1981, 40th Anniversary, Baton Rouge, Bon Marche Mall, Cairo, California, Cinema 8, Disney World, Disneyland, DisneySea, East Baton Rouge Parish, Film, Film Trailer, Florida, Force Ten From navarone, Friday, George Lucas, Han Solo, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, John Williams, June 5, Louisiana, MGM Studios, Movie, Movie Magic, Movie Theater, Orlando, Peruvian, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sneak Preview, Star Wars, Steven Spielberg, The Empire Strikes Back, Tokyo, TV Commercial
I arrived home to the apartment where I lived with my mother and sister in the late afternoon on Friday, June 5, 1981. School in East Baton Rouge Parish in southeast Louisiana had already been out for the summer for a week or two. I was an elementary school student.
I was helping my sister unpack groceries when a commercial came on TV for Raiders of the Lost Ark (now known as “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”). There was to be a sneak preview (remember those?) that evening at Cinema 8 movie theater at Bon Marche Mall in Baton Rouge. Cinema 8 had been chosen as one of many theaters in many cities around the country to premiere the film a week before general release.
I was occupied at the time and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commercial. As with many TV commercials for films in the eighties, it happened quick with a lot of fast, random flashes of action and not enough to show you what the film was really about—a smart marketing tactic compared to today where you already know the essence of the film (and sometimes the spoilers and big reveals) in the very first trailer. All I remember seeing was Harrison Ford playing a cowboy riding a horse and holding on to the front of a big truck in a desert, and that it was a collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Harrison Ford is doing a cowboy film? I thought. I don’t know that I want to see this. In 1981, in my mind, Harrison Ford was Han Solo. He was a sci-fi/fantasy actor. O.k., I did like him in Force Ten From Navarone (1978) after Star Wars, but I could not imagine my screen hero playing a cowboy. He is not a cowboy in Raiders, but when I saw him wearing a wide brim hat in the TV commercial (I didn’t know the difference between a fedora and a cowboy hat back then) I just assumed that it was a cowboy flick.
The phone rang. It was my mom calling from work saying that a friend of hers had scored tickets to the sold-out sneak preview at Cinema 8 and that we were all going that evening. Lovely. I thought that I was just going to see another cowboy film from a genre that I had no interest in. Little did I realize that Raiders of the Lost Ark would turn out to be the most thrilling time I had in a movie theater since The Empire Strikes Back the year before.
From the opening scene in the Peruvian temple to the closing credits, the audience at Cinema 8 that night was on the edge of their seats enjoying a non-stop rollercoaster adventure the likes of which has rarely been equaled or surpassed in film. I had never experienced such a boisterous and energetic audience reaction in a movie theater before and have not since. The scene where Indy shoots the swordsman on the street in Cairo brought the house down. Talk about audience participation!