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Fans Celebrate The Day 'Star Wars' Opened In 1977

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"Star Wars" fans recount memories to celebrate May 25, the day George Lucas' "Star Wars" opened in 1977 and changed the movie landscape forever.

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann KPBS arts reporter Beth OCHA. Mondo is an avid star wars fan who enjoys celebrating may the fourth be with you, but she wants to remind people that it was may the 25th in 1977, when star wars opened in theaters and change the movie landscape forever. She spoke to fans who saw it opening day in San Diego, as well as in foreign countries about their memories. Here's her audio postcard.

Speaker 2: 00:33 I remember the Fox fanfare. And when you're sitting in a single screen house with anywhere from 800 to a thousand people with this massive wall to wall screen, it's, it's pretty heady stuff. And then the blue that said, you know, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the screen went black and then it was like nothing you'd ever seen.

Speaker 1: 01:01 And then when the first ship comes on screen and the theater is like doing it's rumble, rumble. And you're like, whoa, if you were in

Speaker 2: 01:09 Two affects a model making in particular, that first shot was just mind blowing. What blue

Speaker 1: 01:15 You away right from the beginning was the star destroyer, because Saifai, at that time, hadn't really done a great deal of

Speaker 2: 01:22 Showing scale and space. How could they possibly mean something so large from that first scene I bought into it and I was in for the ride.

Speaker 1: 01:32 You were engulfed in it, but you were also with 1500 other fans with

Speaker 2: 01:40 Yeah. Yeah. It was just sitting in the slack jawed and the sound, of course, you know, we never experienced that kind of sound before

Speaker 1: 01:51 The rebel cruiser went by and the Imperial cruiser went by overhead. Like it's coming right over your head onto the screen and mouth dropped open. I can't believe I'm watching this. And then all of a sudden you see that star destroyer and it's coming and coming, okay. I'm convinced this is really

Speaker 2: 02:09 Awesome. And all of a sudden, there's this break and you're like, oh, it's finally over. No, that's just the docking bay. My jaw just progressively kept dropping and dropping. I was like, oh my God, is this thing ever going to end? It's so big. And I sat there that whole movie just lean forward and that seat to staring at that drive in screen, just listening to that little tiny crappy speaker, just completely enthralled with what I was seeing on a screen and completely enamored with star wars. It was an incredible life-changing moment for me. So then I had star wars, Curtis star wars bedding. I started collecting those star wars figures and I had the star wars album. It was just my life became star wars. Hi there. My name is Trevor Newton. Um, I saw star wars and in June of 1977, I was nine years old. Um, I grew up in a very small town

Speaker 3: 03:00 In Oregon and really the only option to see movies was the local drive in

Speaker 1: 03:04 Hi, I'm Colleen Kelly Burkes. And I was 21 years old when I saw star wars at the valley circle on the day before it premiered on the 25th. So I saw it on the 24th. I was totally blown away. I think the basic thing is, is a sense of community for us because we knew everybody at that line at that theater at any time, night or day were fans like us. And we, we wouldn't be subject to ridicule or disparaging remarks because we're all there for the same thing, this amazing movie that brought us together and made us a fandom to be reckoned with. Basically

Speaker 4: 03:45 I am Sean Mullen and I was seven years old on opening day of May 25th. And then when we showed up, we were the first ones at the theater in San Diego on opening day. So around the second or third time, we went to see star wars where we're standing in the long line. So I was curious where the movie was at, that was showing inside. So I went to the exit doors and I put my ear to the door and I could hear Darth Vader and OB one having the saber duel. And I would give my parents and update. I am Julian Mushkin and I was 11 years old when I first saw star wars in 1977. It was so packed already that I had to sit by myself off on the right hand side, the aisles because we couldn't find them seats together. But once the movie started, I was just mesmerized.

Speaker 5: 04:37 Uh, so my name's Gary Dexter. I, uh, grew up in the United Kingdom. I was nine years old when, um, what we now know as episode four, a new hope dropped. Uh, what was interesting about the UK is at that time, we got all of our big movies, at least six months later than, uh, the U S. And so we had an additional six months plus of hype and marketing. And so by the time the movie actually came out and I got to see it, I was on the verge of exploding, but it did change my life. What was funny was, you know, you'd have what we now think of as nerds of which I was one. And so it was normal that we would get together and talk about it, but it had, um, such a far reaching impact on people. And it sort of crossed into, you know, jocks and a high degree of, of young girls. And, uh, it was funny because you would walk around and you'd hear people talking about it. And you would think to yourself, I never thought they would be into it.

Speaker 3: 05:31 Hi, I'm Yazdi Pataskala. And, um, I was about nine years old when I first watched star wars. It was at the Sterling cinema in Mumbai in India. I remember, uh, just being in office and I'd gone to see, watch the movie with my, with my family. And I think when I was that age, uh, at least in India, you never went and watched with your friends or your neighbors. You always watched your family. I got a bad feeling about this, even though I was nine years old, there were parts of it, which were pretty scary to me, like to this day. I remember there's that one scene where Luke Leia Han and I think chewy, they're all in this trash compactor. I was terrified. I remember thinking, oh my God, the walls are literally closing in on them. And, you know, I remember like being physically scared of it. Like I put myself in their shoes and it was like the worst thing imaginable to me.

Speaker 6: 06:32 Cause my better quality, I wasn't fast enough. It's all mine.

Speaker 2: 06:39 Hi, I'm mark Tuttle. I was 12 years old when star wars came out in 1977. And I think that was the perfect age to see star wars, even though we're dealing with light savers and blasters and aliens and other worlds, it looked real and it made you think it was real because it's like a ship is filthy. Look at the X wings. I mean, I mean, would you really want to fly in that?

Speaker 6: 07:06 Hey, I'm Lisa Morton. I was all of 18 years old when I first saw star wars. I saw it on opening day at the valley circle theater in San Diego. Um, and I, it was in kind of an interesting position because I actually had been following the production of the film for about a year before it opened. And fortunately it more than lived up to everything I was hoping for.

Speaker 2: 07:30 Hi, my name is David Glanzer and I saw star wars for the first time of the weekend that opened at the valley circle theater in San Diego. Uh, you know, it played in San Diego for a year. I think over a year, it was one of very few cities that did and Lucasfilm had issued a, they call it the star wars birthday poster, and it was a, you know, a cake with, uh, I think one candle and some of the actual figures around it. And that's, you know, a prize possession of mine as well, but it was an experience that I, I can't explain because I've never been to a movie since that had people booing and hissing clapping and applauding, and it was just remarkable.

Speaker 7: 08:11 Hi, I'm Karen Schnell belt. And I was 22 years old when star wars came out. Uh, we went back repeatedly. I saw it 35 times that summer and eventually just lost count.

Speaker 6: 08:22 It was short for a storm trooper,

Speaker 7: 08:25 Well uniform. It was very hard to get good photos of various costumes from various angles. So we would actually go and watch it with a sketch pad in hand with the, you know, and track a particular costume through the whole movie and take sketches of it. I remember there were always lines. We were always waiting in line to the point where we had our own lines sitting equipment. We would bring lawn chairs, we would bring decks of cards. We would bring other things to occupy ourselves with. And then a few minutes

Speaker 3: 08:56 Before the line was due to go in, we would put them

Speaker 2: 08:58 Back in the trunks of our cars and then go in and see the movie idea. It, and I first saw star wars when I was 12 years old. We tried to see it at the movie theater, but we were unable to because it was just sold out. It was constantly sold out. So my bother and his wisdom packed us all up into his grand Prix and took us to the mission bay drive in. I imagine it was kind of torturous for my parents cause we, the kids, we were just amped. We were so excited.

Speaker 8: 09:29 I'm Kevin ring. I was 13 years old when I saw star wars for the first time at the valley circle theater on opening day, May 25th, 1977. We'd never seen a line for a movie let alone one that wrapped all the way around the building. People knew how to react instinctively. It kind of just touched on this underlying cultural thing that we all had and we all knew, but didn't realize until it came out until we saw these things on the screen and react to it.

Speaker 2: 10:03 I think one of the most memorable aspects of it was the energy of the audience when Darth Vader appeared out of the steam and smoke from the last thing, he opened that door

Speaker 6: 10:24 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 10:24 You had this character that was all in black, wearing a helmet that was reminiscent of a world war two German helmet. You figured he was bad and everybody was booing in his.

Speaker 6: 10:40 And that was just like, whoa, I'm not the only one that wants to make noise at this.

Speaker 8: 10:45 That kind of set the tone for the whole rest of the film. It was awesome.

Speaker 2: 10:49 It was a communal experience for those 800 or however many people in that theater. It was transformed performative. It really was.

Speaker 8: 10:58 I don't think I've been in a movie where people cheered like that for things. It was just an absolutely different experience and it changed everything. I remember the first time they showed the millennium Falcon

Speaker 6: 11:11 And hyperspace crowd was hoot and holler and go, whoa, wow.

Speaker 3: 11:19 Of all the places I've watched a movie, the audience participation has never exceeded than that in India. People talk to the screen, people, you know, cheer on, they scream. It's, it's a whole other level of engagement.

Speaker 2: 11:34 And we were so excited. We were just jumping up and down and every time up high fighter group master obiwan tops, the guy's arm off, it was cheering and jumping up and down. It was so wonderful. I went to see it again because I went to see the spaceship swine, and I wanted to see that the lightsaber battles. And I definitely

Speaker 6: 11:54 Want to see the death stuff.

Speaker 5: 11:57 It was commonplace for British audiences to sit quietly, but I do remember when the death star blow up, but everybody cheered because I think everybody had been so invested in this classic fable that looked unlike anything anyone had ever seen before people had got gone on that journey. And then when he blew up every pocket he cheered

Speaker 6: 12:15 And that Babel sequence was really cool too. You just like, you know, on the edge of her seat, is he going to make it, are they going to make it, oh, no. Watch out. You know, still to this day. See, I, I mean, how many years later? And I can still be all enthusiastic about it because I still remember how cool that was.

Speaker 1: 12:47 That audio postcard was produced by KPBS arts reporter and star wars, fan Beth Huck Mondo. You can find more star wars memories on her cinema junkiePage@kpbs.org.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.