Tag Archives: Star wars movies

Naptown Nostagia: The Eastwood Theater took us to that galaxy far, far away

NOTE: This is a reprint of my article that appeared in the October 2011 edition of Indianapolis Senior Life. My thanks to Mr. Dave Battas for sharing his story of how he secured Star Wars for the Indianapolis market. We are forever grateful. 

Eastwood

This original artist rendering shows the Eastwood Theater as it was conceived in the late 1960’s as an 800-seat one screen auditorium. The movie house opened in September of 1968 with the comedy “Prudence and the Pill” followed by “Funny Girl”

The Eastwood Theater sat adjacent to the old Ayr-Way anchored shopping center along Pendleton Pike and was known for its curved-screen, free popcorn refills and having the best sound system in the city.

“I saw Tommy there,” said Robert Baker.

The Eastwood was owned by Y&W management Company which owned a number of indoor and outdoor theaters around Central Indiana and when they decided to open their new “road house’ theater on the east side, they asked Dave Battas to book the movies, manage and market the place.

“We opened the Eastwood on September 10, 1968 with Prudence and the Pill with Funny Girl following soon afterward,” he said.

The Eastwood offered their audiences reserved seating and advanced ticket sales of their limited engagement runs such as Paint Your Wagon and boasted uniformed usherettes who showed folks to their seats before the theater later segued to book traditional releases in the 1970’s.

Originally the theater had a flat screen but due to the number of films shot in Cinerama, a curved screen was installed in 1973 and never replaced. Battas booked several celebrity appearances at the Eastwood and took a lot of pride in the theater. After noticing a patron writing on the wall after a showing of Woodstock, Battas attached white paper to plywood boards and encouraged people to leave their mark as they left.

An old Fashioned "Grape Stomp" was organized in the Eastwood's lobby for "The Secret of Santa Vittoria" starring Anthony Quinn. Former Eastwood manager Dave Battas said he was always trying to find special events to tie-in with the pictures in order to draw crowds.

An old Fashioned “Grape Stomp” was organized in the Eastwood’s lobby for “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” starring Anthony Quinn. 

“There were a lot of names, dates, poems and peace symbols,” he said. “I hung those sheets all over the lobby.”

Though The Eastwood was known for a variety of movie offerings, the one that stands out for most movie goers is was the film Battas acquired in October of 1976. A 20th Century Fox representative asked Battas to consider a run of a new science fiction picture that was to be released the following summer. It was a tough sell. The film was made in England on a closed set. The principle actors were unknowns and the director was unproven.

“The working title is called Star Wars,” the representative said, promising Battas a selection of drive-in films if he took the little sci-fi odyssey, agreed to a $50,000 advance and installed a state-of-the-art Dolby sound system.

“We were the perfect theater for the picture because it was shot in 70mm and we had one of the few 70mm projectors in the area,” Battas said, explaining how he scored the exclusive run of a movie that went on to shatter box office records. “I didn’t even see the film until two days before it opened,” said Battas. “When I saw that opening sequence, I laughed because I knew it was going to be big.”

The film the Eastwood was notorious for was the initial run of "Star Wars" in 1977. This marquee shows that the movie was well-received enough to play at the Eastwood for a solid year.

The film the Eastwood was notorious for was the initial run of “Star Wars” in 1977. This marquee shows that the movie was well-received enough to play at the Eastwood for a solid year.

Star Wars proved to be bigger than big, filling the 800-seat theater to capacity at each of the five daily showings. Lines for the movie stretched into the parking lot and past a nearby Dairy Queen which also benefitted from the engagement.

“I guess people were buying ice cream like crazy while they waited,” he said. “To this day, it remains the movie for which the theater is best known.”

Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Eastwood became the place to see movies known for their special effects and sound quality such as Grease, Annie and Cocoon, but as multiplexes became more common it was harder for single screen movie houses to compete.

“When you are only showing one film for eight to 12 weeks, you can’t make a mistake in booking,” Battas said. “Multiplexes have an economic advantage.”

The theater eventually segued from movies to a live concert venue before closing altogether in the early 1990’s. Today only two walls of the facility remain as part of the Menards lumber yard but for those who first heard about a Pinball Wizard, learned that Grease was the word or caught sight of that galaxy far, far away, the memories of the Eastwood live on as a treasured piece of the city’s cinematic history.

 

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December Column Glo Magazine: Aren’t You a Little Old To Be a Disney Princess?

She is the 59-year-old wife of a former Corellian smuggler, the mother of three, a politician, revolutionary and trained warrior. Although she is a far cry from the doe-eyed ingénue I first saw in the summer of 1977, when she returns to the big screen this month after a 32-year hiatus, she will become my favorite “Disney” princess for all time. She is Leia Organa of Alderaan.

Now, before you purists out there start sending in the hate mail disputing whether or not Leia qualifies as a true Disney princess, let me ask you this: Has she ever gotten lost in the woods? Is she missing at least one parent and have strained relations with the other? Does she have an assortment of cute, comical sidekicks? Does she have a rogue boyfriend? Does she sport a trademark hairstyle? I rest my case. Let’s move on…

Leia           I was five-years-old when I “met” the adopted daughter of Bail and Breha Organa and believe me, it was love at first sight. I was among that first wave of kids who stood in line to see Star Wars at the local single-screen movie theater back when there was only one movie and before George Lucas redefinied numerical order as we knew it. Like a lot of little girls I had been raised on a steady diet of traditional fairy-tale princesses who sang to woodland creatures and cleaned house until their prince came to carry them away but Leia was a princess for a new generation. She had the bravery of Merida, the moxie of Mulan, the beauty of Belle and understood difficult hairstyles better than Rapunzel herself!

Leia may have been a damsel and she may have been in distress, but her reactions to peril are anything but conventional. She had no trouble talking back to authority. She could take charge of any situation. She knew how to wield a weapon when necessary and Lord help the scruffy-looking nerfherder who got in her way. She was an iconic character who was everything I wanted to be when I grew up: strong, courageous, independent and vital to the storyline. She was the epitome of a feminist role model long before I knew what the term even meant.

Leia2          I find it interesting that my mother introduced me to classic “house of mouse” royalty such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but it was my father who first took me to see Star Wars. My dad gave me a princess who didn’t need a ball gown or a great pair of shoes to make an impression on those around her, but possessed a spirit and spunk big enough to outshine any fashion statement including buns, braids and even a metal bikini. She may have been a princess in need of rescuing, but throughout the course of the original trilogy, she does a fair amount of rescuing herself. Not only does she blast her way into a garbage chute in order to escape certain death, she co-pilots the Millennium Falcon twice, rescues Han from carbon freeze, kills the creep who objectifies her, and still manages to take down her enemy after getting shot in the shoulder. What more could a little girl want?

Leia 3            How about a princess who knows how to age gracefully? That’s right folks, according to the latest trailer for Episode VII, it appears that the good people in charge of the Star Wars universe have decided not to give Leia a Disney makeover. Based on the footage I have seen it’s obvious that after 40 years, the clock is well past midnight, the glass slipper no longer fits and it’s OK to be a little older, a little wiser and yes, even a little grayer. While all of the other princesses have been restored, remastered or digitally enhanced so that they look as good as they did when they first arrived, Leia proves you don’t have to look as you did a “long time ago” even if you do live in a galaxy far, far away.

Although I initially struggled with the idea of Disney owning the rights to the Star Wars franchise and making new movies, I’ve made my peace with it. I am even OK with Leia taking her rightful place as a Disney princess. She is one of the most well-written female characters of all time and no doubt she paved the way for people like Hermonie Granger, Katniss Eberdeen and even Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries.) She is a personality who stands the test of time and proves over and over that she is still a “force” to be reckoned with.

Welcome back, your highness. It’s good to see you again.

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