Happy 25th, ‘Blade Runner’!
On June 25, 1982, twenty-five years ago today, Blade Runner was released. The film, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, opened in 1,295 theatres in the United States and Canada, ten of which showed the film in 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo*. It opened to mixed reviews and would gross a paltry $27 million. The film did, however, receive numerous movie-industry award nominations, including Academy Award nods for Art Direction and Visual Effects.
Anyone see it in its (brief) theatrical run? Any memories you care to share? Me? Believe it or not, I did not see Blade Runner in its original theatrical run. I had wanted to see it, but a couple of things got in the way: (1) the film’s R rating (I was 13 at the time), and (2) E.T.
As a sci-fi/fantasy buff and a big fan of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Indiana Jones performances, I had every intention of seeing Blade Runner. I recall pre-release coverage in magazines like Starlog, but was disappointed upon learning of its R rating. And since my folks had no intention of taking me to see it, the only way I was to see Blade Runner was if I snuck in. (I suspect my parents regretted taking me to see R-rated fare like Saturday Night Fever, Slap Shot and The Deer Hunter, films I probably had no business seeing at a young age.)
So, on a weekend in July of ‘82 at the now demolished Movies 7 in Victorville, California, the plan was to purchase a ticket to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, which I had not yet seen, then, following E.T., I would sneak into the auditorium showing Blade Runner. I had made arrangements to have my folks pick me up about 4 or 5 hours after dropping me off, allowing me time to see two movies. The hiccup: I was so overwhelmed by E.T that I failed to leave the theatre, instead staying through the break and watching E.T a second time! (I would end up seeing E.T. nine more times that year.) And, unfortunately, because Blade Runner performed poorly at the box office, the film was gone by the next time I went to the movies.
We didn’t have a VCR at the time, but thanks to cable movie channels like HBO, I did finally see Blade Runner about a year after its original run in the theatre. But, I hated the movie! I thought at the time Harrison Ford played an unsympathetic character and the movie didn’t have enough action or fantasy elements to hold my interest. (I did enjoy Joanna Cassidy’s nude scene, though!)
But, as the years went on, additional exposure to Blade Runner through TV broadcasts, the great Criterion Collection laserdisc, the Fairfax Theatre’s infamous 1990 screening of the test print, and the book Future Noir: The Making Of Blade Runner allowed me to come to the realization that the film is quite good and deserving of the status of a classic, justifying in my mind celebrating the film on this, the 25th anniversary of its original release.
I’m looking forward to seeing the 25th anniversary, multi-disc DVD due out later this year and which is scheduled to include as many as five(!) different cuts of the film. There’s also been some talk of a theatrical re-release in selected markets, possibly in D-Cinema and/or IMAX.
*For the technology and history buffs, here are the original 70mm bookings of Blade Runner:
Chicago, IL: Esquire
Corte Madera, CA: Cinema
Los Angeles, CA: Hollywood
Los Angeles, CA: Bruin
New York, NY: Criterion Center
New York, NY: Murray Hill
Pasadena, CA: Hastings
San Francisco, CA: Coronet
San Jose, CA: Century 22
Seattle, WA: Cinerama
The film’s 70mm test screenings took place in Denver (Continental), Dallas (Northpark), and San Diego (Cinema 21), but I do not have confirmation that the final release version ran there in 70mm. The trades reported ten 70mm prints in circulation and, as you can see, ten are accounted for, but something tells me there were a few more than ten.