Over the next two months, I will be posting a little bit about each of the films that make up the 40 Years/40 Movies program, including information about the films themselves, and my own personal history with them.
If you know me, it should come as no surprise that we're kicking off our 40 Years/40 Movie marathon with the Star Wars saga. As a seven year old in 1977 when the original film was released, I consider myself to have been in the generation 'sweet spot' to receive it. Not only did it forever change the way I looked at movies; it set me on a path in life that in part defines who I am today.
The films themselves need no introduction, but I wanted to share some of my history with them. Because I was only 7, I was not aware of Star Wars prior to its release. I had the good fortune of living near one of the original 32 theaters that was playing the movie on opening day - the Century 22 Dome near the Winchetser Mystery House in San Jose. My friend Mark had seen it with his family, and I was encouraged based on his enthusiasm for it, the pictures he showed my in the novelization that he had, and I even recall his sister describing her favorite character, who I was introduced to as 'walking carpet.' I still recall when our entire family loaded into the van to go see the film, only to give up when we saw the lines snaking through the parking lot. Fortunately, my Mom dragged us back out later that same day, and we were able to get it. The rest, as they say, is history.
While I was aware of the release date of The Empire Strikes Back - a planned trip to see my grandparents in May of 1980 precluded our seeing that during it's opening weekend, but not for long. By the time of Return of the Jedi, we had purchased our tickets for opening day well in advance, at what I recall was the somewhat outrageous price of $3.50 per ticket. It was the beginning of the era of our regularly lining up for movies for hours. A passtime that has since died in the wake of the multiplex, but one for which I will always retain fond memories. And it's worth noting that the theater in which that played, the (long since gone) Cinema 150 on El Camino, held a charity screening where tickets sold for $150. I remember reading about it in the paper, and my Mom actually calling to find out if tickets were still available (they weren't), but it was something that stuck with me up to the release of the prequels.
16 years later, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided that Vonna and I were going to go to the charity premiere of The Phantom Menace. We did the same for Attack of the Clones (where I finally had a chance to meet George Lucas) and again for Revenge of the Sith. Each premiere benefited a local children's charity, and included an elaborate after party in addition to the premiere screening. And where better to attend than in San Francisco, the backyard to the Star Wars universe.
I will warn any Star Wars virgins thinking about attending, I strongly believe that the first time one watches the series, they should be seen in release order. (beginning with Episode IV) Once you've seen the films, it's perfectly fine to watch them in story order (the prequel trilogy followed by the original trilogy), as we will be on the 1st. If you haven't seen any, I would suggest joining us midway through the day to catch the original trilogy. You will never find six films more worthy of being seen on the big screen.