Inside a Late-Night 'Star Wars' Screening: Super Fans, Families (and George Lucas' Son)

Who goes to a 2 a.m. screening of 'Star Wars' at the Chinese Theatre? Everyone.
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Hollywood Boulevard may not have ever been as busy at 2 a.m. as it was in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 18, on the other side of midnight of opening night for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And if you’ve ever wondered who would attend a 2 a.m. showing of a Star Wars movie on opening night, then the answer is ... everyone. College students, parents, kids, filmmakers and even George Lucas’ son.

Despite the hour, long lines snaked down the street from the El Capitan Theatre and the Chinese Theatre. Devoted moviegoers, many dressed as Star Wars characters, were primed to be among the first in town to see the screening, all while surrounded in the glowing LCD lights of the boulevard’s billboards and store displays. And when the earlier screenings let out at both theaters, swelling the street, it was like being at Disneyland at night, if your Disneyland consisted of people dressed as Chewbacca or hooded figures with lightsabers.

Drawing the most attention was the Chinese Theatre since it was there that Star Wars famously premiered in 1977, when Star Wars creator George Lucas and his then-wife Marcia sat across the street at a Hamburger Hamlet watching the crowds.

Biola University students Jon and Rachel (they declined to give their last names) huddled together in front of the Chinese Theatre, wrapped in a Star Wars blanket. “This is a historic night and this is a historic theater,” said Rachel, knowing full well about the original's premiere here. “Being here is about the experience.”

Next to them was their friend Micah, who initially purchased the tickets for a whole group of his friends and got paid back.“I want to be able to tell my kids one day that I did this,” said Micah. “I know that if I was around in ’77, I would have wanted to be here.”

They also said they has been weaning themselves off of social media for several days, cutting back on Facebook and sites such as Reddit. 

At the ticket wicket, a father and mother drove an hour from Ventura, Calif., bringing their three kids, ages five, nine and 10, all dressed as Queen Amidala, Natalie Portman’s character in the prequel trilogy, with them to see the movie.

They tried to get seats for an earlier time but everything was sold out (and even the 2 a.m. screening was almost completely sold out, except for a smattering of seats in the first two rows). “They will carry these memories with them forever,” said their father, a man named Todd who also promised they would be back at school Friday morning.

Under a watchful police presence, moviegoers entered via one of three lines of metal detectors (one was dedicated for those wearing costumes). The 2 a.m. movie actually started at 2:30 a.m., with fans occasionally voicing their impatience through what seemed to be endless trailers.

 

The opening title and scrawl drew predictable cheers, as did the appearance of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo and Chewbacca and Princess Leia. When a certain character had a major reveal, you could feel and see the jolt through the audience.

When the 1,100+ theater let out, directors Kyle Newman (Fanboys) and Todd Lincoln (V/H/S: Viral), adult movie actress April O'Neil, screenwriter BenDavid Grabinski (Jackie Chan's Skiptrace) were among those heading out. Amid the excited deconstruction and “I can’t believe it’s 5 o’clock in the morning!” talk, one audience member perhaps stood taller than the rest.

Jett Lucas, the son of Star Wars creator George Lucas, quietly milled about waiting for some friends. It was his third time seeing the movie, and he liked it better each time.

“The first time you can’t believe you’re seeing a Star Wars movie and there are emotional expectations that come with that,” Lucas said. “By the second and third time, you’re just enjoying the movie. And it’s a good movie.”

Lucas had seen some of the previous Star Wars movies in theaters only at premieres, but Thursday was the first time he was seeing one as a fan. Adding to the many feelings he had was that this was the first movie without his father’s involvement.

Lucas added: “It definitely makes it a little bittersweet.”

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