Same Time, Next Year (film)

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Same Time, Next Year
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Screenplay by Bernard Slade
Based on Same Time, Next Year
by Bernard Slade
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Alan Alda
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Cinematography Robert Surtees
Edited by Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
November 22, 1978 (1978-11-22)
Running time
119 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$19.7 million [1]

Same Time, Next Year is a 1978 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Robert Mulligan. The screenplay by Bernard Slade is based on his 1975 play of the same title. The film stars Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.


Plot synopsis

In 1951, at an inn on the Mendocino County coast, Doris (Ellen Burstyn), a 24-year-old housewife from Oakland, meets George (Alan Alda), a 27-year-old accountant from New Jersey at dinner. They have a sexual tryst, then agree to meet once a year to rekindle the sparks they experienced at their first meeting, despite the fact that both are happily married with six children between them. They discuss their spouses, Harry and Helen.

Over the course of the next 26 years, they develop an emotional intimacy deeper than what one would expect to find between two people meeting for a clandestine relationship just once a year. During the time they spend with each other, they discuss births, deaths -including George's son Michael dying in Vietnam, which changes George politically - and the marital problems each experiences at home, while they adapt themselves to the social changes affecting their lives.

At their meeting in 1977, George tells Doris that his wife, Helen, died of cancer earlier in the year, and that Helen revealed to a friend that she had known of the affair for ten years, but never told George she knew. Now a widower, George proposes to Doris who refuses to accept because of her loyalty to, and respect for, Harry. Rejected, George leaves for good—but he returns, and they promise to continue the affair as long as they are able.


The movie is structured as six episodes, each occurring approximately five years apart. Between the scenes are shown a series of photos that depict cultural and political events that had ensued in the years between each segment, such as Harry S. Truman, Nikita Khrushchev, Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley, and John F. Kennedy. The episodes are period-specific, often making references to what was actually happening during the time portrayed. For example, in the segment set in 1966, Doris is caught up in the protest movement at Berkeley, while George takes a Librium and reveals that he'd voted for Barry Goldwater, and later that his son had been killed in Vietnam.

Exteriors for the film were shot at the Heritage House Inn, a well-known resort and bed & breakfast in Little River, California, seven miles south of Mendocino, California. The shell of the cottage was built on a temporary foundation overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but the interior was filmed on the Universal Studios sound stage in Los Angeles. After filming was completed, Universal paid for the shell to be relocated to a permanent foundation and the interior was outfitted with the studio furnishings. The cottage became a popular romantic getaway, so popular in fact that the Heritage House eventually partitioned the cottage in half and added a second bathroom to the opposite end. One half of the cottage was called "Same Time" and the other half called "Next Year". The Heritage House closed due to foreclosure in December 2008. [2] The "Same Time, Next Year" cottage still stands, updated and remodeled, and the Heritage House reopened in the Summer of 2013.

Theme song

Paul McCartney had composed a title song for the film, which he recorded with Wings, that was not used. He later released it as the B-side of a single in 1990. The theme song ultimately used was "The Last Time I Felt Like This," written by Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman and performed by Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor.

Critical reception

While Bernard Slade's acclaimed stage play earned a storm of praise, the movie received mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote "Mr. Slade's screenplay isn't often funny, and it's full of momentous events that can't be laughed away...As directed by Robert Mulligan...Same Time, Next Year is both less and more than it could have been. By moving the action outdoors once in a while, or into the inn's restaurant, Mr. Mulligan loses the element of claustrophobia that might have taken an audience's mind off the screenplay's troubles. But he substitutes the serenity of a California coastal setting, and gives the film a visual glamour that is mercifully distracting. Mr. Mulligan seems to have been more interested in sprucing up the material than in preserving its absolute integrity, and under the circumstances, his approach makes sense... Mr. Alda isn't terribly playful, and he reads every line as if it were part of a joke, which only accentuates the flatness of the script. Miss Burstyn, on the other hand...brings so much sweetness to Doris's various incarnations that the character very nearly comes to life." [3]

Variety called the film "a textbook example of how to successfully transport a stage play to the big screen" and added "The production of Bernard Slade's play, sensitively directed by Robert Mulligan, is everything you'd want from this kind of film. And it features two first class performances by Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda." [4]

Awards and honors

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

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Same Time, Next Year may refer to:

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  1. Box Office Information for Same Time, Next Year. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  2. Heritage House closing, up for auction
  3. New York Times review
  4. Variety review
  5. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.