Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre is Ground Zero for 'The Force Awakens' Opening Weekend

Star Wars at El Capitan - H 2015
Michael Kern

Star Wars at El Capitan - H 2015

The venerable movie palace hosts 7-film marathon, including the first public showing of the latest 'Star Wars' offering, with costumes, production art, laser lightsabers and weddings display.

While most Star Wars fans will head to their local theater to see The Force Awakens this weekend, ground zero for what might be the most anticipated movie opening in history is Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre. Be warned, casual fans need not apply to the 7-movie marathon showing each installment in chronological order beginning at 1 a.m., Dec. 17, with George Lucas’ 1999 prequel, The Phantom Menace and finishing with the first public screening of The Force Awakens at 7 p.m.

“It’s been amazing. The phones are ringing, people are camping even though they already have tickets. They’ve been out and about all over for weeks, and they’ve been calling since we went on sale,” El Capitan’s Lylle Breier told The Hollywood Reporter about the army of fans that have besieged the venerable movie palace across the street from the iconic Chinese Theatre. At a reasonable $50 for seven movies, the marathon sold out within minutes and sales remain brisk for round the clock screenings through the first weekend, putting it on track to an opening north of $200 million. “Like everywhere else the computers and phones went down cause they keep calling. We’ve had people on a wait list for tickets for over a year here.”

They began arriving weeks before Monday night’s premiere, including a couple from Australia celebrating their nuptials with a Star Wars-themed wedding (with Baskin-Robbins providing a matching cake). In attendance were Wookies, Jedi and Sith Lords assembled from galaxies as far, far away as the San Fernando Valley and beyond.

What’s caused all this madness? It’s the movie, stupid. But it’s more. It’s the global anticipation and the rare opportunity to brush up against the real thing, such as costumes worn by Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega displayed amid a pair of stormtroopers in the theater’s galleries. Marathon viewers treated to a BB-8 collectible will have a chance to compare it to the real-life prop from the film, before taking in a wall of production art and models, including the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing Starfighter, and Rey’s speeder, as well as life-sized lego models of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and BB-8 in the lobby.

It sounds fun, but nearly 24 hours in a movie theater (albeit one with a rich history hosting the premiere of Citizen Kane), sounds a bit exasperating with little sleep and only popcorn and candy for sustenance. Not much can be done about the former, but as for eats, General Mills is providing cereal for the morning break following Revenge of the Sith, with Subway Sandwiches for lunch between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. But fans are on their own when it comes to dinner, unless a concession stand hot dog counts as food.

a scavenger on the desert planet Jakku. Then she meets Finn, and they go on a crazy adventure which is 'The Force Awakens'.""]

Security is tight in the wake of recent local scares like the threat that closed the nation’s second largest school district Dec. 15, and the San Bernardino attacks Dec. 2. Metal detectors were employed along with common sense rules like no weapons permitted, and no masks, (we’re looking at you, Darth). But lightsabers are encouraged, just not during the screening, nor the laser lightsaber curtain show that introduces the new movie.

It will be a near 24 hours of bliss for those lucky enough to have scored tickets, and literally life-changing for the luckiest among them. “We’ve had many, many requests for people to get engaged, get married, have special events here, a lot of birthdays, a lot of anniversaries, a lot of celebrations over the course of the next weekend,” says Breier. “Lots of families, lots of multi-generation, kids, parents and grandparents. That’s the most fun thing for us to see.”