Back to the Future Day may have come and gone however its celebration allowed us here at SearchlightSJ to go back to the past and find an interesting San Jose connection to the film. The bonus features include commentary from Bob Gale, the Co-Creator of the trilogy. In the commentary Gale describes the first public screening of the film in which movie-goers entered the theater not knowing what to expect and left not wanting the fun to end. Steven Spielberg remarks that other than E.T. the first screening of Back to the Future was the greatest preview he had ever seen. Where would such an enthusiastic and fun audience come from? From San Jose of course! In May of 1985 Back to the Future received its first test screening at the Century Domes Theater Complex off of Winchester (the dome has since been granted historic building status by the City of San Jose saving the now defunct theater from the wrecking ball). The screening went so well that the release date was moved up from mid-August to July 3rd in order to capture larger summer audiences. It also resulted in the removal of over 6 minutes of footage which are now available as bonus scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy.
One question remains unanswered surrounding the screening; what prompted the creators of Back to the Future to hold their first screening in San Jose and not at Universal? Spielberg, with his South Bay ties, may have had familiarity with the dome which was completed in 1964, a year prior to his graduation from Saratoga High School. Perhaps more importantly, the creators of Back to the Future wanted an initial screening to occur without the presence of studio executives to maintain creative control over the film. Following the screening several minor tweaks were made before a formal screening at Universal Studios which included studio executive who gave their immediate approval of the film. Regardless the reason of how the sneak peek ended up at the Century Domes it just goes to show that whether back to the future or back to the past, we can always bring it back around to San Jose.