May 20, 2009

Star Wars

Fledge is reminiscing about waiting in line to see Star Wars ep 1, ten years ago when it came out.

I remember when I saw ep 4 for the first time. (At the Westgate Theater, in Beaverton OR, which seems to have been torn down while I was away.) It wasn't opening day, but I think it was that weekend. And in particular it was before all the buzz began. Star Wars wasn't yet a legend, wasn't yet a franchise. It was just a new SF movie, a bit retro, not really yet on the radar. It was still something of a geek movie, not yet the breakout hit it eventually became.

I'd seen trailers for it, and amongst us young engineers working at Tektronix at the time there was pretty firm consensus that it had to be seen. But no one really knew what it was. No one I knew saw it before I went. I was expecting to be entertained but I wasn't expecting what really happened, what I really experienced.

Of course it blew me away. But what I remember most was that when the Death Star exploded, the way the audience burst into applause. I don't think I've ever heard an audience do that, before or since.

That was my second year after leaving college. I think Fledge might be too young to remember that weekend, 32 years ago.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Entertainment at 09:48 PM | Comments (16) | Add Comment
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1 Good lord, was it really 10 years ago?  I was running my Wallybooks store then, and spent one Sunday night setting up the in-store display.  Life-sized combat droids, R2-D2 book displays, the whole shebang... and was dreadfully disappointed when I actually saw the flick. 

When the original came out, I was 8 or 9 years old.  When the Death Star went 'boom', the crowd went nuts and I was hooked.  I eventually saw it 12 more times in the theatre.  It's actually the first film I remember seeing.

Come to think of it... I think I've only seen it once since then, when I forced Ph.Duck to watch it for the first time a few years back. 


Posted by: Wonderduck at May 20, 2009 10:00 PM (hlGBx)

2 Re: Star Wars [ep. IV], I was 18 at the time, saw it long enough after release that the line went around the theater.  They wanted the outrageous sum of $4.00 for admission too which was twice the norm back then.  I was lucky to see it in a real movie theater with a GIANT screen (the ones that rarely exist anymore) in all it's 70mm glory.  When that Star Destroyer went overhead in the opening scene I was blown away and a fan for life.  It's an experience I've never forgotten.  I'd pay a $100.00 now to see the original on that wide screen again like in 1977.

Posted by: Doyen at May 20, 2009 10:14 PM (GTo9u)


The Westgate was one of the early multiplexes, back when they started taking big theaters and subdividing them. It has one big screen and several small ones, and Star Wars was on the big screen.

There wasn't any line when I saw it. In fact, the theater wasn't even full. It was like a Saturday afternoon showing the first weekend.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 20, 2009 10:23 PM (+rSRq)

4 "At the Westgate Theater, in Beaverton..."  Good Lord, I wonder if we were in line together? 

Posted by: Tiberius at May 21, 2009 03:49 AM (TXmvK)

5 right. I'm 35, so when it came out in 78 I was only 4 years old. I do remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater, that was 1983 so i was nine years old - I cant recall when I first saw Ep 4 and 5 but i was a raving star wars lunatic with the toys and the lunch box and whatnot by the time I saw ROTJ, so presumably i got indoctrinated sometime after ep5. I am guessing i must have been about 6 or so when i first saw eps 4 and 5, which means that my eldest daughter shoudl be ripe for intrioduction to the saga now, too. i wonder if it will take with her the way it did with me. She loved Sugar and Totoro and Cat Returns, but Star Wars is SO not mahou shoujo.

Posted by: azizhp at May 21, 2009 07:28 AM (UKXf2)

6 In '77 I was working in the movie business, and our booker got passes to a preview showing [scroll down to comments] the night before the formal opening. Previous trauma from exposure to drive-in grade SF films had me sitting there saying to my self, "Okay, neat start... Now how are they going to screw this one up? Well, that was pretty cool. And so was that. Hey, it's the third reel, and they STILL haven't screwed it up. Omigawd, somebody's gonna make a mint!"

And yeah, the (full house) preview crowd cheered. Multiple times. Just like a Saturday afternoon kids' show.

Posted by: Old Grouch at May 21, 2009 08:24 AM (TTce3)

7 I have to say, I didn't even bother to see Ep. 1 in the theater. I also don't remember where I first saw Ep. IV on the big screen. I do remember seeing the commercials for Star Wars on TV and being absolutely drawn in by the whole idea. My best Star Wars memory was when George Lucas re-released the movie in the 90's with the added digital effects. I was working in a pro Photo Finishing lab and Lucasfilm was one of our customers. We actually had the binders with all the original movie stills and behind the scenes photos for all the Lucasfilm movies in a vault on our site! I spent a portion of my day making duplications of those originals for Lucasfilm's PR and marketing needs. I got an invitation to come attend a special screening of Ep. IV in the Stag Theater at Skywalker Ranch (the room where the THX standard is set). This was a thank-you screening for folks who assisted in the efforts surrounding the re-release of the movie, so it was mostly "insiders" and the packed house was WAY into the film! I got to see a number of movies out at the Ranch, most were screenings of non-Lucasfilm movies for the Lucasfilm employees. A great experience.

Posted by: madmike at May 21, 2009 09:00 AM (F0SXU)

8 Ep 6 was my first on the big screen, although by around 1980, we kids were thoroughly indoctrinated by the SPACEBALLS THE FLAMETHROWER.  Heck, radio stations would even run the entire teleplay and people would tune in, with no special effects but what they conjured from their memories.

Then, it only got worse, when HBO started showing Ep 4 almost non-stop for free on C-Band satellite around 1986 (a few years before they came up with scramblers and started charging money).

Posted by: BigD at May 21, 2009 09:05 AM (LjWr8)

9 I can only remember one "theater bursts into applause" moment. It happened during Char's Counterattack at Otakon. If you've seen it, you know who got offed. ;p

Star Wars... I never saw the original three in the theater at all ('course, the first one I wasn't around for). Played the VHS until they wore out, though. Waited in line for ep 1, and shouldn't have bothered; 2 and 3 were perfectly all right in the sense that they were worth the price of admission in an entertainment sense, but they weren't worthy of the name.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at May 21, 2009 09:39 AM (vGfoR)

10 I was in Jr High when I saw episode IV in the theater.  There was certainly a lot of expectations by everyone and the line was so long even after it had been out for weeks.  It was my first time seeing any movie on the giant curved screen of the Denver Cooper theater (long since gone).    Basically it was the 70's version of the IMAX screens. For more information look up Cinerama theaters.  I remember waiting and waiting for the super long preview of Close Encounters of the Third Kind to end so that the actual movie would start.  My mind was blown during the showing, it was so grand in scale.

Posted by: ColoradoJim at May 21, 2009 10:12 AM (AkBlA)


There was actually one other case where I saw that kind of audience reaction.

I went to a wargame convention in SF one time, and they showed "Waterloo". The crowd treated it like a sports event, and (of course!) were rooting for the French. So, for instance, they cheered when the French lancers counter-charged the Scots Grays.

But that wasn't really the same kind of thing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 21, 2009 12:08 PM (+rSRq)


Shows my youth in that my first exposure to the Star Wars universe were the Ewoks and Droids cartoons in the late 80's (Ep 4 was out 4 years before I was born). Wierdest event at a cinema was when I went to see ep 2 at a midnight screening during my final year of uni, and 2 guys in jedi costumes had a duel in front of the screen before the programme started.

Posted by: Andy Janes at May 21, 2009 12:15 PM (fk7dT)

13 My daughter liked ep.6 because it had little cute furballs (who almost murdered everyone on the main cast I should add).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 21, 2009 12:24 PM (/ppBw)

14 Andy, being young is no sin. Anyway, you'll grow out of it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 21, 2009 01:29 PM (+rSRq)

15 I remember seeing a brief commercial for Star Wars before it came out.  It showed a little bit of the Tie fighters chasing the Falcon, then a brief shot of the Falcon cockpit with Chewie as co-pilot.  Even in that 2 second shot, I could tell that Chewie was being treated a character, and not as "scary monster costume".  I also remember reading a movie review in Time magazine before the film opened which declared it "movie of the year".  The Time reviewer had watched it in a sneak preview in some suburban theater, and had been amazed at the cheering.

I didn't get to see it until after the craze had started (just  a kid with no car back then), but I was hooked as soon as the camera panned to show the desert planet from orbit, and it looked so real....

Posted by: Siergen at May 21, 2009 03:03 PM (mXN0Z)

16 I never watched a SW movie again after the Ewoks Fiasco.  Fool me once....
The biggest audience cheer I've ever personally encountered was during the scene in Indiana Jones where he caps the guy with the sword.

Posted by: Toren at May 21, 2009 04:31 PM (/ykD9)

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