I didn’t see STAR WARS on May 25th 40 years ago. I actually saw it at a sneak preview at the Charles Cinema in Boston the week before. Back then it was not uncommon for studios to do sneaks in college towns to get an idea of how a given film would play to young audiences.
I had been aware of STAR WARS since seeing the title displayed on a silver advance poster at a San Francisco theatre the previous Christmas. It didn’t look like much, but the director lived across the bay and I had enjoyed AMERiCAN GRAFFITI. Might be worth a look.
In February I saw the first trailer in front of the Lily Tomlin Art Carney movie, THE LATE SHOW. It looked stupid. Some blonde surfer dude giving a lackluster “Hello” to the couple of robots he was cleaning. Yeah, that was going to be a winner. Probably another LOGAN’S RUN. I must admit the gorilla co-pilot and floating hypo droid had me curious – what’s all that about?
Mid-May, a few months later, I had finished my bartending shift at my families’ restaurant in Boston and was walking home to my apartment. As I passed the Charles, I saw a line starting to form outside and I remembered seeing an ad about the sneak in the recent Boston Phoenix. “Oh yeah, that space thing. I got nothing on tonight. Might as well see it.”
The line was not long, but there was an excited buzz echoing through it. Advance word seemed to be the picture was good, though no one was talking specifics about it. I paid my 3.50, took a seat in the center of the theatre and waited as the seats filled around me. Lights went down, the Fox fanfare came up (the extended version, rare in front of movies at the time) and ten words appeared on screen: “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far, Away…” I smiled. Cute, it’s a fairy tale. A moment of darkness, then…
Well, you know the rest.
It would be at least a week until anyone I knew would experience the surprise and delight I felt that night. In that time before the internet, when fan magazines were few and information was hard to come by, it was kind of fun to walk around with the knowledge that something big and fun and rather important was on its way. That by the time my friends and siblings settled into the Coronet Theatre with their Milk Duds, I would already be old friends with C3PO, Darth Vader, Leia Organa and a zillion aliens. For about a week STAR WARS belonged only to me and the relatively few folks across the country who had wandered into that special early screening.
And that was very cool.