A long, long time ago, in a cinema far, far away…

Well, actually it was last Friday night, so we can’t really say “long, long time ago.”

I was playing Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Edition.  It was me versus a couple of RPI kids (essentially two on one, or as I like to call it, a “trivia fair fight.”).  Some fair fight.  They beat me six wedges to two.  The force is strong with those padawans.

But in playing the Trivial Pursuit game, it reminded me of the time I first saw a Star Wars film, and where I was in my life.  And when I say “saw,” I mean in an actual motion picture theater, complete with popcorn and coming attractions and the like.

I saw Star Wars (what is now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope) in 1977 at what was then the Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 behind Northway Mall.  I recall it was a Saturday showing and there was a line of people from the standalone theater building, almost back to the Montgomery Wards store in the mall.  It’s not like I wasn’t aware of Star Wars, I had already purchased the first three Marvel comic books that were a tie-in to the movie, so I had some sense of what the movie was about (in fact, the comic books had scenes in it that were supposed to be in the film – Luke’s first meeting with Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, or Han Solo’s interaction with a human, English-speaking Jabba the Hutt – but those scenes were cut from the final film).  But man, was I blown away when I saw all that action on the big screen.  And I saw that film over and over again, maybe six or seven times in the next few months.

Although Star Wars originally hit movie screens on May 25, 1977, the Capital District didn’t get to see the film until it debuted at Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 on June 22, 1977, in what was then billed as an exclusive engagement at the theater.  In addition to Star Wars, the Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 was also showing Annie Hall, Rocky, Young Frankenstein and a Roy Scheider film called Sorcerer.  I think Star Wars was on two screens at the time, which would indeed explain why the place wasn’t called Cine 1-2-3-4-5.

So what was playing on the other Capital District screens at that time?

The UA Center 1-2 offered both screens for Jacqueline Bissett’s film The Deep.  Over at the UA Towne, one could watch the film Rollercoaster – and it was in Sensurround, to boot (“Sensurround” was a low bass audio track that gave the impression of vibration and movement in your seat – sort of like cranking up a subwoofer to a Nigel Tufnel “11”).  The UA Hellman and the UA Plaza 1-2 both showed A Bridge Too Far, while the Plaza’s second screen offered Annie Hall.

Another theater in the UA chain, the Riverview Drive-In at Rotterdam Junction, was about to premiere a double-feature of the Barbra Streisand-Kris Kristofferson flick A Star Is Born, twinned with the three-year-old buddy cop film Freebie and the Bean.

The Mohawk Mall three-screen theater promoted The Deep, Sorcerer and Exorcist II: The Heretic, while its sister theater, Cinema 7, offered the weeper The Other Side of MidnightExorcist II: The Heretic was also on view at the Fox Colonie Theater on Wolf Road.

The “terrorist at the Super Bowl” flick Black Sunday was playing on a twin bill at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady with The Last Tycoon.  That same twin-bill could be viewed at the Carman Drive-In and at the Latham Drive-In.

The other outdoor passion pits were in a Disney mood; Freaky Friday (Jodie Foster and Barbara Barrie switch bodies) and Gus (a field-goal-kicking mule) could entertain families at the Malta Drive-In, the Super 50 Drive-In and the Turnpike Drive-In.  The Turnpike offered a third film after the Disney flicks, A Man Called Horse.  Over at the Super 50, the third feature after the Disney films was Return of a Man Called Horse.  The Malta, however, offered their triple feature capper as The Horse With the Flying Tail, a Disney film that did not have any men called “horse” in it.

At the budget cinemas, the Clifton Park Cinema presented Young Frankenstein and Freebie and the Bean, both for $1.  Meanwhile, the Scotia Cinema had two cult films, King of Hearts and Harold and Maude.

I think, if I remember correctly, Star Wars played at the Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 for nearly two years.  Unfortunately, what was once Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 (and later increased its screenage to Cine 10) no longer exists; one can drive through what used to be its front lobby on one’s way to Lowe’s Home Improvement.

In my personal movie collection, I did at one time have the original Star Wars trilogy – Hope-Empire-Jedi – in a boxed VHS widescreen collection, this was before George Lucas did his “updates” on the film (in other words, Han shot first – you Jedis know what I’m talking about).

When the films came out on DVD, I purchased the widescreen editions – of course, these were the updated versions (Greedo shot first).  A couple of years ago, I did acquire the “classic” versions in a boxed set, so technically I have nine DVD’s encompassing six films. This is what I consider canon.  I know there are  cartoons from the Star Wars universe (Ewoks, Droids, Clone Wars animated, Clone Wars CGI), and if I look hard enough I’m sure I can find the Star Wars Holiday Special (so long as George Lucas hadn’t destroyed every copy by now).

So let me throw this out to you.

  • What was the first movie in the Star Wars franchise that you saw in a theater?  Which theater was it?
  • Of the six Star Wars movies, which one is your personal favorite?  And by the same token, which film just doesn’t work for you?

This should make for a good Monday topic.  Go.  And… may the blog post be with you.