Today, May the 4th, is Star Wars Day. It's been celebrated for a few years now. It should really be bad pun day as a tribute to its origins. Needless to say, I was (and still am) a Star Wars fan, as attested by the little round graphic over in the right hand column of my blog page. That is actually a scan of the wearable button that was given out on the very first day of the Star Wars engagement at Loews Astor Plaza Theatre in New York City. They ran out of buttons during the matinees - I managed to get one of the last ones.
It was Wednesday May the 25th, 1977. At the time, I was running the Bookmasters store at 33rd and 7th Avenue, across the street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. It was a very large store, and I had hired a friend from my days at Doubleday, Harold Biddle, to run the children's books and remainders departments. That morning, I'd read the review of Star Wars in the New York Times. I decided I had to see it right away as I would hear too much about it otherwise, and never go. Harold and I left work a little early and went off to the 4pm or so late matinee.
Loews Astor Plaza, which opened in 1974, was one of the last of the large screen movie theatres. It was deep underground at the site where the Astor Hotel and Theatre had been. There was an long escalator ride down to the auditorium, which was under the already underground Minskoff Theatre (where I would be fortunate enough to attend performances of "Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street a few years later). There were 1,440 some seats, and the screen was said to be as long as a football field. When the movie started, there was a "story so far" kind of scroll as though it were an old Saturday matinee serial. To the best of my memory, the text did not start with "Episode 4: A New Hope". Somewhere I have an (ahem) "private" Betamax video tape of that vintage. When I get my Betamax working again I shall dig it out just to check and see if my memory is correct. The Astor Plaza movie theatre closed some years ago and was converted into a concert venue.
|In one of those odd little synchronicities of events, "Pippin", whose advertising|
poster can be seen next to the Loews marquee, is currently back on Broadway.
This will probably get me into trouble, but I even like the "special" editions Lucas prepared for the original trilogy's re-release on the original Star Wars (now Episode 4) 20th anniversary in 1997, and which are the official DVD's. Of course, I have the original trilogy on laser disk which are unaltered - and in which Han properly shoots first.
Within a year or two, I'd be out of the book business and in movie distribution. One of the stories I eventually heard was that at the time of the first movie, 20th Century Fox had no confidence in Mr. Lucas' little over budget production. They thought the big hit was going to be a different movie they released that month, "The Other Side of Midnight". In the Boston market, "Star Wars" was relegated to lesser theatres in the suburbs. Allegedly, many distributors were told that if they didn't agree to book Star Wars to follow "Midnight", they wouldn't get either film. This was against the old Columbia consent decree which prohibited 'block booking' - i.e. it was illegal. There were lawsuits over it, there were lawsuits in Boston trying to get Star Wars into the big in town houses. "Midnight" grossed a little over 18 million dollars. "Star Wars" spawned several industries from special effects companies (Industrial Light and Magic), to sound processing, toy tie-ins, and etc. ad infinitum - which have grossed billions.
Over the last few years, as my life hit personal and financial skids, I found myself having to move several times. So, back in 2007, in order not to lose track of my precious first day matinee button, I attached it to a Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice doll I had picked up somewhere along the way. As it turns out, that was rather prophetic. I hope the series fares well.
A couple of years ago, when I signed up for Facebook, there was a questionnaire which Facebookers are asked to fill out (one can leave most things blank). One question asked my religious views. I put, "Learn about the Force - and may the Force be with you".
Oh, one last thing, Thank You for everything Mr. Lucas - but Han shoots first.