Thirty years ago yesterday, actually, Episode IV: A New Hope was released in theaters across the country. I was three years old at the time, and I still vividly remember the experience. Well, not so much the movie itself, although it was my very first movie theater experience. Rather, the images that come to mind when I think of going to see Star Wars with my family are the things a three year old would find fascinating.
I remember waiting in line outside for the box office to open. I wasn't really sure what was going on, and I think I asked my mom and dad about thirty times what we were waiting for. But I do recall walking past all these cool posters with names I couldn't read and robots on them.
I also remember the theater's lobby. Or, more specifically, the oval shape to the room and the floor to ceiling, heavy, green curtains that covered non-existant windows. This really intrigued me, and I recall quite clearly running back and forth along the wall behind these curtains looking for the windows.
That's about it. My memory of seeing Star Wars for the very first time on the weekend of its initial release is limited to a line, a poster and a curtain. Of course, the fact that I would watch this movie at least 130 more times growing up (we taped it off of Showtime when I was 7) sort of makes up for it.
Ten years ago, when it was rereleased in theaters, I got to relive this experience while living in Washington, DC. Although this time was a tad different. I got in line at 2am to buy tickets for the first showing, only to find that 300 people had gotten there before me. By the time the box office opened at 9am over 4,000 people (and stormtroopers, and wookies, and jedi knights) were waiting for tickets (this was THE theater in DC to see the movie). I lucked out and got one of the last tickets for the first show of the day, 10am. This was movie-watching like it's supposed to be. People in costume roaming the isles, an impromptu light saber battle on the stage, and a DC newscaster reporting on the event while wearing a stormtrooper helmet.
Then the 20th Century Fox music began and everyone roared, then got earily silent as the words "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." appeared. Until the next second, when the main title appeared and the dramatic music began. Then the crowd erupted. Popcorn was flying and people were cheering. Everyone was so into the experience, it was fantastic! When Darth Vader made his first appearance on screen everyone spontaneously booed. And when the Death Star exploded, the whole theater was on their feet cheering and throwing popcorn. It was movie-watching heaven.
We'll just pretend what happened over the next eight years with the three new films never happened.