Local News

'Star Wars' Fans Await Much Anticipated Premiere

Posted May 17, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— All the hype ... the merchandising ... the books ... and the buzz ... now it is finally time. The first public showing of"Episode I: The Phantom Menace"began at midnight Wednesday atRaleigh Grande Cinema.

The experience was about more than just a movie for the 1,300 fans who waited outside all day to get the prime pick of seats. It was an event.

The sidewalk in front of the theater looked more like a campground Tuesday night. Star Wars fans got there early, fired up grills and settled in to count down the hours until the movie premiered at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

John Mann was the first to arrive. He started the line at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

"I left to get something to eat," Mann said. "Other than that, we've been sitting here, just sitting around, talking and playing magic all day."

Payton Jauldin spent $100 on advance tickets to five shows. He said "Star Wars" is practically a religion to him.

"When the first one originally came out every religion practically claimed it for its own," Jauldin said. "And it's just one of those rare movies that just has something about it that is so unique and so different than every other movie out there."

Mark Stone, another Star Wars fan, spent five hours getting dressed and putting on makeup. He arrived at the movie theater dressed as Darth Maul.

"I probably won't go out for Halloween," Stone said. "But if I do, I already have a costume."

Don't bother asking the fans if the most-hyped movie in Hollywood can live up to its billing. They are convinced it can't miss.

"I think George Lucas is incredible, and he is a fantastic story teller, and I don't see how this can't be amazing," said Jackie Soule.

After waiting 16 years for the next Star Wars adventures, fans say they are not content to see it just once. Many in line planned to see the movie again later Wednesday. Raleigh Grande Cinema plans 26 screenings of the film on Wednesday.

Cinema experts say "Episode One: The Phantom Menace," which cost $115 million to make, could eclipse "Titanic" to become the biggest moneymaker of all time.

Tickets for the very first screening were being scalped for more than $100 each in some cities.

An estimated 2.2 million people are expected to miss work on Wednesday to see the film. That will cost businesses $300 million in lost productivity.