The Robert Wise film Star Trek—The Motion Picture opened in 856 theaters across North America on Dec. 7, 1979.
The first tickets became available through a mail-in form in the Nov. 16 New York Daily News for a “Reserved Performance Engagement” at the Paramount Theater on Broadway, while in-person sales began there on Nov. 21.
The line started forming at 10 p.m. the night before, and several hundred people were queued when the box office opened in the morning. The average national ticket price was around $2.50, but tickets in New York for the Robert Wise film were $6, and by the end of November 21 Paramount had grossed over $41,000 in both box-office and mail-order sales. The Jan. 9, 1980 Daily Variety later estimated that about 23 percent of the more than one billion movie tickets sold in 1979 were for Star Trek—The Motion Picture.
Fathom Events is holding 40th Anniversary screenings of the Robert Wise film on Sept. 15 and 18 in about a dozen multiplexes throughout the Bay Area. There will be two screenings each day, and according to Fandango’s reserved-seating widget, only a handful of tickets have been sold as of mid-August. What a difference a reputation as the worst film in a 50-year, multi-billion dollar franchise makes, huh?
Most commonly referred to as “the slow, boring one with the bald chick” when it’s referred to at all, the first Star Trek movie has long been considered an embarrassment by both Paramount Pictures and fans alike, especially after the immediate sanctification of Nicholas Meyer’s overpraised 1982 sequel The Wrath of Khan. Indeed, a recent screening of Wrath at the Castro was “to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Star Trek motion pictures,” but not to commemorate Star Trek—The Motion Picture itself, because it’s not the one where William Shatner yells “Khaaan!” (It’s so funny when William Shatner yells “Khaaan!”, LOL!)
2019 Fall Arts Preview
• Books – Get some humor in Hard Times
• Art – the next great anti-war art
• Music – Punk band gets back together
• Theater – Lesbian comedy highlights new season
• Miscellaneous – Up close and personal with Charo
In spite of it not being the one where William Shatner yells “Khaaan!,” The Motion Picture is still worth seeing in the theater if only because it’s the only original Star Trek film designed to be seen on as big and wide a screen as possible. It was intended to be a truly cinematic experience, with a scope and sense of grandeur none of the later films attempted.
Remarkably, there’s still a 35mm print of The Motion Picture in circulation. It played at the Castro in 2016 but as is so often the case with repertory exhibition in general and Fathom in particular, what will be shown in September is for all intents and purposes the same as the commercially-available Blu-ray.
So it’ll be a digital projection mostly in the smaller auditoriums of the participating multiplexes, meaning it won’t truly recreate what it was like to see the film in 1979 at the Paramount Theater, or even at the Castro in 2016. But it’s as close as this singularly unloved film can get to a proper theatrical exhibition in 2019, and it’s still worth seeing, even though it doesn’t have William Shatner yelling “Khaaan!”
Five Other Films and Film Festivals We’re Excited About
Legacy Film Festival on Aging
Sept. 20-22, 2019,
at the New People Cinema
Three days of films from around the world which showcase the often challenging, sometimes profound process of growing older — and if you’re lucky, it’ll even happen to you.
San Francisco Green Festival
Sept. 24-29, 2019, at the Castro Theater and the Roxie Theater
This festival of photosynthesis is now in its ninth year of showing vital stories from the front lines of the environmental wars.
Roger Waters: Us + Them
Oct. 2, 2019, Landmark Opera Plaza and Century San Francisco Centre 9
A documentary of former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters’ tour for his 2017 solo album Is This the Life We Really Want?, which in all but name was the best Floyd album since 1977.
Oct. 1, 2019, at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
David Cronenberg’s 1977 sophomore feature starring Marilyn Chambers as a woman who develops a thirst for blood — and a brand-new organ for ingesting it — returns for one very gross night only.
Nov. 17, 2019, opens wide
Rian Johnson’s first film since The Last Jedi ruined the childhoods of Star Wars fanboys, or whatever their beef with it was. (It’s still unclear.)