My movie memories of summer 1978

posted by Eric Friedmann on May 16, 2008 at 7:55 am

Looking back 30 years ago, back to the summer of 1978, my mind is thick with memories of the pop culture phenomenons of the time. On television, shows like “Happy Days”, “Three’s Company” and “Charlie’s Angels” ruled the tube. Disco was still king, and bands like the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac and Kiss ruled the radio. And of course, there were movies…

The summer of 1978 was very special for me because it was one of the few times in my where I can remember every movie that I was in love with at the time being out in the theaters at the same time. By May of 1978, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars”, all 1977 releases, were still going strong on the big screen.

Then, on Friday June 16, 1978, the big screen really exploded (for me, anyway); “Jaws 2” and “Grease” were released on the same day at both movie theaters in “Grease” was playing at the Hampton Arts Theater (a single screen back then) and “Jaws 2” was playing at the Westhampton Beach Theater (a first-run movie theater back then). This was, to say the least, a very big deal for an 11 year-old boy like me. Three years prior, my parents had refused to let me see the original “Jaws”. I must have been the only kid in the entire third grade who wasn’t allowed to see that movie! So now the sequel comes out and my dad had read that it wasn’t as gory, so he let me see it. Now while it can generally be agreed that “Jaws 2” is nowhere near as good as the original, it was quite a thrill nonetheless to see this film on the big screen, especially is a seaside town like Westhampton Beach. For that reason alone, I still have a special place in my heart and memories for “Jaws 2”.

Now, onto “Grease”…put simply, my family went to see that movie on the screen six (6) (yes, I said SIX) times! Two of those times, we stayed in our seats to watch it twice. You could do that without a problem back then. I think we wore out the phonograph needle playing the movie soundtrack over and over again. I actually wanted to be John Travolta! I mean, let’s face it – between “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever”, this guy always got the chicks!

During that summer, I also recall seeing two other movies; “Hooper” (mildly entertaining) and
“The Bad News Bears go to Japan” (horrible even to an 11 year-old kid!).

Finally, my only movie regret for that summer was “Animal House”. Those of you who saw it on the screen have great memories, I’m sure. Well, I begged my parents to let me see it. Their ongoing response was something equivalent to, “No chance in Hell!”

Please share your movie memories of the summer of 1978.

(Thanks to iSOLED for providing the photo.)

Comments (21)

JRS40 on May 16, 2008 at 10:00 am

Summer of 78 was a great time for movies. Besides those you named there was also “Foul Play,” “Revenge of the Pink Panther,” “The Swarm,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “The Cheap Detective,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Capricorn One,” “The Cat From Outer Space” and “Hot Lead and Cold Feet.” All films a 13 year old like me could enjoy. And that doesn’t count the more adul fare like “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Damien Omen 2.” I got to see the latter but not the former. One of the best movies summers of my life.

moviebuff82 on May 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Too bad “Superman” didn’t come out until Christmas of that year…had it been released during the summertime it would’ve done good business and be the first superhero movie ever released during the summer; its sequel would become the first superhero movie to be released in America during the summer, although it came out a bit earlier in Europe during the thankgiving holidays.

markp on May 16, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Yeah, I remember that summer too. The theatre where I was working at the time was playing “Grease” in cinema 1 and “Heaven Can Wait” in cinema 2. And, we played both until mid October of that year. I remember how I was just getting the knack of the whole projection thing, (which I still do) and in my spare time talking on my CB radio. (anyone remember them?) I sit alot these days thinking of 1977, 78, 79, they were great movie years, and great for me personally.

BobFurmanek on May 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

The Batman movie with Adam West was playing in theaters in August, 1966. Wouldn’t that be considered a summer movie release?

markp on May 18, 2008 at 5:19 am

Makes sense to me Bob. I remember when my dad was a projectionist, he told me the “summer” season in the movies was between June 15 and Labor Day. Now it seems like May 1st to July 4th and that it. What a difference 30 years makes.

markp on May 18, 2008 at 5:47 am

Do any of you remember what years did Disney do the “Summer Festivals” where each week they did a new double feature, one live action, and one animated. My memory seems to suggest it was 1976, 1977 and 1978, but I’m not sure. I do remember that it was when I was taking interest in following in my fathers footsteps and become a projectionist, so it had to be somewhere in this timeframe. Too bad disney does not do this anymore, but I guess with everyone owning the movies on DVD, no one would come.

TheaterBuff1 on May 19, 2008 at 2:32 am

The two standout movies I remember seeing in theaters that year were SUPERMAN and ANIMAL HOUSE, though I’m sure there were countless others I saw as well. At that time movie theaters were such a solid thing in our lives, as much as the air we breathe itself, and who knew that this wouldn’t always be? In that era there was always the great array of theaters to choose from, and we attended them regularly just as a matter of habit. Think of things we think of today in that same way and imagine those things come tomorrow all suddenly gone. And with no one asking us first, their just going ahead and deciding this for us that those things should no longer be. To a huge extent that seems to be what happened with theaters.

verranth1 on May 19, 2008 at 7:05 am

Thank you for the “blast from the past” – I remember going to the June 17th, 2:00pm, showing of Grease at Sommerville Circle Cinema in New Jersey. The big theatre was packed. At the end of “Summer Nights” – well -it was like an atom bomb went off. People screamed – yelled – applauded. After that number, you just knew this was going to be a great film and indeed it was.

When the film let out – the line for the 4:00pm show was around the theatre. People were coming out of theatre raving about the movie to the people waiting on line….

I’m sorry but that was “buzz” way before the internet and 12 times more powerful.

Animal House was the first R-Rated Film I was ever taken to. An inspired choice!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 5:54 am

Movie534, I do remember the Disney “Summer Festivals” you’re talking about and it was during the summer of 1977. I think I can vaguely remember seeing a double-feature of “Mary Poppins” and “Lady and the Tramp” with my father. Even as a kid, I don’t think those two were any particular favorites of mine.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 5:54 am

I remember now – the festival was called the “Disney Summer Hit Parade”!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 5:56 am

Verranth1, my first R-rated movie was SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. I was 10 years-old. It had everything I could want – great music, plenty of profanity and some female nudity. Ah, Heaven!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 10:34 am

During the summer of 1978, I remember really wanting to see SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND for no other reason that I was really wild about the Bee Gees at the time. I didn’t know any of Peter Frampton’s music (yet) and I wasn’t even aware that the title was from the Beatles original 1967 album (if you can believe that!). I finally saw it on video in the early ‘90s. What a dud!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 10:35 am

By the way, in 1978 alone, there were four (4) “Jaws” rip-off films released theatrically: BARRACUDA, TINTORERA…TIGER SHARK, PIRANHA and of course, JAWS 2.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

Finally, here were the top 20 most popular films of 1978:

  7. FM
  11. JAWS 2
  20. THE WIZ
markp on May 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Boy that list brings back memories. As an apprentice projectionist that year, I remember running film numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 17. And most of them played for what seems forever, not just weeks, but months. Give me those days anytime.

WayBackWhen2008 on May 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm

To “Love Movies-hate going”. I used to have to play chaperone to my older sister on dates, thanks to my mom but I have to say, given that I got to see a few movies I might not have otherwise seen. I remember seeing Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band because my sister had a big crush on Peter Frampton (yuk) John Travolta was cute. Anyway, I go to see “Tommy” too. I loved both movies. I really loved the Bee Gees. They recorded their famous Saturday Night Fever Album in what was Criteria Recoding studio, now called Hit Factory here in Miami, Florida. Maria

MPol on August 18, 2008 at 5:37 am

“Superman I” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” were cool movies, which I enjoyed immensely.
Although I don’t remember exactly where I saw “Close Encounters”, I do recall seeing “Superman I” at the Circle Cinema in Boston, which is located right smack near the Brookline/Brighton line. ( The Circle Cinema was almost converted into condos afew years ago, but, due to neighborhood resistance, this did not happen.)

Back to the subject at hand: “Superman I” looked beautiful on a great, big screen, and so did “Superman II”, which came out later.

MPol on August 18, 2008 at 5:38 am

I also might add that “Saturday Night Fever” was also a neat film, which I saw when it first came out, back in 1978, and then again years later.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

OLIVER’S STORY one of the best. Listen, I was in the business during the summer of 78 and OLIVER’S STORY was a turkey.

GaryCohen on August 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Grease was the word in summer ‘78. As one who was growing up during the 1950s, I never tire of that film. I can’t even count all the times my wife and I have seen it.

ronnie21 on January 15, 2018 at 6:22 am

your forgetting,, Damien :Omen II in june

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