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Now Playing: Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

Back in August, I was driving home from work, and what should I see on the marquee of the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena but this:

Aug 5 Star Trek II The Wrath of Kahn (sic)

Of course I had to call up to find out what was going on.



I learned that they always have a Saturday midnight movie. I knew they've had a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" for decades now, but it turns out they show RHPS only once a month. They also show other 'cult movies' at their Saturday midnight show. “Dark Crystal” and “Lost Boys” were among two of their recent films. The Rialto is an extraordinarily cool theatre, one of several classic 1920s “themed movie palaces” which still survive in the greater Los Angeles area. The Rialto is done in an Egyptian/Moroccan motif.

So a friend and I decided to go see ST2 on the big screen that August night. It was a typical midnight movie crowd. Clearly a lot of the RHPS people were in attendance as some women were wearing Goth clothing. Everyone had a good time.

But they actually didn't show ST2; they showed ST4, because of some screw up with Paramount. The theater owner said something scary about, because of the heat wave, some of Paramount’s movies had been damaged. Don't they have a clue about climate control??? Scary! He said they’d reschedule ST2 at some point. ST4 was fine with us - we enjoyed watching the Enterprise crew save the whales and save the world all over again.

ST2 was rescheduled for last night, November 18. I went with the same friend; we showed up right as the box office opened. We were the first ones in line, and for a few moments I thought we’d be the only people there. Depressing thought, but as it turned out quite a crowd showed up just before midnight. Many Goth girls and boys, many ST fans (complete with Star Trek pins, etc.), and quite a few ‘mundanes’ were in attendance.

The theatre owner came out and introduced the movie. He said that, as an apology for the August screwup, Paramount had provided a pristine copy, and he sure was right. The print was beautiful, clear and crisp.

It was quite an enthusiastic crowd! People cheered the credits – DeForest Kelley, George Takei and Ricardo Montalban getting the most applause. One guy was quite enthusiastic in his clapping and hollering for Kirstie Alley.

Here’s a fun coincidence too. There’s an article in this morning’s edition of “The Los Angeles Times” about South Pasadena’s redevelopment plan. They illustrated the article with a photo of the Rialto, which included – I had to squint really good – a view of the poster for “The Wrath of Khan” in one of their window displays.

It was quite an experience, seeing a Star Trek movie on the big screen again! And it made me flash back to the first time I ever saw “The Wrath of Khan” – also at a midnight screening, at a theatre in San Francisco, when it premiered in 1982.

Back then, we were all filled with trepidation because of the many rumors which had swirled around this film. Would Spock really die? Had they filmed that awful script that had been leaked out to fandom? Would this be the end of Trek forever? If they truly killed Spock, with no hope of resurrection, I knew a good portion of fandom would just drop away.

The storyline in the “leaked” script had Spock dying approximately 1/3 of the way into the movie, in a not particularly memorable way. By way of memorial, Kirk has a couple of lines in which he says Spock knew the job was dangerous when he took it. Spock is never mentioned again.

That script inspired the whole “Save Spock” “campaign”. A friend of mine was one of the organizers. She did financial analysis in “real life”, and arranged to be interviewed by “The Wall Street Journal” about the financial impact on Paramount of killing off such a popular character. She figured that Paramount would assume we were just a bunch of crazy fans, but they might pay attention to a dry analytical piece in “The Wall Street Journal”. (Of course, it was Leonard Nimoy changing his mind about future participation in the movies that did the trick.)

As the day of the premiere approached, we all were incredibly on-edge with anticipation. We absolutely had to be the first people to see this movie!

We heard about a midnight VIP-only premiere scheduled at a specific San Francisco movie theater. A local radio station was having a contest -- one of those where, if you heard a particular song and you were caller # Whatever, you could win 4 (free!) tickets to this premiere.

The local K/S contingent by this time was over 20 women strong. We were determined that we would all go to the VIP-only premiere. All we had to do is win enough of those radio contests!

And so those of us who had access to a radio and a telephone during the day spent the next couple of days glued to the radio, fingers poised over the phone. I drove my boss nuts! But I succeeded! And so did several other people. Ultimately, we won tickets for our entire group.

One of our group knew George Takei, and arranged for all of us to have dinner with him before the premiere. What a lovely man he is! So entertaining, so full of funny stories.

We took the time, about an hour before the movie started, to telephone friends on the east coast (who had already seen the film at a sneak preview there) to get their impressions – they were all still in shock.

We saw the movie, and - emotionally stunned as we were – we immediately got in line to see the movie again at the regular premiere later that day. Who needs sleep? Someone brought along a battery-powered TV and Betamax VCR and played “Space Seed” for the people in line, so we could witness Khan’s villainy twice over.

Now, back to the present at the Rialto Theatre. People applauded the closing credits, and we all filed out into the night.

24 years later. It’s a cliche that time flies, but it most certainly does. Many wonderful years, and all of them spent in fandom.

Some info on the Rialto can be found here:

http://www.landmarktheaters.com/Market/LosAngeles/RialtoTheatreB.htm

From the article:
The Rialto opened its doors October 17, 1925, and “the Rialto endures as one of the finest and least adulterated works of L.A. Smith studios extant in greater Los Angeles.”
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– also at a midnight screening, at a theatre in San Francisco, when it premiered in 1982.

Great story! Thank you so much!
It was *so* much fun to watch Trek on a big screen again, *and* with such an enthusiastic audience!
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I used to go to the Rialto a lot. Most films were viewed as regular films, but I remember seeing an old Sherlock Holmes film starring Basil Rathbone. The audience would cheer everytime we heard a "Elementry, my dear Watson" or a "the game's afoot!" It was delightful.

So, they're redevloping the area; is the Rialto safe? And thanks for the journey via the Wayback Machine. *g*
How cool about the Sherlock Holmes films, and the cheering audience!

>>>So, they're redevloping the area; is the Rialto safe?

South Pas is so sleepy! I had no qualms about going to the Rialto at midnight. Yes, it's safe. The theatre is dilapidated, but not nearly as much as it used to be. Maybe you had the same experience a friend of mine did in the 1970s? She told me that some of the seats were so moth-eaten, it was a wonder people didn't fall through.

They've done a lot of work on it since then, but it still needs a *lot* of work - broken seats, chairs with taped-up seats, etc. Chipped paint everywhere. But it still has that wonderful sense of ruined grandeur these places have.

The Rialto currently shows "arty" films. They're currently playing that Borat movie - I'm not going to bother looking up that long title...! :-) I've been there a few times in the last several years to see "regular" movies, too.

South Pas is trying for a different type of redevelopment than the usual. They're planning to keep out chain stores and restaurants. Instead, they want to continue with what they're already doing, which is boutique stores, "arty" stores, individual restaurants, etc.
(Posted again due to wrong formatting)

We saw the movie, and - emotionally stunned as we were – we immediately got in line to see the movie again at the regular premiere later that day. Who needs sleep? Someone brought along a battery-powered TV and Betamax VCR and played “Space Seed” for the people in line, so we could witness Khan’s villainy twice over.

So cool! Thanks for sharing a great story :) :)
You're very welcome! :-)
>>>That would have quite honestly broken my heart. God, Paramount, what made you think that was a good idea ever? It's probably a good thing the canon was already established before I got into Trek, or I would be a nervous wreck.

It was sure stressful at the time. That first, leaked script was - as I recall - coldblooded and heartless. It sure galvanized fandom into action!

And Leonard Nimoy had stressed, over and over again, his disinterest in continuing to be involved in Trek. He had refused to participate in Gene Roddenberry's planned TV revival of the original series (later 70s), and so Roddenberry created another Vulcan character to replace him. (Xon, whose character concept would later "morph" into Data in TNG.)

Rather than try to detail all of this - which you are probably familiar with anyway - I just did a quick google search and found this link which seems to be in line with my memory of events:

>>>http://www.moria.co.nz/sf/startrek2.htm

Here's the relevant portion:

"The great controversy before The Wrath of Khan premiered was the leaked knowledge that the series cult figure of the coldly logical half-human, half-alien Spock would be killed off. Distraught Trekkers threatened to boycott the film, even taking out newspaper ads to protest to Paramount. It seemed a creative decision tailored more to Leonard Nimoy's perpetual vacillation regarding the role than anything else. Nimoy had written an autobiography I Am Not Spock (1976), which stated his desire not to be typecast and had then announced he would not be reprising the role of Spock for the planned Star Trek tv revival in 1977. The character of an alternate Vulcan science officer Xon had been created and cast to get around his absence. By the time the tv revival had evolved into The Motion Picture, Nimoy had rescinded his decision and announced his return. Star Trek II seemed written to kill Spock off once and for all. But then by the next film, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Nimoy had parlayed his fan popularity into getting the opportunity to direct the film in agreement for his return. His subsequent creative control both as director and producer on the later films obviously satisfied his indecision enough for him to then turn around and write a new biography entitled I Am Spock (1995)."

Here's some more info about the proposed 1970s series:

http://www.mania.com/18233.html

It's interesting to think that, if LN had said "no" to future appearances of Spock, perhaps the next movie would have failed. If so, Paramount would probably never have thought of doing STTNG, and all the other versions of Trek they have done since then. LN's decision to continue playing Spock probably resulted in *all* of the subsequent Trek "franchise".