Happy 10th anniversary, “Star Wars: Episode I”!!!

posted by moviebuff82 on May 8, 2009 at 3:55 pm

On this month nearly 10 years ago, “Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace” was unleashed to the moviegoing public to record box office despite backlash from die-hard fans and critics. This film started the so-called prequelogy and was the first Star Wars film (and major film) to use Dolby Digital Surround EX, a 6.1 surround sound format that was installed in a handful of theaters before the movie came out, and the first to be shown digitally at select theaters in the country, although the movie was shot on 35mm film; starting with Episode II and then III, it was shot in HD while most theaters were showing it in 35mm. It was nominated for an Oscar for best special effects, but lost out to the much better first “Matrix” movie.

Comments (15)

moviebuff82 on May 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

This was the fourth time I saw a Star Wars movie in the theater. The other three were the original trilogy when it was re-released back in 1997, all at the Loews in Wayne and Secaucus (the first one at the Wayne, the second one at the Secaucus theater and the third at the Wayne). Episode I was at Clifton Commons, and I saw it with my late nana a few weeks after my dad and stepmom saw it while I was on vacation with a school group that week it opened. The movie was ok, but the sound wasn’t digital, it was Dolby Stereo, and I didn’t see it in one of the THX screens; this was at Clifton Commons the month that it opened (at that time it was more than a month old). The next Star Wars movie that I saw, Episode II, was at the Clearview in Mansfield on a DTS surround sound auditorium with razor sharp 35mm projection, and that had a decent love story but dragged on for too long. And finally, Episode III at Clearview in Sucasunna in their biggest house, and it was opening weekend on a Saturday with a huge crowd; I sat nearly close to the screen. Projection was so-so, but the surround sound (Dolby EX) was loud and bombastic. Thank god I didn’t go see Clone Wars at the AMC in Rockaway and stuck with watching the movie on DVD.

GaryParks on May 9, 2009 at 3:48 am

I saw it at the Grand Lake in Oakland, with my mom, plus my cousin, her husband, and their then 5-year-old son. This was only his second or third time ever going out to a movie, and I wanted him to have an early childhood experience of seeing a movie at a classic theatre. It was an experience not lost on him. He wanted his picture taken next to the movie poster which was in one of the columned ornamental niches in the theatre’s outer lobby after the show.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on May 9, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Regardless of how fans and critics tore it apart, I loved it. Yes, Jar Jar Binks was a major pain in the ass, but not nearly as much as the JEDI Ewoks, in my opinion. MENACE was very politically-motivated in its story, which I liked. I saw it on the screen three times in the summer of 1999. I still have a few unopened action figure packages from the film.

jimpiscitelli on May 10, 2009 at 4:40 am

I remember seeing this at Cinemark Melrose Park just over two months after the theatre opened. This was the same for episode III. I saw Episode II at the Crown (now Kerasotes) Village Crossing 18 because they were showing it in digital projection only to find out that it was sold out and ended up seeing it in 35MM instead.

KingBiscuits on May 10, 2009 at 8:44 am

I saw this one at the Springfield 8 in Springfield, Missouri near the end of its first run, I believe in DTS.

I saw Episode II at the Palace (in Springfield) in second run in THX and Episode III at the Campbell 16 Cine on opening day in Dolby Digital EX. I also saw the rather infamous Clone Wars movie at the same theatre as Episode III on opening day, but in a small auditorium in Dolby Digital.

I may also be one of the few people who liked The Clone Wars.

CinemarkFan on May 10, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I saw this at the River Oaks #9 in Calumet City, Il. Other than McClurg #1, I couldn’t imagine seeing it at any other theater.

Because River Oaks slowly declined under horrible management, we ended up seeing II and III at the Loews Country Club Hills.

Coate on May 10, 2009 at 9:00 pm

I saw “Episode I” about a week before its release at a private press screening at the late, great National in Los Angeles' Westwood Village. I was excited at the time to have been able to see the movie in advance of its release, but upon reflection I wish I had waited to see that initial viewing it with a “real” audience.

Upon its release, I saw it several more times during its first couple of weeks in Los Angeles (Village and Chinese), Newport Beach (Big Newport), Irvine (Irvine Spectrum), Anaheim (Cinemapolis), and Temecula (Tower Plaza). And then a few weeks later I saw it again in its digital projection presentation in Burbank at the AMC Burbank 14.

Yes, I enjoyed it enough to see it that many times.

JodarMovieFan on May 11, 2009 at 6:12 am

Are we that hard up on celebratory events that we have to commemorate the release of probably one of the worst of the Star Wars' movies??? Okay, I’m being flip.

I did see this movie probably 6 times in theaters. The most memorable was at Baltimore’s Senator Theater. I had just come to realize its existence and classic nature just a few months prior(?) when they showed 60th anniversary editions of both the Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. Also, they were advertising the fact that they had just installed the then new Dolby Digital EX sound system and it was probably the best venue to see and experience the film and it was. It was a family event as my older brother and parents came with me. Unfortunately, my Dad couldn’t tolerate the ‘loudness’ of the film after the disintegration blast of Qui-Gon’s and Obi-Won’s ship by the Trade Federation Fish Heads. He got up and left the theater to sit it out in the car.

I believe the other times I saw this movie was at DC’s Uptown; which had the best screen but not the best sound, in VA at National Amusement’s now closed Arlington Blvd Multiplex; Hoyts (now Regal) theaters in Bowie, MD and Alexandria, VA both, which had the Dolby Digital EX installs in their two-story auditoriums and were probably equal to the Senator in sound delivery oomph.

People can say what they want about how irritating Jar Jar was and the irritating nature of the young Anakin, but as with any saga, this was the beginning Lucas wanted to tell. The movie is full of great action sequences, in particular the fight scene between Darth Maul, Qui Gon and Obi-wan. It was almost like watching a fight that was ballet choreographed with some of the fluid, if graceful movements.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I too am not ashamed to admit I enjoyed “The Phantom Menace”, enough to see it 11 times in a theater. Looking back, it’s probably the best of the three prequels, Jar Jar and all, featuring my favorite performance in all three films (Liam Neeson’s) and the most amazing action sequence (the Duel of the Fates).

moviebuff82 on May 11, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I disagree with you Bill. Episode III was the best, since it tied the loose ends between the first trilogy and the classic trilogy by introducing Darth Vader’s birth. BTW, Darth Vader will return to the big screen as a cameo in the upcoming “Night at the Museum 2” movie, alongside Oscar the Grouch.

KingBiscuits on May 16, 2009 at 2:46 am

I think people hate Episode III for the “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” scene.

And the Darth Vader cameo in Night At The Museum 2 looks like a bad ploy to get people to see a sequel that shouldn’t make been made in the first place.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on May 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I took a girl to see this movie on opening weekend in Long Beach at the newly opened (at the time) Edwards Long Beach 26. The lights in the auditorium came on right as the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan/Darth Maul fight started. We all got our money back. Coolness.

About that girl: 10 years, 2 wedding bands and 2 kids later, she’s still on my arm. I can never say that George Lucas didn’t give me nothing!

moviebuff82 on May 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm

At the time, Episode I, adjusted for inflation, became one of the most expensive movies Lucas made and one of a few big-budget Star Wars movies. Yet it turned a profit worldwide, which continued for the next two movies and sold really well on VHS and DVD. Interestingly, Star Wars I came out on VHS and Laserdisc during DVD’s third year…I bought the film on VHS at my local Blockbuster in pan-and-scan and in Dolby Surround sound. Once the movie finally arrived on DVD with extra minutes…it was worth watching again with the surround sound and the very soft picture. I hope the Bluray release improves the movie!!!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 3, 2010 at 1:53 am

I admit I am no “STAR WARS” fan,but i did watch this thing years ago with the kids and all the computer generated stuff it makes you sick.

raysson on July 14, 2010 at 12:07 am

I saw this opening night in Raleigh at the Mission Valley Cinemas. Before the 7:00 show,the lines were snaked around the cinema and it sold-out in almost 10 minutes. When the audience’s reaction got noticed to how REALLY bad this movie was,half of the audience walked out the theatre in total disappointment(seating capacity showed this in Mission Valley’s largest auditorium that had a seating capacity of over 780,in widescreen and THX Dobly). What a waste since I had purchase my ticket for the matinee show,but got in on the student price(the matinee ticket was $3.50 while regular admission was $8.00-9.00!,so I got in on the matinee ticket that could be used for the evening show).

In agreement with Justin Fencsak, Episode III WAS AWESOME!!!…While Episodes I and II were nothing but hype up special effects with the rest of the material looking like a science fiction version of a prime time teenage soap opera and a lame as hell TV series.

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