Yes, I was old enough to see it first time around.
I remember, that we went to see it that first time at the Odeon cinema in Ashton Under Lyne. The titles, the droids, the bad guys, the good and the Force.
This cinema where I went to see it, has quite a bit of history to it. Opened in 1920 it was known as the Majestic. Following that it became known as the Gaumont in 1946. Following this it became a frequent cinema venue for my mother and grandfather. In 1962 it changed it’s name again to The Odeon when it merged with the Rank Organisation. Sold independently in 1981 it changed it’s name yet again to Metro. Following the opening of a multi screen cinema in the town, it became an arcade called “SlotWorld Amusements” in 2003 and ceased to be a cinema.
At one point it was known as “Moti Mahal” when is was used in the film “East is East” (1999). In another strange and interesting fact, one other filming location for the film included the street on which my dad was born.
Speaking of my dad, he was the first in our family to see Star Wars at around Christmas time in 1977. In the UK Star Wars was released on the 27th December 1977, month after the US release back in May. We were in the process of moving up to the north east and my dad at the time was working between the north west and the north east. His hotel was somewhere near Jesmond, so the cinema he visited to see Star Wars was the Jesmond Picture House. Ultimately like a lot of smaller cinemas this closed in 1993 and was demolished in 2009.
I was jealous, and being 9, I wanted to know more information and he told me about the big spaceship flying overhead and the droids. I just couldn’t wait.
At some point over Christmas or early january we made our way to The Odeon in Ashton. The queue was long if I recall as it was everywhere and my mum took me in to see the spectacle.
I was stunned. There was nothing like it at all in the cinema at that time. I loved robots and scifi (checkout my Micronauts blog) but this was another area entirely. I was hooked.
Popular films in that era stayed in the cinema for long runs. There were no video releases and once a film had left the cinema the only time you could watch it was several years later on TV. If the BBC had it you’d look forward to the full uninterrupted film. If ITV got it you’d expect the action to get sliced up by adverts and possibly even miss sections of the film. Also the 4:3 ratio of the Colour PAL tvs at the time meant you’d probably miss something at the sides of the shot as the Star Wars films were produced in 2.39:1 or we would see strange panning shots because of the habit to pan and scan.
At the time the very best way to watch a movie was in the cinema. Thankfully due to HD/4K TVs nowadays we always get the full picture, although with the Star Wars Special Editions unless you own the older movies you won’t have the original where Han shot Greedo first.
After seeing the film I do remember describing it to my Grandma and my impression after the first viewing was that it was actually about two droids. I guess I missed the whole Luke thing. I was stunned when they killed off likeable characters and my favourite characters at the time were definitely R2D2 and Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith. It sounded cool but we had no idea what this all meant.
Early 1978 in the UK was very hard to get anything related to Star Wars when it came to buying merchandising so I started a scrapbook. Unfortunately this scrapbook has been unfortunately lost to time, but I do recall some of the details.
Time for a short sidestep before we continue with the scrapbooking.
Alongside my Matchbox car purchases I used to buy a British magazine called Look-In. It featured cartoons based on TV shows at the time including the Six Million Dollar Man (another big favourite of mine), The Bionic Woman, Mind Your Language, Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu and more over the years. It also included interviews with pop stars, sports stars and film stars that would relate to the 8 to probably 15 year age group it was aimed at. It lasted all the way up to March 1994.
It’s unfortunate that my first issue of Look-In featured a Gary Glitter poster in the middle. How times change.
Anyway my scrapbook started as a “Mr. Men” scrapbook. It was probably an A3 scrapbook and featured one of the Mr. Men on the front. I’d take a guess that it was that guy Tickle or Topsy Turvy. I’m sure it was one of the orange ones.
My first task was to cover the front and hide the fact that it was a child’s scrapbook and that it has cool stuff inside.
Tickle be gone.
Next up any article of poster or interview featuring anything from Star Wars I could find would end up in my book. Look-In magazine was my main source.
The first issue to feature Star Wars on the front cover was the 31st December 1977. Star Wars had just opened in the UK.
One of my first memories of Star Wars in magazine and print was an iconic image of R2D2 and C3PO on the sands of Tatooine. The angle of the sun and the starkness of the black and white image gave me a totally different impression of C3PO.
It’s hard for a generation apart from those 50 somethings to think of C3PO as anything from that weird talkative droid from the film. In this image his face looked very angular and he looked like his nose was cut out. This imaged haunted me for weeks up to seeing the film.
This image was one of the first things to get pasted into the scrapbook.
For those things from the magazines like the posters, these would end up scattered around my room.
Through the following months anything I could find from Look-In articles to newspaper clippings and Letraset transfers found their way into my scrapbook.
Always to note was that due to the printing processes of that time the front covers of the magazine were painted, you sometimes you’d find bizarre combinations of Donna Summer and Mark Hamill staring back with the insides emblazened with articles about Abba and Peter Bonetti…. honestly I don’t know who he is and just discovered he died quite recently in April 2020.
By the time March had come by we had completed moving up to the north east and my local cinema in Blyth, The Wallaw would be showing Star Wars.
Week ending 11 March 1978 Look-In had a huge push for Star Wars. The front cover painting gave Darth Vader eyes, whilst a Star Destroyer aimed for his throat and a bored looking Stormtrooper was wondering where he’d left his blaster.
With this issue they gave you 2 free Letraset Transfers with a push for the magazine to advertise the transfers.
I do remember buying a set of these transfers. They contained a mix of characters on appropriate backdrops including Tatooine and the Death Star. The Death Star featured lots of Stormtroopers, Darth and Obi-wan in their light sabre duel and the Tatooine one featured Sand People, Jawas and Luke Skywalker.
They were everywhere and they were cheap and you’d always have to buy more because you could only stick them down once.
That issue of Look-In also featured an interview with Harrison Ford. I cut all of the these out and put them in the scrapbook.
That poster of Han and Chewy that came with the issue always confused me. I didn’t like Chewbacca’s feet. They looked like shoes because his toes didn’t touch the floor. These are the thoughts of a 10 year old.
I do also remember having a few bubble gum cards, but I only stuck one of them in the scrapbook.
So the early days of Star Wars for me was scrapbooking, magazines and watching the film over and over until I knew every line of dialogue.
We always used to compare in the schoolyard the number of times we’d actually seen Star Wars. My half thought was seven times but that might have been bragging to outdo other school chums. I do remember going to see it at every opportunity as there was nothing like it at the time.
Next up. Action figures…..