As the film’s plot unfolded the audience became more and more pumped: cheering, laughing, clapping. It was as if we were all passengers on a fantastic journey. I’ve yet to experience a more electric moment at the movies than when Han Solo’s spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, jumped to light speed. The man sitting next to me had his little girl on his lap. They both screamed with joy. The whole theater did.
At the end of the film the audience went ballistic. They couldn’t stop applauding. I watched Lucas slump in his seat, overwhelmed, as if he’d just outrun the Death Star’s super laser. Attendants tried to collect the preview cards, but nobody was filling them out. There was no need.
(I later read that Fox President Alan Ladd Jr. had flown in from Hollywood for the screening and that he was moved to tears. He had green-lighted the film two years earlier and his reputation was on the line.)