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From the archives: 'Star Wars' opening creates epic lines

The release of the first "Star Wars" movies

The release of the first "Star Wars" movies created long lines at theaters like this one in Los Angeles. (June 7, 1977) Credit: AP file photo

Editor's note: On May 25, 1977, the original Star Wars movie was released. George Lucas' space epic, which originally opened in 32 theaters, was so popular it soon created some of the longest ticket lines in film history. The movie went on to win six Academy Awards and spawned one of the most popular movies franchises of all time.

This story was originally published in Newsday on June 20, 1977

"Star Wars", the film industry's biggest hit of the year, is also creating some of the longest ticket lines in movie history. From Long Island to Los Angeles, patrons are forming queues in record numbers.

As long as people keep lining up, the movie is guaranteed to continue its climb toward the stars. Nationally, it has already passed the $6 million mark and the eventual gross is expected to be somewhere in the $100 million bracket.

While most major first-run films generate sizeable queues to start with many experience a noticeable tapering off within a week or so. "Star Wars", the sci-fi fantasy which opened in the New York area three weeks ago, shows no such signs.

Managers at the two Manhattan theaters which are playing host to the film report continued sellout crowds for night and weekend performances and both theaters have added extra showings to keep up with the demand. The Mann's Twin Theater in Hicksville, which has the exclusive Long Island run, hasn't had such lines since "The Godfather" appeared at both simultaneously. ("Star Wars" is playing at only one). According to the theater's manager, Virginia Graham, groups have been arriving in everything from buses to delivery trucks. The more ingenious have even brought along deck chairs, playing cards and radios to make the wait more bearable.

Standing in line can be exhausting, boring, no problem or half the fun, depending on how long you have to wait and just how you look at it. The goal is to get in to see the show. Your chances improve the earlier you arrive, and at the Hicksville theater that means at least six hours before showtime during the week and two hours on weekends.

Why are people willing to stand in line so long to see "Star Wars"? Excluding those who claim to have been dragged along by their friends, most people say that they heard or read about the movie and decided it couldn't be missed. After seeing it, Nat Robin of Hempstead said: "It was fantastic. The special effects were great, better than "2001". "I'll definitely see it again." Kathy Weiss of Long Beach concurred, adding "I'll probably see it four or five times." But Margie Lowenstein of Melville disagreed completely. "Basically, it was over-rated. The effects were all right but the story wasn't that good."

Bob Hurd, the projectionist at Mann's Hicksville South, said he hadn't seen "Star Wars" and had no plans to. "I ran "Space Odyssey" for 15 months and never saw it. I just don't care for science-fiction." The ushers in the theater, however, have all seen the film more than once a one young usher has already seen it six times. And there are repeaters among the patrons, too. Andy Baraf of Roslyn and his friends all thought "Star Wars" was "terrific" the second time around.

Jim and Ann McManus of Hicksville were among a dozen or so people who arrived after the 9:45 show sold out on a recent evening. Would they stay to see the midnight show? "No, not tonight," said Jim McManus, "but after all we've read about it we'll be back."

Central to the action of "Star Wars" is The Force, the sustaining power of good which is pitted against  the equally powerful but sinister forces of evil. Although Rudy Richman and Larry Strup of Syosset, both sympathized with The Force, neither left the theater actually believing in it. No matter. They, like most of the people who see the movie, came just to have a good time.

Nationally, there hasn't been box-office lines like those tha"Star Wars" is attracting since "Jaws," which grossed a record breaking $200 million in its first run. "Star Wars" has broken house records at every theater at which it has opened, numbering some 44 across the county. Clearly, The Force is with its creator, 33-year-old writer-director George Lucas, who decided four years ago that he wanted to make a movie which everyone could to go. Apparently, everybody is.


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