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A standing countdown for next 'Star Wars'

Fans begin to line up ... and wait for nearly three weeks
/ Source: Reuters

A black-clad Darth Vader and storm troopers in white armor flanked a Jedi knight with an angelic smile as die-hard “Star War” fans Saturday launched a marathon “stand-a-thon” countdown to the opening of the final film of George Lucas’ intergalactic science fiction saga.

With nearly three weeks to go before the film’s first public showing, the around-the-clock line debuted to the beat of Star War tunes from a boombox swung by Boba Fett, a bounty-hunter character in an outfit sprayed with silvery chrome.

“We all know what it’s like to go through this insanity even though its temporary,” said Steve Lorenzo, 39, a technical writer for a software company. “It’s like a class or family reunion even though it’s not.”

Yet the pack’s eager anticipation over “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” was tinged with sadness that the new film would be the last silver screen glimpse into a parallel universe of space-fought intrigue played out over six films.

“It’s kind of bittersweet; it’s the last one which makes it more emotional,” said Chris Bergoch, one of the 300 people signed for the line. “You want to look forward to the movie, but then again you almost don’t want since there won’t be another one again.”

The event follows another nonstop street-side countdown kicked off by fervid Star War fans April 2 across the country in Hollywood.

Opening May 19, “Episode III” completes a trilogy which is a prequel to the original three films. The series has generated nearly $3.4 billion in global box office and an estimated $9 billion in retail sales since the first film appeared in 1977.

Registering for the stand-a-thon outside the Ziegfeld, New York’s largest stand-alone movie theater, were fans drawn from 22 U.S. states and nine foreign countries, mainly West European but also including Japan, Peru and Brazil.

Boredom, for a good causeAn idealistic sheen to the waiting game is that time spent on the line is money that goes to a charity for severely ill children, Starlight Starbright. Benefactors contribute a sum to the charity for every hour that each participant stands on line.

About $33,000 was raised in similar lines formed in New York before “Star War” movie premieres in 1999 and 2002. Those events produced friendships, including a few which blossomed into marriages.

Victor Lundberg, 27, from Gothenburg, Sweden, said he met his wife Emily Schildt, of Seward, Nebraska, in the first ”stand-a-thon” formed before the 1999 premiere of “Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

“I told him not to propose to me in the second line” which formed in 2002 for “Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” recalled Schildt, smiling at the remembrance.

Shhh!Openly admitting to a conflict, the two say they are in opposite Star War camps: the Spoilers vs. the non-Spoilers.

The first wants to know as much as possible about the movie, characters and plot, the second doesn’t want to know anything or as little as can be possible amid the marketing blitz preceding the movie, which includes the launch of dozens of toys based on movie characters.

In Los Angeles, the spoilers’ group dynamic is more complex, with three color coded levels for fans gathered a few feet away from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre amid the hustle and bustle of Hollywood’s tourist trade.

Red is for would-be know-nothings. Blue indicates they will look at official information and movie trailers, but don’t want to hear about plot and story issues. A green spoiler wants to know everything.

What makes it easy to recognize each person’s spoiler level is their official laminated badges, which happen to glow in the dark.

The Hollywood group is also linked online to the Starlight Starbright charity.