As Skywalker rises, a look back to STAR WARS opening in LR in 1977

As a third grade boy, I remember devouring the novelized version of Star Wars in 1977. I read everything I could about the movie. I owned (and still have) the two disc London Symphony Orchestra soundtrack on LP.

I was a few months late to Star Wars figures, but Christmas of 1977 and birthday of 1978 did feature them as gifts. (I promptly lost my Sandcrawler weapon at my grandparents’ house on Christmas day.)

In those early days, I was excited by the idea of NINE Star Wars movies. Then, I gave up hope when George Lucas abandoned them after Return of the Jedi. When the prequels were announced during my adulthood, I was excited. Only to be disappointed by the actual movies (though admittedly they did get better by episode 3).

Then in 2015, the day my eighth grade self dreamed of, was here: what happens AFTER Return of the Jedi?  I saw The Force Awakens and flashed back to those early days. (Cynics might say it was because so much of Episode 7 was a retread of Episode 4.)  While 2017’s The Last Jedi may have disappointed or confused some fans, it offered many memorable moments.

And today: 42 years after it all began, (after sneak peeks last night), The Rise of Skywalker, the long promised ninth installment opens.

First ad in Arkansas Gazette (June 23, 1977)

In honor of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s opening day, here is a flash back to the Arkansas Gazette ad in June 1977 when the first film hit Little Rock (a full month after it first opened in New York).

It did not reach Little Rock until June 24, 1977. Given its status as a sleeper hit, it is no surprise that it came into Little Rock largely unnoticed.

In that day, major films opening on a Friday would be heralded the previous Sunday with a substantial advertisement. The first Star Wars ad ran on Thursday, June 23, 1977, the day before it opened. By contrast, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, which would play at the same theater, had a large ad on Sunday, June 19.

While Star Wars would seem like the perfect movie for the great UA Cinema 150, it did not play there. The film playing at the 150 was A Bridge Too Far, which was, at least an action movie. Star Wars did not even open at a UA theatre. It opened at the ABC Cinema 1 & 2 (located at Markham and John Barrow) and at the McCain Mall Cinema. (The ABC Cinema location is now home to discount cellphone and discount clothing businesses; a cinema has returned to McCain Mall but in a different location.)

The day it opened, there was a fairly large ad which incorporated the familiar beefcake Luke, Leia in flowing gowns, and Darth Vader mask. On the Sunday after it opened, there was a slightly smaller ad with the same artwork. McCain Mall also ran a small add for both Star Wars and Herbie. It noted that Star Wars was a film that management “does not recommend for children.”