It was foolish to ask a dozen Jedis, jawas and droids milling outside Glacier Cinemas five minutes before Juneau's 12:01 a.m. Thursday sold-out premiere of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith:"
Why are you here?
"This is 'Star Wars,'" said Kayla Kearns, a waitress dressed as a bounty hunter. "What kind of question is that?"
Yes, there was no questioning the loyalty of the 177 fans that packed Theater 2 in the wee hours for the third film in the "Star Wars" chronology, the sixth and final film in the series.
Advance tickets went on sale a week and a half before the screening, and sold out in five days. Most of the ticket holders showed up by 11 p.m. Wednesday to vie for a good seat.
"Just because you have advance tickets doesn't mean you're going to get a good seat," said technical consultant Rob Stanbery, who showed up at noon with five friends. "We've been gearing up all week actually. It gets real wild. You've seen some of the fans. They can get absolutely rabid about it."
20th Century Fox and LucasFilm allowed theaters across the country to host 12:01 a.m. shows, and the idea has caught on over the last few years with other films such as the "Lord of the Rings" series. Gross-Alaska, owner of Glacier Cinema, had never done it before.
"It's a small town, and it really has to be a big film," said Eric Forst, director of operations. "We just felt that this was the right time to try it and see how it went. Obviously it went very well. Hopefully we'll have a couple more over the summer if the studios allow it."
Stanbery and company were 27 hours late for the first spot in line. Sandra Galeana and her mom, Cherie McCoy, showed up at 9 a.m. Tuesday even though they already had tickets.
"We slept in our cars," said Galeana, holding a light saber and dressed in a brown Jedi cloak she made with fabric from JoAnn's. "The bugs were just so crazy last night."
Galeana is one of the infamous "Clone Queens." She and Jana MacInnis earned their nickname after they were first in line for "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones." They've also been first for "The Matrix Revolutions" and "Star Trek: Nemesis." MacInnis was unable to attend this time.
The theater did not sell advance tickets for "Clones," "The Matrix" and "Star Trek," which made the Clone Queens' previous pilgrimages all the more crucial.
"I kind of missed that," Galeana said. "I wanted to have that fun of hanging out and standing in line. It doesn't matter if they're pre-sold. Look down south. Their tickets are pre-sold, and they stand in line for weeks at a time."
Galeana has a large collection of "Star Wars" figures and even attended "Celebration III," a four-day Star Wars convention, April 21-24 in Indianapolis, dressed as a jawa and a Jedi.
Wednesday afternoon, she and her mom hung out with Stanbery and his friends under a canvas awning. Galeana won tickets from KSUP for the June 2 Misfits show by correctly answering a "Star Wars" trivia question.
"Oh man, I've been waiting my whole life for this," Stanbery said. "When you watch the first movie, they talk about all the stuff that has happened. The Clone Wars. Darth Vader hunting down the (Jedi) council. That's the stuff I wanted to see as a kid."
"No kidding," said Galeana, in agreement. "Forget this love story and all the emperor stuff. Let's go with the battles."
Kayla Kearns showed up with her siblings, Isaac and Rebekah. Six months ago, Isaac arranged for a private screening of the film for friends and family on opening day, but when the Kearns found out there was a midnight show, they decided they had to be there too.
Rebekah, a preschool teacher, dressed as Darth Vader. Isaac and Kayla cobbled together their makeshift bounty hunter outfits out of painted-over sporting equipment.
"You show up, you dress creatively and you get to hang out," Rebekah said. "The experience is more fun just because you can be a dork."
"I want Jar Jar Binks to die so much," Kayla said. "I just want to see Anakin (Skywalker) whack him. I will forgive Hayden Christensen if he'll just kill him."
"Part of the experience of the first showing is just the crowd that you're with and the fact that everyone is a fanatic," Isaac said. "Even if it's not the best acting or whatever, it's 'Star Wars' and we love it, so we're going to enjoy the film."
The festivities began around midnight, as Forst thanked the crowd and threw out a handful of "Star Wars" T-shirts.
"I've got one for the girl in the bear costume," Forst said.
"I'm a wookie," the girl replied.
By the time the previews began at 12:08 a.m., the anticipation was so great that the trailer for "Cinderella Man," Russell Crowe's biopic about Depression-era heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock, was roundly booed.
Cheers rang out for other fantasy previews - "Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire" and "Fantastic Four" - and the crowd erupted for the pre-film glimpses of the 20th Century Fox, LucasFilm and Star Wars logos.
Thursday evening, Isaac was still excited after seeing the film twice in 18 hours. His private screening was practically sold out.
"The second time around there were a lot of subtleties that I didn't catch the first time," he said. "It really ties together the 'Star Wars' franchise, and it's a great ending to an era. I loved it."
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