This article is part of a special StarWars.com series in honor of Star Wars‘ 40th anniversary on May 25.
A major part of the Star Wars story has always been the fans. As we look back on 40 years of Star Wars this week, StarWars.com reached out to a few who were there to experience the release in 1977. Here’s what they had to say.
Patrick Payne, via Facebook, recalls his own anticipation for the film:
“Unless you lived through it (and can remember), it’s kind of hard for modern audiences to understand just how different the world was, in 1977, just prior to the release of Star Wars. It sounds like a cliché, but the world really WAS a very different place, while outwardly appearing very much the same. I had seen the trailers on TV and in the theater, months earlier. They didn’t say much. However, what little they showed had already triggered my imagination, which was further fueled by the novelization of the movie, which I had for a few months before the film came out. I, for one, was NOT going to miss this movie even if I had to miss school! Therefore, I skipped school (sorry, parents), took the bus downtown (Seattle), and saw the very first show on opening day.”
Denise Steil remembers seeing Star Wars in a small town in southern Mississippi:
“We had two single screen theaters a couple blocks apart. I was 13 and had two close friends that did everything together. The movies was a regular part of our weekend. I don’t remember what was playing at the other theater, but the pick of the night was Star Wars. We arrived a little late, as usual, just as Artoo and Threepio were walking across the sands of Tatooine. About 15 minutes later, my friends declared the movie to be “lame” and walked out. I stayed, by myself, and fell in love with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. I met with them again the following night, and again the following weekend.”
Skywalking Through Neverland host Richard Woloski says that he had no interest in seeing Star Wars during the summer of 1977, and it was word-of-mouth buzz that finally convinced him:
“Even though all my friends had seen it and raved about this new space movie, I was a loyalist to my other loves including King Kong, Planet of the Apes, and the Super Friends. However, curiosity started to get the better of me around August of that year. Then one day I heard a knock at my front door. I could hear my upstairs neighbor ask my mother, “I’m going to see Star Wars again, would Richard like to come with me?” That was the fuse that lit the powder keg that is still exploding after 40 years! I went from the kid who didn’t want to see Star Wars to the kid who wouldn’t shut up about Star Wars. I had found my new religion.”
Artist Paul Bateman recalls that his dad was reluctant to see the film when it was released in the UK. However, despite working the night shift and being tired, they went to see Star Wars:
“When we arrived at the theater, the line to buy tickets was around the block and Dad was bored waiting in the line. … However, not too long after the opening scenes, my dad became just as engrossed in the film as I was. He was cheering and reacting along with every adult and child in the audience.”
My own story is a little different. Mom won four tickets from a local TV station in Detroit to see Star Wars; the theater was over 20 miles away from where we lived. Back then, the freeway system was not what it is today, and a trip to the theater took over an hour. Normally, we would not drive that long just for a movie. However, with Dad being a big science fiction fan, we decided to do it. Dad was not only excited to see the film, but when we came out of the theater he said, “Mark my words! This movie WILL become a classic.” Boy, did he predict that one.