Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anniversaries: A Long Time Ago In a Clearwater Bijou Far Far Away...

I kinda blogged about my geeking over Star Wars often here, but I blog elsewhere and on that site I went into more detail about how and when I fell in love with a movie:

Somewhere in my mind there is a seven year old boy sitting in a large rocking chair in a movie theater called a Bijou in downtown Clearwater Florida.
It's late summer, just before school. Having taken care of a big event in our family's lives - moving into a new home - the parents relent and take their three youthful boys to see this movie everyone's been gabbing about called Star Wars. The lads are familiar with some elements of science fiction - we've seen this thing called Star Trek on the teevee once or twice - but all we knew about the movie was from an ad campaign that showed spaceships blowing up and robots running around...

...It's archetypal, it's nostalgic, it's futuristic, it's action, it's space opera, it's primal emotional satisfaction. When Luke finishes that trench run and the Death Star blows up (oh shush I'm not spoiling a damn thing), the need among everyone in the audience to stand and cheer in victory is universal.

I'm remembering the good times again because today - May 25 - is the 40th anniversary when Star Wars officially came out. It actually got released to a handful of theaters because 20th Century Fox wasn't too sure it would do well and was just dumping it off into a summer season that tended to be quiet for the industry.

And then the whole thing blew up. Word of mouth spread. Kids, teens, and adults all flocked like mad to see a movie with incredible visual effects, impressive Wagnerian musical score by John Williams, and a faithful archetypal story. Millions went back for repeat viewings (home videotape was still years away from reaching the public, and waiting for movies to reach television took years). They released the movie to more theaters across the nation, where the demand overwhelmed the smaller places that hosted one or two (!) screens.

It rewired the entire film industry. Combined with a previous summer blockbuster Jaws, it convinced Hollywood that summertime was when blockbuster spectacles should be released. Special effects action movies dominated the production schedules. Movies were geared for kids and teens as much as possible. Multiplex theaters blossomed to match the demand (and supply as every studio raced to make their own Star Wars franchise hit).

That all didn't matter much to me at the time. It took awhile - the whole summer - to get to see it, but once my family had settled into our new home in Palm Harbor our parents were able to escort us to the theaters to watch it.

I didn't go completely geeky: my parents would indulge a little in the toys and the games, but they didn't buy every bit of merch that spawned around Lucas' empire. But I kept up with it, spread my interest to other SciFi and Fantasy 'Verses, and refreshed my geekery in the comics/graphic novel world as I grew into an adult.

I still hark back to my fanboy foundation, though, as evidenced by my prized lightsaber and showing up at local comic-cons dressed as a Jedi.

Man, forty years.

That Clearwater theater is long gone. Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker too. But there's another Episode coming out this year, and with luck I'll live long enough to see Episode IX which promises to be the big finale.

The seven year old in me still geeks out.

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