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Posted on December 29, 2015

I'm a theater felon.

It wasn't by choice. I didn't decide to take the criminal path. It was my dad's fault.

Back in the seventies, our family of four didn't go to the movies very often. When we did, it was for what seemed like a boatload of fluffy Disney movies featuring Kurt Russell or innocuous animated films.

We had just emerged from watching Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, a horrible film as far as humanistic Volkswagens go, and my dad felt like he hadn't gotten his money's worth. He wanted to sneak into the next showing of another movie so he could feel redeemed. My mother and sister decided to shop instead of going along with his criminal act, but I stayed by his side. After all, the movie he wanted to sneak into was Star Wars.

Now I can't recall knowing anything about the film. I just knew it looked grown-up and was Kurt Russell and dogs-who-ate-spaghetti-together free. I was certainly game for broadening my horizons.

My dad took us to the bathroom and outlined his plan. We would enter the film as it ended and then sit there until the next showing started up. I remember being very anxious over the whole affair. I've always been an anxious person and a do-gooder to a fault. Our plan upset me, but I felt caught up in it and unable to say no to my dad.

We took our seats and watched the credits roll. The theater emptied out, and we were the only ones left. My mind was a whirlwind of anxiety. I knew the jig would be up any minute. Our goose was about to be cooked. Surely we were going to be caught red-handed.

Twice an usher walked up and down the aisles and didn't say a word to us. Now I know he had to figure we were doing something wrong. How could he not see it? This fueled my anxiety even more. He left, and I pictured him hauling back into the theater his manager or some large cartoon bouncer to throw us out. Only he never returned.

The only thing I can figure is that my dad is an intimidating guy and the minimum wage, black-vested theater jockey wasn't about to confront the dark-haired man sitting in the theater with his thick arms crossed and looking ready for a fight.

The movie began and for a little while, the experience was soured by the fact that we didn't belong in the theater alongside the paying customers. I probably didn't get totally sucked in until the cantina scene. Sorry, jawas and your little escapades with selling two uppity droids. Soon, the magic of George Lucas took hold, and I forgot completely about my criminal act.

After the movie, we walked out exhilarated―my dad, because he'd gotten his money's worth, and me, because I'd just seen the most important movie in the universe.

At least that was how it felt until a few years later, when the Empire struck back.

That kicked off my fascination with a certain helmeted bounty hunter and insistence that every shirt I wore in eighth grade feature a Star Wars character. Yes, I imagine that particular fashion choice pushed back my dating profile by several years, but I didn't care about that then. I was too caught up in the escapism of dogfights in space, fat alien slugs who chained princesses to their side, and smugglers who shot first.

Now later this week, I'm taking my two children to the new Star Wars movie. I hear it's pretty good. Rest assured we will be paying our way.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2015...
Brilliant! :-)

I remember seeing Star Wars in the movie theater. I went with my older brother, and we paid to get in, unlike certain Cloppers around here. I recall that I saw four films in succession: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spiderman, and Warlords of Atlantis (in roughly that order). The first two were fabulous, the third spellbinding (at the time), and the fourth... well, whatever.

We got back about an hour ago from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I can assure you you're in for a treat. It's the magic of Episodes IV, V, and VI relived (some might even say rehashed, but in a fantastic way). What's important is that the characters are great, and you get behind them from the moment you meet them. Let me know when you've seen it so we can get into some nerd-talk!!
Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2015...
I didn't see Close Encounters until I was much older. I don't recall Warlords of Atlantis. Did you mean Superman when you said Spider-man? I don't think there was a Spidey film until well past the seventies.

We definitely should gab about the new film. :)

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