Today is the 35th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. For my generation, it was a defining moment of our youth. I have no doubt that it was the gateway to geekdom for so many of us. I was already a fan of Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man, but the experience of seeing Star Wars for the first time cemented my status as a geek. Thirty-five years. It doesn’t feel so long.
I can still remember the first time I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977. I was seven years old. My mother took me to an evening showing at the United Artists Cinema 150 in downtown Seattle, Washington. It had a massive curved screen cloaked by an equally massive curtain that would rise before each screening. The type of cinema that’s largely a memory now, replaced by multiplexes with smaller screens and a lack of grandeur. The UA 150 itself closed in 1998 and was demolished in 2002.
In the ’70s, my mother couldn’t afford to take me to a cinema very often, so it always felt special when we did go. We didn’t have a car, so we had to walk two-thirds of a mile to the nearest bus stop, ride a bus nine miles from White Center to Seattle, and then walk a couple of blocks to the UA 150. To a seven year old, it felt like an epic journey.
I still remember seeing the massive curtain rising before the previews, finally the film beginning with the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare, and then–oh, and then–John Williams’ magnificent theme rolling out of the sound system like a force of nature. I was already in awe as the opening text scrolled up the screen. I remember holding my breath the first time I saw Darth Vader. I was a hyperactive child, allergic to sitting still, but Star Wars kept me in my seat for the full running time of 122 minutes and intently focused on the screen.
Unlike some of my generation, I couldn’t afford to see Star Wars multiple times in 1977. The next time I saw it was in 1983, when the UA 150 screened it as a double feature with The Empire Strikes Back the same week that Return of the Jedi opened at the King Cinema across the street. I recall seeing the double feature on a Friday evening, then going to the King the next afternoon to see Return of the Jedi.
Since then, I’ve owned Star Wars on VHS, DVD, and finally Blu-ray. Over the years, I’ve managed to see it dozens more times, possibly even a hundred or more times. Every time I see that opening text crawl and hear John Williams’ theme, I feel like the seven year old I once was, seeing it for the first time.
So tonight, the Star Wars Blu-ray is coming out for a viewing, even though it’s the Special Edition version. The Han/Greedo shootout aside, I can live with the changes, and the picture quality on the Blu-ray is easily the best Star Wars has looked since the first showing of newly minted prints in 1977.
Thirty-five years. I’m still a geek, still a Star Wars fan, and neither of those things will ever change.
What are your memories of Star Wars?