Queuing 12 days for The Force Awakens

Fans in the queue play board games (left) to pass the time, while others chit-chat (above).
Fans in the queue play board games (above) to pass the time, while others chit-chat.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES
Fans in the queue play board games (left) to pass the time, while others chit-chat (above).
Fans in the queue play board games to pass the time, while others chit-chat (above).PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

LOS ANGELES • Marilyn Monroe and Freddy Krueger were trying not to look annoyed. But their mood was obvious on Monday afternoon as tourists paid little heed to the celebrity impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard, instead focusing their curiosity on more than 100 people camped out in the courtyard of the historic Chinese Theatre.

"We're lining up for the new Star Wars movie," Australian Caroline Ritter at the front of the queue told an incredulous-looking couple visiting from Ohio who stopped to inquire and take photos.

"Yes, we still have a very long time to wait," she added. "No, we're not crazy."

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will arrive at the TCL Chinese Theatre Imax, as the site is now officially called, on the evening of Dec 17 - meaning that Ms Ritter and her fellow die-hards will have waited for 12 unwashed days before the first lightsabers flicker to life. They began to assemble here last Saturday afternoon.

The question, especially in the age of reserved movie theatre seating, is why. Even with hundreds of opening-weekend show times for The Force Awakens already sold out, analysts predict there will be more than enough seating capacity on opening weekend.

It is not like the old days, when movies were shipped on reels and people could buy tickets only at box-office windows. Most cinemas now sell tickets online and rely on digital projectors, which means the number of screenings can be more easily adjusted to meet demand.

But that is missing the point, the Star Wars campers said on Monday.

"At night, you freeze and, in the day time, you cook. But you come for the camaraderie and the chance to be a part of cinematic history," said Mr Erik Murillo, who was sitting in a lawn chair near two large plastic crates packed with supplies (clothes, food and a tent). "Besides, there are traditions to be upheld."

The Chinese Theatre holds a special place in the Star Wars pop culture galaxy.

The first Star Wars movie was booked into only about 30 cinemas in May 1977 because executives at 20th Century Fox were sceptical of the film's box-office potential. Instead, swarms of people turned out. The throngs were especially large outside the Chinese Theatre, which has long been a symbol of Hollywood, helping to generate global news coverage.

Ever since then, particularly in 1999, with the arrival of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, camping out here became just another part of the pageantry that accompanies each Star Wars release.

In 2005, in anticipation of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith, fans started lining up at the venue six weeks in advance. As it turned out, however, Fox had not booked Revenge Of The Sith into the venue, so they were waiting in line for nothing.

"We made sure not to make that mistake again," said Ms Stefanie Vance, who was in line here on Monday with her daughter, Amanda.

Cinemas everywhere have been preparing for similar lines, advising fans in advance that costumes are fine, but masks and space weapons are not.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Queuing 12 days for The Force Awakens'. Print Edition | Subscribe