Star Wars & Me 1978

A Long Time Ago in a Cinema Not to Far Away

It’s hard to believe 2012 heralds the 35th year of Star Wars …’how time flies’.

For me, there’s so much I could say about my ‘favourite’ film, but instead I thought I’d reminisce about the day I went to see Star Wars for the very first time. I first heard about the film when a young 10-year-old Neil Stringer told me about this amazing picture he’d seen on our way home from School, but this wasn’t May 1977 (25th) when it was first released in the United States, but more like early 78, as the UK premier wasn’t actually until Boxing Day 1977, a full 7 months later in two West End cinemas, the Leicester Square Theatre and the Dominion, Tottenham Court Road, where it took a record-breaking £117,690 in its first week.

Star Wars continued to play exclusively at these two cinemas for over the next four weeks, were it instantly became the hottest ticket in town, ticket-touts where reportedly selling £2.20 tickets for £30 quid. But on the 29th January it finally opened in Leeds. For me I can’t remember the precise date I went to see it, although it was a Saturday in February at the Odeon Cinema on The Headrow in Leeds. It wasn’t a family outing, but instead a trip out with my good friend Mark Adams and his Granddad.
The Odeon on The Headrow Leeds
So we set off on the No:5 bus to a sunny Leeds City Centre to eagerly wait in turn queuing down the side of the Headrow (This seems to be a long forgotten experience within Leeds to queue around buildings to see a new movie) but once we finally got into the foyer and purchased out tickets, there was a plethora of memorabilia available to buy behind the confectionary counter. For me it had to be the Official Movie Souvenir Programme and the giant fold-out poster to take home and adorn my bedroom wall, both of which I still have today. (below)
Star Wars Souvenir Programme and Film Poster 1978
The Odeon was a three screen cinema in those early days, before it was later split into a 5 screens, this meant the main screen 1 auditorium was ‘HUGE’…well, it felt huge to a small 11-year-old lad like me. So I sat down proudly holding my first swag of Star Wars keepsakes while watching Pearl & Dean as I awaited the film to start. It was at this point the curtains would close while you could hear the tiny motors widening the screen size from its 1/3rd size to full 70mm capacity.

The Headrow Odeon Leeds Interiors
Image used courtesy of Ian Grundy ©Stagedoor 2012

One of the amazing qualities of this amphitheatre of film was the sound and its sheer volume (something the Health & Safety sphincter police must have curtailed in later years) It was this sound that had a physical impact on me, because you could feel the noise of the opening Star Destroyer approaching, vibrating through your body before it appeared on-screen, and when it did appear…HOLY WOW!! It just went on and on and on, that thing was HUGE. Even at the very end of the film your spacial senses were tested as well, when Luke’s X-Wing swooped into the Death Star trench you wobbled from left to right in the same you do at an IMAX screening today. From the moment the credit finally rolled up  I was hooked…FOR LIFE…and subsequently went to see it more time than I can remember (25 Geekish times I think) even to this day I love to watch it and still don’t get bored. The new Blu-Ray gave me another excuse to have a family Star Wars viewing night, one which we have each year.

I’m quite sure you’ll hear more about ‘Me & Star Wars’ over the coming years on this blog, but for now it just leaves me to say…

Happy 35th Birthday Star Wars

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8 thoughts on “Star Wars & Me 1978”

  1. Loved your post. Had completely forgotton about the odeon – great picture. And yes, I used to queue too. My brother had a Star Wars party that year – he was 6 – Dad made me go with him, my brother & lots of little boys to the cinema to see the film – I was 12 – We came home, and they all chased round the house, pretending to be Luke Skywalker. Lots of sweaty little boys. I will never forget!!

  2. Great post, Carl! I really loved reading about your early “Star Wars” memories!
    I first saw the film when I was 5 1/2 years old, at the lovely old Regent Cinema, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on Sunday, February 19th 1978 – my brother took me (thankfully my sister kept a diary, so that’s why I know the date!). I don’t remember much of about the screening, except that it made me into a fan then and there, and had a red “Star Wars” baseball cap bought for me – a nasty piece of rip-off merchandise that was very easy to get in holiday resort gift shops!
    What I find funny now is that so many people in the Britain assume the film opened in the summer of ’77, and not just after Christmas of that year – I thought it was 27th and not Boxing Day…? What I want to get are some reproductions of the advertising graphics from local newspapers of the time, to show screening times. I have them for the Great Yarmouth showings (also of “Empire”, “Jedi”, “CE3K”, “Tron”, “ET”, “Raiders” etc.), thanks to going through old newspapers of the time.
    As I have a love for old cinemas, it was nice to see the photos you published as well! 🙂

    1. Thanks Derek, seems you have some very fond memories as well. I didnt collect anything from the papers, but I did manage to collect the original film posters from that time, a local cinema called the Lyric (which i blog about in one of my very first posts) used to sell the original posters for 50p, I managed to get Star Wars, Empire, ROTJ, ET & The Thing…all of which are hiding away in the loft.

      Cheers Carl 🙂

      1. I have a few of those old British quad posters as well – lovely graphics! Did you collect the lobby card sets to go with them?

        You should (like I did) spend some time in your local main library and find the newspapers ads of the time (Great Yarmouth library used to have them on microfiche back in the 90s when I did that; you could buy printouts of pages) – it is fascinating to see those old adverts, and tie in the dates/times shown there with your memories! 🙂

  3. just found this blog and enjoyed the travel back in time , I also watched the film at the odean in feb 1978 and was a life long fan from that moment , surfing through the pages of cimema photos I found a photo of the cimema when it was showing the file in 78 , also a foyer photo showing the two side steps with star wars written above each enterance this must of been the exact time we were both there amazing that tome one captured this moment if you would like I will send you them , just need a mail address thanks again for the shared memeriors all the best kevin

    1. Happy times Kevin.. glad you liked the blog post, Star Wars is one of my favourite subjects.

      I’ve just emailed you, as those images would make a lovley addition to the post, I’ll credit you in it as well.

      Cheers
      Carl

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