A long time ago, in a nearby neighborhood…

“Star Wars Etc.” feature from Ann Arbor News, May 1983. © The Ann Arbor News.

It’s no surprise that Ann Arbor loves Star Wars, and always has. This saga, that crosses generations, has Ann Arbor woven into its DNA. Darth Vader, one of the handful of characters who spans the entire series, is voiced by U-M graduate James Earl Jones. Another U-M graduate, Lawrence Kasdan, wrote several of the best-loved Star Wars films. And, a small Lucasfilm crew filmed many of “Star Wars'” corridor scenes in the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Lucas’ body of work started with THX-1138, a feature of the closing night of the 1968 Ann Arbor Film Festival.

A few years later, Rich Quackenbush of the Ann Arbor News tried to warn viewers away from “Star Wars:”

“‘Star Wars’: Some Slick Tricks That Entertain,” June 1976. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

His words went unheeded:

Star Wars line at Briarwood, June 1977. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

Here’s the old ticket booth, in the hallway outside the theater. This is where the line would start to buy tickets. It stretched out to the court in front of JC Penney:

Star Wars line at Briarwood, June 1977. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

(Standing in this spot today, you would find Cinnabon where Thom McAn (yesteryear shoe store) was. and Bakers was where Claire’s Accessories is now. Happy Hero, down the hall, was a regional sub-sandwich restaurant also found in other area malls.)

Even nearly a month after its release it was pulling lines like this and compelling theatres to set up special policies for sales:

Star Wars ad, June 15, 1977. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

It was showing at the Campus Theater on South University too, at that time the largest screen in town.

When “The Empire Strikes Back” hit screens, South University was ready with a tie-in:

South University Merchants Association. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

I implore you, click on the above ad to see both pages. Even Rich Quackenbush, who’d panned the previous installment, praised it, due in large part to beloved U-M professor Ralph Williams’ supporting role as the hero’s mentor, Yoda.

“‘The Empire’ is a winner.” June 20, 1980. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

By 1983, Commie Kids and MYA Miscreants were all camping out to be the first to see “Jedi:”

“Getting ready for ‘Jedi’: a long night,” May 25, 1983. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

I was in third grade, so on release day, I got the the junior novelization in my school book orders, and of course I immediately read it to spoil the story.

Briarwood countered South U and Community Newscenter with their own Darth Vader appearance. WAS IT THE REAL VADER? Click the photo below for some of that smashmouth journalism you won’t get in a “mobile app.”

“Guess Who,” June 26, 1983. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

Happy Star Wars Day everyone! The next scheduled Star Wars film screening in town is “The Force Awakens,” at Top of the Park on June 29.

  • CORRECTION: “Star Wars” was not filmed in the Hatcher Graduate Library. The film in question was “Answer This!” (2011). A2R.S regrets the error.
  • CORRECTION STRIKES BACK: Professor Ralph Williams did not play the hero’s mentor in “The Empire Strikes Back” (1983). He played the hero’s mentor in “Answer This!” (2011). A2R.S regrets the error.

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