‘Episode III’ Debuts: Fans Endure Wait

El Vaquero Staff Writer

A lone tent, surrounded by pedestrian traffic, taking up a good portion of a sidewalk on a dusky afternoon is an image resembling a trading post in a sci-fi genre. Though Earth is nowhere near the “Star Wars” universe, a sample awaits those passing through Hollywood Boulevard.

“It’s crazy to [wait in line] but the people who are interested in it need no explanation. It’s [waiting in line] so much fun,” said Larry Ross, owner of Blast from the Past, a hobby store for movie and comic-book collectibles in Burbank and an organizer of the “Star Wars” line on Hollywood Boulevard.

Some “Star Wars” enthusiasts have been waiting since the beginning of April for the in of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” which opened Wednesday.

Directed and created by George Lucas, the latest “Star Wars” film will be the last installment of the saga that has enticed the imaginations of millions for the past 28 years.

“I’m sure [Episode III] will be kick-ass, but the whole point is that it will be the last chance to do anything this extreme,” said Vincent Ravel, 24, who has been waiting for weeks for the movie to open.
Those participating in the wait for the release do not stand in queue 24 hours a day. Instead, they clock in and out of the line at specified times; this way people can find “Star Wars” fans waiting in their campsite, right next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, day and night.
“The vast majorities think of us as not having lives, but we do,” said Carl Garcia, 38 a “Star Wars” enthusiast. “We are able to work, go home, take show and do the things we need to do.”

Would these fans wait in line this long for another genre? “No way,” said Stephanie Olmita 48, who has also helped in organizing the line for “Episode III.” “We did do this for “Two Towers” and “Return of the King” but it [the wait] was much shorter, it [the wait] was for five days, we’re talking about seven weeks here…this is also for charity.”
With an initial $50 donation to Star Light, Star Bright Children’s foundation, participants could register to wait in line. The proceeds went to entertainment systems that are equipped with video games and internet access.

The portable entertainment systems can be pulled up right next to a child suffering from an incapacitating disease for their leisure.
“You put two fun things together and it’s cool,” said Nathan Clukey. “[Charity] brings out the best in people…My kid-self would want me to do this,” said Clukey in his 30s, a “Star Wars” enthusiast.
“We have raised $26,000 [for Star Light Star Bright Foundation],” said Ross.

Any pedestrian walking by will spot the “Star Wars” tent, decorated with posters of light sabers and Yoda. Inside the tent, “Star Wars” fans pass their time by brushing up on movie trivia and Jedi literature.
Though the date of the premiere was a done deal, the location of its opening set fans loyal to Lucas affray since for the first time “Star Wars” would not play at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

“Grauman’s Chinese Theater didn’t bother to book the movie,” said Ross. “We’ve gone through every emotional extreme…Some of us are going to be seeing it at the Cinerama Dome and others will be seeing it at the Vista Theater.”

Knowing that those waiting in line were at risk of not seeing the film Ross took the necessary precautions.

Ross bought 300 tickets with his own money to ensure all fans signed up to wait in line would see “Episode III” in nearby alternative theaters.
“The theater issue has been really frustrating …I’d love to grab him [Lucas] by the scruff of the neck and just go: what are you doing to us? You knew we were going to be there we’re always there what were you thinking,” said Ross.

The conflict of where the film would open affected the moral of the line but did not deter the love fans have of the trilogy or the year of “hardcore planning with the local stores and police,” said Ross.
“I don’t care…We’ve been waiting longer than anyone in the world. I’ll see it [the movie] either way,” said Clukey.

The public debut of “Episode III” will mark the end of the “Star Wars” saga. No longer will fans of the saga ask how Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side or of what happened to all the Jedi?

“My real message to [Lucas] would be thank you: for my childhood, for the group of friends that I got,” said Ross. “When I started signing people up this last time…I would sign people in and then I’d tell them welcome home because that’s how it really is.”