Features

Star Wars buildup

Culture | Intense fans line up ahead of an intense blockbuster opening

Issue: "Senate wars over judges," May 14, 2005

A long time ago at a theater far, far away, 50 or so Star Wars fans got in line for a film not slated to open for seven weeks.

All right, it was only April 2 when fans began to line up for Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith at Los Angeles' Grauman's Chinese Theatre. But there was a problem: Although Grauman's was the place Star Wars premiered in 1977, the final installment in the Star Wars family wouldn't show at the legendary theater. Word soon spread throughout the line that Episode III had actually been slated to premiere on May 19 at the ArcLight Theatre about a mile away.

Still, by May 4-more than a month after lining up and nearly two weeks since learning they were standing in front of the wrong theater-the line persisted. Star Wars devotee and line member Alex Flipse of Encino, Calif., took to answering a pay phone outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre: "Star Wars line," he would say as he picked up the receiver.

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Is it true Star Wars fans are lining up in front of the wrong theater? "Yeah," he says. "We were a bit disappointed by that. We planned this thing a year ago and thought they'd show it here at this theater. It started here and it should end here." So if you plan on staying in front of the wrong theater, how will you see the show? "When it gets close to opening, we'll just walk over."

The Star Wars fans have a plan at least-and they've had idle time to think it through. Mr. Flipse, a relative latecomer to the line, said he signed up for a spot in line in late April, but had already logged nearly 30 hours in his first week. About 150 Star Wars fans in all are logging hours. Anyone can sign up with a $50 donation to a local children's charity and a promise to spend some serious hours in line. Unlike other lines, Star Wars devotees have been able to sign in and sign out of the line at Grauman's. The more hours logged in line, the further up the list you move.

Mr. Flipse described the strategy of many line-goers: "Some people find it easier to rack up hours by sleeping here." A parking lot across the street closes at midnight and about a dozen line members bed down on benches or in tents pitched in the parking lot. During the daytime, around 10 fans hang out watching DVDs supplied by Netflix. Mr. Flipse said Willow and The Last Samurai have been hits with the crowd.

Just like the line forming, the actual movie, Episode III-Revenge of the Sith, promises intensity. Unlike the previous five films, the sixth installment (and final prequel) to George Lucas's film titan has earned a PG-13 rating for sci-fi violence and some rather intense images. In short: If Episode I and II, with such characters as Jar Jar Binks, was for the kids, Episode III, which chronicles the rise of intergalactic heel Darth Vader, is for the adults.

"We're getting a lot of flak from parents, a lot of people saying, 'How can you do this? My children love these movies. Why can you not let them go see it?'" Mr. Lucas told The Associated Press. "But I have to tell a story. I'm not making these, oddly enough, to be giant, successful blockbusters. I'm making them because I'm telling a story, and I have to tell the story I intended."

And what do the most devoted Star Wars fans think about the new film? "We're in line, right?" Mr. Flipse noted. "We're really looking forward to it. We've done quite a bit of talking." They've had the time.

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