A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away…
In 1977, the theatre was not called the Galaxy as it is today but just as it was 38 years ago residents from Sedalia and surrounding counties flocked to the movies to be a part of what has become the largest franchising movie series of all time: Star Wars.
When Episode VII, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” opened Thursday night in Sedalia and worldwide a long line of moviegoers waited for hours in front of the Galaxy Theatre to be the first to see the latest installment in the saga.
In 1977, Janie Wagenknecht Dunn-Rankin had recently graduated from Smith Cotton high school when the movie opened in Sedalia and she went to see it at what was then the State Fair Cinema.
Wagenknecht’s father owned the theatre and Dunn-Rankin said that while she liked the film at the time it was not truly a stand out for her then.
“You have to understand since my father, (John Wagenknecht) owned the movies I got to see a lot of films,” Dunn-Rankin said. “I did like it a lot at the time, but since then I have married a man who loves it and the series as a whole.”
Dunn Rankin has not seen the newest film in the franchise.
“This is the first time that I know of that the advanced screening of the film was held just one day before its release,” Dunn- Rankin said. “I was traveling from my home in Florida to be here for the opening and so I couldn’t make the screening.
“I hope I can see it tomorrow,” she added. “I may sneak in tonight and catch a little of it if I can but we have been really busy this evening so I’m not sure if I will be able to.”
A long line made its way stretching across the entire front of the theatre by 5:45 Thursday evening.
For Brendon Howe and Ana Aquino, the first two individuals in line to enter the theatre the wait was well worth their time.
“I bought our tickets two weeks ago,” Howe said. “I have loved the movies since I first watched them.
“Anna had never seen any of them before Sunday,” Howe added. “It was my birthday and so we watched all six together; I think she really liked them.”
As with many of the people in line, watching all six of the films was something that had done with either friends or family.
In 1977 when the original Star Wars opened area residents also went with their families as well.
John Moore, owner and president of 305 Spin went in the summer of 1977 with his parents, younger brother and sister, one of his aunts and uncles and their two daughters.
“I remember thinking then that it was amazing,” Moore said. “I was in high school and that year for our homecoming float we made an enormous X-Wing fighter and R2D2 for it,”
“We kept them forever until someone eventually stole them from behind my parent’s business,” Moore added. “I think at the time we all felt we had never seen anything like it and that Lucas (George) was brilliant.”
Moore has an extensive background in film and computer graphics said that the technology was one of the things that drew audiences to the theatre.
“Back then there was nothing comparable to what he was doing, but even he realized how far he had come with his later works and so he re-did all the computer work with the earlier films,” Moore said. “You can see the progression from a technical stand point in each work.”
Moore shared an interesting story about watching the second film in the series.
“I was living and working in New York City when “The Empire Strikes Back,” came out,” Moore said. “My best friends and I decided to go to a midnight showing opening night for the second film.
Moore said that his best friend got tired of waiting in line to see the film and instead went to a local bar in Time’s Square, Barrymore’s, instead.
“The rest of us were thrilled to say we saw the movie when it opened,” Moore added. “But one of my friends, Larry, topped us even though he didn’t go to see the film.
While at the bar, Moore’s friend ran into another friend, who was producing the Broadway musical Amadeus.
“When we meet back up with Larry, we were telling him what he had missed,” Moore said. “Then he tells us that he had spent the evening drinking with Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, in the series, and the producer of Amadeus which Hamill was staring in at the time. It really put us in our place he added with a laugh.”
While many residents will not have a similar story to Moore’s they do have ones to tell.
“I remember going to see the movie with my brother,” Pettis County Western Commissioner Jim, Marcum said. “I think tickets were $2.50 and a large popcorn was the same price.”
“I remember I thought that the movie was one of the most amazing things I had seen at the time and I remembered asking myself, ‘why was I driving an old pick-up when I could have been driving a land speeder?’
“I think that was one of the amazing things about the first three movies to come out,” he added. “Even though the story was set in another galaxy, at its heart it was a story about a family and the same living situations and questions we all have to ask at some point and time just on a different scale.”
Marcum said he went to see the first three releases with his brother and the next three with his son.
“I know I’ll go to see this one, but I’ll probably wait until it’s not standing room only,” he added. “I think it’s wonderful to know that they are still making movies that people want to go to and see as a family.”
There were several families and generations on hand at the Galaxy Thursday night something that Dunn-Rankin was pleased to see.
“I don’t think it’s because we own the theater but there really isn’t any experience like seeing a movie like Star Wars on a big screen,” Dunn-Rankin said. “We still have tickets available for all of this weekend’s showings and we will have tickets available for presale for the Christmas shows on Monday.”
The Galaxy Theatre will have four showing tonight and multiple showings during the weekend.
The theater will be open for daily matinees beginning Dec. 19 that will run for two weeks. Individuals with questions concerning show times may go to the theater’s website: www.sedaliamovies.com for ticket prices.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484