Remastered ‘Five Summer Stories’ to screen Monday at Fiesta 5 Theatres
The 1970s surfing cult classic, “Five Summer Stories,” will return to the silver screen in Santa Barbara on Monday as the film’s 50th anniversary screening tour makes its final stop at Fiesta 5 Theatres.
Proceeds from the 7:30 p.m. screening will benefit the Surfrider Foundation and Oceania, two nonprofits dedicated to protecting oceans and preserving coastal communities.
The film has been digitally remastered for the tour.
There have been four different iterations of “Five Summer Stories,” with writer and director Greg MacGillivray adding and removing scenes to both maintain a contemporary feel to the film and reward repeat viewings by the film’s fanatic fan base with new content.
The movie now features 10 distinct vignettes as opposed to the previous versions that typically presented viewers with around five.
“Five Summer Stories,” which originally was released in 1972 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, instantly captured the imagination of surfers and non-surfers alike with its unique vignettes that blended scenes of surfing, filmed using state-of-the art technology, with the politics surrounding the surf community at that time.
It’s all set to a soundtrack that featured songs provided by the Beach Boys and another band, Honk.
“The majority of the audience were people who were interested in the culture of surfing — they weren’t hardcore surfers, although we got them as well,” said Greg MacGillivray, the nephew of the late Santa Barbara Mayor Don MacGillivray.
“It became a cultural phenomenon,” Mr. MacGillivray told the News-Press. “It was just the thing for every young person to take their favorite girl to. It was kind of a marriage of a film plus a rock concert, because the sound and music were so good.”
Aside from the never-before-seen style of the film and its highly acclaimed soundtrack, its ability to capture the politics of the day also contributed to “Five Summer Stories’” cultural impact and relevance upon its release and subsequent re-releases.
“You have to remember in 1972 that there was no California Coastal Commission, there was no Surfrider Foundation,” explained Mr. MacGillivray. “But there was a lot of concern for the environment. Earth Day had just happened, Congress was passing bills like (establishing) the EPA, Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act.”
“The society was fragmented,” he continued. “You had the Vietnam War going on, hippies were picketing Richard Nixon in the Whitehouse. (Nixon) was so fearful of hippies and surfers that he signed something like 26 environmental bills that were passed by the Democratic Congress, and he did it because he didn’t want those guys outside of the White House — so you ended up getting all those bills that mean so much to every environmentalist today.”
In addition to larger environmental issues that continue to resonate among surfing and coastal communities, the film also sought to bring to light and address grievances that surfers had with the ever increasing commercialization of the sport that began during that era — as well as the issue of coastal access that continues to roil oceanside communities, including Santa Barbara, to this day.
“There’s several sequences (of the film) that did impact and help change the world of surfing,” Mr. MacGillivray said. “One of them was a criticism of competition surfing, where surfers at that time were being paid very little or nothing to go into a surfing contest — for example at Huntington Beach — and the sponsors would make money from it. They’d associate themselves with all these famous names and surfers, they televised the event to their benefit, they’d make money from all of this, and cities would make money from hotels, restaurants, the attraction of surfing — but the surfers would get nothing, and every surfer felt that was unfair but no one was listening.”
“The other thing that (Jim Freeman, another writer on the film who died in a 1976 helicopter accident) and I felt strongly about was that our beaches were being closed off, being privatized and sold for freeways,” Mr. MacGillivray recounted. “There’s a great surf spot just south of (Santa Barbara) called Stanley’s Diner that was right along the Old Coast Road below Rincon that was wiped out by the new freeway, and nobody even cared. But it was one of those kinds of surf spots that every surfer loved, but the politicians didn’t even think about it.”
In addition to participating in the anniversary screenings of “Five Summer Stories,” Mr. MacGillivray will also be releasing a memoir this November titled “Five Hundred Summer Stories: A Life in IMAX,” which will depict his time working in the world of filmmaking.
Among other things, the book will include an interactive feature through the use of QR codes that will allow readers to watch scenes from “Five Summer Stories” as Mr. MacGillivray recounts his experiences filming them.