Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: In Another Galaxy at The Chinese

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Leave it to my good friend, author John Kenneth Muir, for finally getting me to put this one online. His stellar commemoration piece from today, Memory Bank: Waiting in Line to see Star Wars (1977), is not to be missed, and includes images and remembrances of those times that served as the spur for this download of mine:

“But, in my heart, I suppose I do understand why some fans chose to stand in line awaiting a new release in the popular old franchise.  Standing-in-line is a communal experience first, one allowing fans to connect to other Star Wars fans and to plug-in to the community’s sense of enthusiasm and excitement  And secondly, standing-in-line now likely qualifies as a nostalgic experience for older fans, at least for ones of my (advanced) age.”


Theatre

The Grauman’s Chinese Theatre:

Movie

Time

June, 1977: the times, as they say, were a changin’. My stint as a movie projectionist at the Huntington Park Warner Theatre was coming to a close. The job served me well. I could and did continue my college education while earning some much-needed cash. And do it in the very midst of the same darkened movie palace that once was a semi-regular haunt for me during my elementary, junior and senior high school days. It was a glorious stretch, but far from perfect. No matter how good it began, my destiny lay in another direction.

Of course, during this same period a cultural change was taking place — no surprise that as it was the ’70s. The lines, and communal experience, that began to form around movie theaters back in 1975 were ushered onto its next plateau. That’s because Star Wars had landed on the populace the Wednesday before Memorial Day in the United States. Star Wars was on the lips of all my friends (and some family members) after that fateful three-day holiday — whether they had seen it already or not, they were all planning to do so.

Naturally, I wanted in. But between school, working weekends at you-know-where, and the fact the first few weeks of its release only 32 theaters in the entire country was screening the film, I had to bide my time. Plus, this was what it was like at another movie palace, the place where I truly wanted to see this:

So, weeks after it debuted, helped by a studio rush to broaden its release just to meet the demand, I got a weekend day off, grabbed the girl I was dating at the time, and headed over to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. We stood in what I figured was still a 3-hour line, but we got in. Within another month, I’d start a new job. But on this day, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away“, movie-goers began a whole new era.


The entire series can be found here. If you’re interested how it’s put together, click here.

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23 Responses to “TMT: In Another Galaxy at The Chinese”

  1. John Kenneth Muir

    Le0pard13:

    Thank you for writing up this great remembrance of a long time ago, in a city far, far away, and the beginning of a new era in cinema. I loved reading this memory, my friend. And — my god — what a gorgeous film house…a true “movie palace.”

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    • le0pard13

      Thank you very kindly, John. I knew someday I’d post on this memory (it sat in the drafts bin for quite awhile), but something had to kick it off. Your excellent memory bank piece did just that. And isn’t the Chinese Theatre somethin’? It remains a true movie palace.

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  2. Jamie Helton

    The first time I saw “Star Wars” is clearly etched into my memory. I was nine years old and had to stand in line for over an hour at the little one-screen theater in my Midwestern home town. I was with a group of seven neighborhood kids who went to see the movie together. By the time we got to the box office, there were exactly seven seats left scattered all over the theater. The usher had to point out the empty seats with a flashlight. When I walked into the darkened theater, the image on the screen was the escape pod carrying the droids to Tattooine ejecting from Leia’s crippled ship. That shot literally stopped me in my tracks and I lost my breath. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Then the rest of the movie played out. I had to rush back as soon as I possibly could to watch the movie again–and ended up seeing it six times during the week it played there. I was still a little kid, but “Star Wars” changed my life.

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  3. Paula

    Another great entry in a great series…I’m glad you have such a clear memory. I have to agree with Mr. Muir above, what a beautiful cinema that is.

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    • le0pard13

      Thanks so much, Naomi. When that Star Destroyer appeared from overhead on the Chinese Theatre’s screen during that showing, everyone (and I mean everyone) there gasped. When those movie moments like these come, they really are somethin’.

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  4. ruth

    WOW look at that crowd in the b/w picture of the Chinese theater! Great find Michael, that’s amazing how much this movie has stood the test of time, even w/ Lucas tinkering with it endlessly. Great post!

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    • le0pard13

      JKM found that wonderful shot of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the midst of the Star Wars frenzy. I remember local TV news programs here showing the lines of moviegoers queuing up. It was quite a time. Thanks, Ruth.

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  5. Novroz

    beautiful theater!! and the crowd is just wow.

    Star wars really create a kind of cult then and now. One of my fav sci-fi movies but only the first three, the later was a bit boring.

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, the Chinese Theatre is a beauty (still is). That first trilogy was certainly somethin’ as well. Thanks, Novroz.

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  6. mummbles

    Like I said before I am very envious of anyone alive who enjoyed movies at this time. I am not without a similar experience, in 1999 I went to LA and saw Episode I at the exact same theater. Needless to say your experience was much better and I cannot imagine the buzz Star Wars had when it first opened. I know the stories my father told me of seeing the movie was pretty amazing, thanks for sharing.

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    • le0pard13

      Thank you, mummbles. I remember ’99 and the film you refer to, as well. I’ll post on that experience upcoming.

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