ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.3 - JUNE 1999
by Heather Kenyon
Star Wars, of course...
I am one of the absolutely devoted Star Wars fans. As a child of the Seventies, how could I not be? We all have the same boring story. I was six years old when I saw the first Star Wars and it was the brightest, shiniest, most amazing thing I could ever imagine. I remember sitting in our local Mann's Theater and being amazed just at the first scene - the monster Imperial space cruiser firing and pursuing Princess Leia's much smaller craft. It is the first film I really remember seeing. I remember this film being special, I was excited to go, it was a big deal. All four of us in my family went which was pretty unusual. I even remember the order that we sat in the chairs. This film blew Pete's Dragon away.
So...when I heard I had tickets for the 3:30 am screening of The Phantom Menace at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, I couldn't have been happier. The 12:01 am tickets had long been sold to people who had dedicated months of their lives to waiting in line. Arriving a little before 11 pm I lined up with over two dozen friends and acquaintances in a state of anticipation sixteen years in the making. What an atmosphere. The Sci-Fi Channel had an entire booth complete with lounge and was giving away Frisbees and other goodies. Pizza Hut pizza, Taco Bell burritos, Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink were also being given away free. A contingent of Star Trek fans marching, dressed in full regalia, with signs protesting that Star Trek is a better sci-fi adventure series than Star Wars. Religious groups urging us folks in line to acknowledge that "Jesus is the true Force." Young parents keeping their toddlers awake. Media vans, reporters, cameramen and still photographers from every station interviewing, filming, and clicking away. People driving by just to see the spectacle. People dressed up as their favorite characters. Light saber fights in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. LAPD urging us all back onto the sidewalk. Street performers and homeless haggling for dollars. In short, it was a zoo and everywhere one turned there was another sight more crazy than the last to be seen.
Despite this new definition of the Force (which I wish Lucas could somehow take back; I liked the Force as a mystical, unknown, unseen element), the rather wooden Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor (hopefully he'll perk up when he isn't just standing around listening to his Master's advice), and a few other quibbles, I loved the film and it is probably, largely, because of the entire experience. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I saw the film again at 7:45 pm that night. By the time this article posts I will have probably seen it two more times on the big screen. And I know, throughout my life, I will see it again, and again. When I left the theater at a little after 6:00 am all I could think about (besides whether I was going to go directly to work or home for a few hours of shut-eye) was how much I am looking forward to Episode II. And then Episode III. And I really, really hope that after that we are going to get Episode XII, XIII and IX. (George Lucas should be wrapped in cotton until this task is accomplished.)
There are some people who say that the day one's television, computer and Internet connection are one is the day the movie theater will die. My experience on May 19 is why the movie theater will never die. The energy and excitement 1500 people create is amazing. Going to the theater is a community experience, an event, that will long not be replaced. It was the best way to see Phantom Menace. Everyone there was a friend and colleague, united by these people in a galaxy far, far away...
Until Next Time,
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