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.”
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.