‘Star Wars’ arrives in this galaxy

By ANTHONY BREZNICAN The Associated Press
Thursday May 16, 2002


LOS ANGELES — A long time ago, the most avid “Star Wars” fans began lining up for the new chapter of George Lucas’ space saga, with some groups camping out in shifts for weeks. 

Their patience paid off as theaters around the country prepared to open their doors for midnight screenings of “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” 

“I’m here to make sure I see the first show,” said Eric Putz, 28, of Los Angeles, who stayed in line for two days to catch the first screening at Hollywood’s historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. “Even if the movie is horrible, it’s worth it just to see the light sabers lighting up.” 

“If I didn’t get to see the first show, I would be agonizing until I saw it,” said 25-year-old Brian Monroe of Los Angeles. He’s been in line at the Chinese Theater off and on since April. 

The lines are noticeably thinner than they were for “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” in 1999. 

But as the first “Star Wars” film in 16 years, “Phantom Menace” had greater pent-up demand among fans. And the growing use of advance ticket sales over the Internet probably reduced the number of fans who would have waited in line outside theaters. 

Those who have stood in line said it was more for the experience of hanging with fellow “Star Wars” travelers. 

“A lot of people say they wouldn’t be waiting in line if not for the camaraderie,” Monroe said. 

Many theaters have taken to throwing open their doors for major movie releases at 12:01 a.m., the earliest time they can begin screening the films on the day of release. Theaters are braced for the big “Star Wars” rush later in the day Thursday, as the film plays on about 6,000 screens in 3,161 theaters domestically. 

Lucas said he does not expect “Attack of the Clones” to approach the box-office debut of “Spider-Man” two weeks ago. Playing on about 1,500 more screens than “Attack of the Clones,” “Spider-Man” took in a record-smashing $114.8 million in its first three days. 

“Attack of the Clones” opened on fewer screens because Lucas was choosy about locations, insisting on top-of-the-line theaters with digital sound. 

Crowds waiting outside theaters for “Episode II” ranged from people who saw the original “Star Wars” in 1977 to those who weren’t even born then. 

“We’re a generation that grew up on ‘Star Wars,’ ” said J.R. Barbee, a youth pastor at a Hollywood church who said he incorporates “Star Wars” into his classes for middle and high school students. “I was 6 years old when ‘Star Wars’ came out in 1977, and I remember seeing Luke Skywalker. He was my hero. Lucas has taken a generation on a journey.” 

Daniel Hernandez, 20, and his brothers, Robert, 16, and Andrew, 22, drove from Hesperia, Calif., to wait outside the Chinese Theater, wielding homemade light sabers of metal and wood. 

“Over here, no one makes fun of us,” Daniel Hernandez said. “We were all raised on ‘Star Wars.’ ”