Note: I am ONLY referring to the first three films, since those were the films that we fell in love with and created the foundation of our Star Wars geekdom.
1. A long time ago …
Star Wars was theatrically released 36 years ago. Sometimes it’s difficult to put numbers in perspective. For those of you that recall seeing Star Wars in theatres, think of it this way: 36 years before Star Wars was released, people were going to theatres to see:
So, while you may recall Star Wars as being released, for kids born in the 21st century, that movie came out a long time ago.
Now some will argue the merit of old films. I won’t dispute that. I regularly watch films that were made from before I was born. Some of them, like Rear Window and Sunset Blvd. are among my all-time favorites.
But, part of the connection that Gen-X had with Star Wars was that exposure to something new and exciting, with special effects that were awe-inspiring at the time. Now kids regularly see special effects that put Star Wars to shame on network television.
Looking back at Star Wars I was surprised to discover that one of the pivotal confrontations really boils down to
Two Old Men Swatting at Each Other with Lightsabers
That’s not going to thrill an audience that has grown used to fight choreography like this:
2. The Big Screen
When Star Wars was released in 1977 it was one of 301 films with a theatrical release. That averages to approximately 5–6 films opening each week. Theatres were fewer and far between. A night out at the movies was an occasional event for kids because there were fewer films targeted at kids. Movies were a pastime for adults, unless it was a Disney feature. Seeing a movie on the big screen was a memorable event for kids in the 70’s. And unless you were lucky enough to see it on the big screen more than once, you were going to have to wait until it aired on network tv in a few years to see it again. It made seeing it a rare and memorable event.
In 2012 there were 677 theatrically released films. That is about 13–14 films per week. Twice as many films each week, more theatres, more screens per theater and more films targeted at the 14 to 34 demographic. Families are heading out to the big screen more frequently than they were in 1977. Seeing a movie today is not as big a family event, even for big summer tentpole films. It’s much harder for a film to stand out as that single memorable event, when there’s so many opportunities for different films to try to take that spot.
3. The little screen
In 1977 Star Wars had fewer films to compete with for our attention and fandom. It had to be just one of the most memorable of 301 films that year. Today it competes against nearly every other movie ever made. Every movie released this year is not only competing against nearly 700 other films for our attention, there’s the thousands of films available on DVD, VOD, and streaming online services such as Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox, VUDU, etc. that bring an enormous catalog of films into our homes every day. Star Wars is just one of many titles that kids can choose from including The Lord of the Rings, The Avengers franchise, The Pirates of The Caribbean franchise, etc.
In that competition are films and tv shows that have borrowed and copied from Star Wars that kids are very likely to have seen. When they see Star Wars, chances are that they may have seen something similar before. For them the thrill of “Wow, I’ve never seen that before!” isn’t there. Despite being the originator, it can come across as “just another” for kids. As opposed to “that movie changed my life”.
4. Letting them have their own heroes.
They may watch the Star Wars movies with you, they may even enjoy the story and characters, but please don’t be disappointed when they don’t love it like you did. Kids need to discover their own heroes. Luke, Han, and Leia are being replaced by Harry, Ron, and Hermione; or Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. And they will try to share their passion for these characters with their kids and come to discover that their kids don’t love them they way they did.