Star Wars 30
In the summer of 1977, my family took a road trip to Utah to visit family friends and my brother, who was attending school (this worked especially well for me, since I got his room while he was there). While we were there, we went to a double feature in a nearly empty theater. The Island of Dr. Moreau was the first film in the two pack. It was kinda creepy for a kid whose age was in the single digits.
The second film was Star Wars, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this Friday, May 25th.
Yeah, you have this idea that Star Wars was a blockbuster right out the gate. Especially these days, when there's so much hype about films in various promotional venues, you think of openings with huge crowds who have been anticipating the movie. But back then, films just had regular advertising and popularity grew by word-of-mouth.
A couple of weeks later, back home at Hilltop Mall in California, we went to Star Wars again, this time in a very full theater.
I had the same experience with Raiders of the Lost Ark. We saw it on its opening weekend at the Cine 3 in Vallejo. Cine 3 was a converted old theater; the two side wings had been converted into steep, narrow theaters, and the central theater was huge. Raiders showed in the center theater with maybe six people, including my parents and me. My parents made the mistake of letting me choose the row we sat in; sitting in the front row for Raiders gave me my first dose of motion sickness ever. Another first was, after the film ended, my dad went out and bought three more tickets, we moved back several rows and sat through a second showing. It was just that great an experience.
Sometime later during its run we went back to Cine 3 to see it again. Inexplicably, it had been moved to one of the side theaters and was practically standing room only (though that's technically illegal, I still recall people sitting on the steps in the aisle). The crowd was so raucous I could barely hear parts of the film. In fact, during the scene with the scimitar-wielding assassin who Indie decides to just shoot, one guy jumped out of his chair like he was calling a touchdown.
And I would say there's something magical about such experiences that just doesn't happen anymore, but I think it has more to do with the loss of my childhood innocence rather than any real external difference, since Atrios posted a video which reminded of the kinds of things I thought were awesome when I was a kid.