it, my brother-in-law and I started to wonder exactly what was going on.
          1999: I wasn't following the Episode I hype on the internet at all. About the only thing I saw was the trailer, and it did have me jazzed about the new Star Wars movie. But the end product was a big-time disappointment. A few years later Attack of the Clones failed to meet even severely lowered expectations. My wife and I both agreed it was the worst film we have ever seen. She refused to go see Revenge of the Sith. I went out of a sense of duty, but didn't see it until many weeks after it was released 'cause I was in no hurry. It was only when I realized that it might not last much longer in the theater that I made it to a show."


          "I saw Star Wars in 1977, when I was 5 years old. I think my dad took me to see it about 12 times. I must have seen it in a monaural theater (without stereo sound), because there's something very familiar about the mono mix to me. Because of my age, I really don't have a lot of direct memories of seeing Star Wars in the theater (like waiting in line, seeing crowds, etc). I vaguely remember seeing the Holiday Special - I was too young to realize how horrible it was. But I remember the toys vividly. God how I played with those toys. The toys WERE Star Wars for me. 
          Certain songs from the late 70s take me back. Suddenly I'm no longer an adult but a little boy thinking about Star Wars in the huge back seat of my dad's Lincoln Mark V.
          Star Wars' effect on the late 70s cannot easily be described. It was the movie that everyone HAD to see. The fact that my dad took me to see it 12 times means he must have enjoyed it immensely himself. My grandfather even saw it. I recall seeing a couple of those 70s vans painted with a Star Wars theme."


          "Star Wars is the first movie that I really recall seeing in theaters (I was six). It absolutely blew me away and changed the way I looked at movies and entertainment forever and it clearly had an impact on me personally as I'm still a fan 30-years later.
          I saw the film in Ardmore, OK. Then saw Empire in the same theater. Then saw Jedi in Oklahoma City at the old Almonte Cinema 6. I still recall the huge line that extended out of the theater and down the shopping center sidewalk to the grocery store (anyone familiar with OKC will know what I'm talking about). That theater is long since gone - sadly - but I'll remember seeing Jedi there forever.
          Star Wars was basically the summary of my childhood... it started a fascination with sci-fi... led me to buy (through Mom and Santa Claus) all the toys, books, comics, etc. The summer that Empire Strikes Back came out... I saw it every day for a month. When Return of the Jedi came out... I saw it every day for almost two months (lived close enough to the theater to make the long walk).
          I actually saw the prequels at midnight for each of the releases just so that I could experience the standing in line and fellowship that existed back when I was a kid. To me that's Star Wars... the fans... the waiting together... the joy of that fanfare hitting your ears at the same time... the glow of "Along time ago..." hitting everyone at the same moment. I get goose bumps just thinking of it. I sincerely wish that, as with the special editions and many Disney movies, that Lucas would release the original trilogy every few years to theaters so that little kids could see it on the big screen. My son wasn't born when the Special Edition came out, but I went and saw them and marveled at the looks on the faces of small children - that reminded me of myself when I'd seen Star Wars in 1977. Every little boy and girl should get that chance."


If theres one thing to take away from these memories it's that going to the movies was a very different experience back then. Better or worse--because home video has two sides to it--more importantly it was just...different. Back then, you only saw movies at the theater. You didn't wait for it to come out on video, because there was no video for it to come out on. Movies only existed when you went to a theater and sat with an audience and watched this thing projected from celluloid on a silver screen. That was the movie--there was no other way to see it. And when the film disappeared from cinemas...that was it. It was gone. Like watching a play or a musical or an opera today, it only existed in the time it was screening for you, and afterwards it lived on only in your memory and imagination. If it was a popular film, you might be able to see it again in a few years because theaters re-screened older films regularly. In many ways, this made the act of watching a film a much more special event--something you couldn't do from your home, at your leisure. You had to go out, and for two hours as you sat with dozens of strangers you would all be entranced by this thing projected on the screen, and that was the only form you knew "movies" as--and this more spectacular approach, experiencing a film on a huge scale, in 70mm with a thousand people, made for an unbelievable larger-than-life experience.

This I think is the biggest point of distinction from the experience today--you could not watch the trailer on the internet, there was not a website with featurettes or Ain't it Cool News to leak the whole movie, there was no Entertainment Tonight to preview the film, and even movie news was reserved for small sections in People or Time. You might see a trailer a few months before the film opened, and you might see the poster on display in a movie lobby, but more or less films depended on word of mouth. And the word of Star Wars was louder anything before or after it. Not only was the movie experience different back then, but the world was as well; there was no special effects blockbusters, no real fantasy films beyond the odd low-budget Harryhausen flick, not even animated films (Disney animation had become a thing of the past at the time) and most of the films were concerned with contemporary issues and profound, often depressing messages about the state of the world. In a way, Star Wars was concerned with contemporary issues and messages, because it was responding to this situation: it said, here is joy back in the movies and in your lives.

Thirty-one years later, totally divorced from the context that created it, existing in the era when movies are watched at home in High-Def and have Ipod versions included on DVD's, the era when every week between May and September there are at least two sci-fi or fantasy action blockbusters in theaters, when video games, cable, satellite and the internet can provide us with instant entertainment--Star Wars still stands out as a timeless film. It has the same elements that filmmakers continue to struggle to manifest: believable characters, a good story, and an imaginative and sincere sense of mission that breathes right off the screen. In another thirty-one years it probably won't be popular the way it is today, but for those that discover it and for those who continue to have it passed down to them, it will be watched for the same reason that five-year-olds continue to watch Wizard of Oz seventy years after its original release.

Here's to the celebration of May 25th.


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