Photo: This Is What Star Wars Hysteria Looked Like in Philly in 1983
Check this out. A shot from May 23, 1983 shows what looks like hundreds of Philadelphians lined up on Chestnut Street to see the opening of George Lucas’s Return of the Jedi, the third and final installment of his Star Wars saga in the late-70s/early-80s. What you see there is the recently demolished Boyd Theatre in its heyday, offering 70mm, 6-track-stereo-sound showings of the film that had people excited because it was the first to use THX technology.
The image looks quite older than its 32 years, given the black-and-white effect, but, as someone pointed out in the Reddit room in which I discovered it, it was probably taken by a journalist who was using it for a newspaper. Plus, black-and-white film is quicker to process if they had to meet deadlines for what must have been the most exciting news of the day. I kind of like the colors. Makes many of the people look like stormtroopers if you squint your eyes just right.
Just imagine, this is before the world knew Jabba the Hut — or the Ewoks! There’s no telling who else we’ll meet from the ongoing saga this week when the next installment, The Force Awakens, debuts in theaters around the world. I’m guessing the lines will be similar around Philadelphia, but, unlike this photo, none downtown. As far as I can tell, the closest theater to Center City that is playing it is the The Franklin Institute, on its gigantic, almost-wrap-around IMAX screen. It is one of 20 theaters worldwide that is showing the movie in 70mm IMAX film format. Tickets and more info on that can be found here.
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