Fans of the “Star Wars” film franchise had been waiting 10 years for the next installment to be released. Good vs. evil revisited once again. Which will prevail?
So in perspective, the final 2½ hours must have seemed like a blink of an eye, unless perhaps you were standing in line most of that time outside in the cold.
As the minutes ticked down until showtime for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” here’s how the anticipation played out for the first 180 people to experience the 136-minute movie premiere Thursday at the downtown YES Cinema.
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Four people shiver under the theater awning. The temperature stands at 35 degrees.There is a mission. Find four contiguous seats in the premiere showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Each member of the Arndt family has a different explanation for standing in the twilight cold.
“I’m just insane,” father Terry Arndt said.
“I like the story,” mother Amanda Arndt said.
“I like the lightsabers and blasters,” older son Bradley Arndt said.
And youngest son Wesley’s reason?
“I don’t know.”
The doors will not open for another hour and a half.
One stormtrooper now patrols the lobby in the theater. Outside, the count is now up to 10 people shivering in the cold.“Does that keep you warm?” asked Randy Allman, executive director of the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center which operates the theater, pointing to the white plastic costume.
“It’s pretty nice when you first step out there,” said the Imperial soldier, voice crackling through an electronic communicator. “The plastic gets cold after a while.”
He’s a little short for a stormtrooper.
The doors will not open for an hour.
Another stormtrooper has arrived in the lobby. Outside, 21 people now shiver in the cold.Steve Percifield is the taller of the two dressed in white. The Columbus native built his suit to hang like a statue on a mannequin in his basement.
When he was 12, his parents took him to see the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie. He has since built a collection of “Star Wars” toys, cassette tapes, long-play records and miscellaneous “Star Wars” memorabilia.
Percifield will not be seeing the movie tonight. Instead, along with his nameless colleague from the “Star Wars” costume group the 501st Legion, he will be posing for pictures as people make their way into the theater.
“I guess I’ve waited this long, I can wait a little longer,” Percifield said.
For those seeing the show that night, the wait to get inside is another half-hour.
The doors of YES Cinema swing open, and 45 people push forward in a mass toward the heated foyer. Whether that’s from the thrill of the night’s event or just to escape the cold is unclear.In the lobby, 7-year-old Beau Bailey looks up nervously at the two stormtroopers standing directly in front of him. The soldiers of the evil Empire stare eyelessly back through the reflective black lenses of their helmets.
“He watches the movies four times a week,” said Bryan Bailey, Beau’s father, watching his son face down the threatening presence of the dark side.
“I’ve seen the third movie (“Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”) 10 times,” added Beau, not taking his eyes off the stormtroopers.
But the full-length movies are not enough for Bailey. He watches the “Star Wars Rebels” animated series religiously. He plays the new Star Wars Battlefront and LEGO Star Wars video game, and he has a substantial collection of LEGO Star Wars toy ships, which he constantly modifies and tweeks.
After summoning the courage to get his picture taken with the stormtroopers, the younger Bailey ponder his fate in the Force. Eventually, he decides that he’s probably a Sith.
Across the lobby, the first costumes appear.
David Sargent is nearly the same age as his dark side counterpart.
“Just because they have lightning fingers and can choke people, that doesn’t mean Sith are stronger. Jedi are stronger,” Sargent said.
He is dressed in the traditional tan and while robes of the Jedi Order. A brightly colored “Star Wars” T-shirt pokes out from under the loose garments. He isn’t any particular Jedi. Rather, he said he was a “mysterious figure” before running off into the theater.
Becky Sargent watches as her son catches up with his father. She wears a Han Solo costume that she borrowed from a relative.
“I’m dressed up so that I can keep an eye on an excited little Jedi,” she said.
One minute after doors opened, about 40 people are already seated in the 180-seat venue.
The doors have been open for five minutes, and more than half of the seats are now filled. More people stream in from the cold.A man poses for a picture with the two stormtroopers. Under a blue windbreaker, he wears an brightly colored Christmas sweater. But, instead of Santa and Rudolph, knitted sparks explode across the front of the sweater from a pair of woolen lightsabers, one red and one blue.
“I bought it on Amazon,” said Steve Leach of his unique apparel.
“I saw it (‘Star Wars’) as a kid. It marked a moment in my childhood. I remember every detail. Where I was. Who I was with.”
Leach owns the Garage Pub & Grill across the street from YES Cinema. When tickets to the premiere went on sale in October, he bought 50, then sold them along with a $30 parking voucher to raise money for the Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund.
Elsewhere in the lobby, the stormtroopers have moved to the ticket stand.
“Move along, move along” they say as fans enter the theater. “Nothing to see here.”
Every so often, one of the fans responds with some variation on “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
The theater doors have just closed. A preview for “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” has just faded to black.But nothing appears on the screen. There is a tense pause as the lights dim. Instantly, the chatter stops and there is silence.
The logo for Lucas Arts Films appears on the screen. A quiet murmur. It fades. Silence returns.
Suddenly, the Dolby surround sound hits hard. The familiar musical theme slams out of the wall, and for a brief moment people are stunned.
It’s about 7 p.m.; and when the iconic words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” appear, a loud cheer erupts from the crowd.
- “Star Wars,” 1977
- “Star Wars: Episode V — the Empire Strikes Back,” 1980
- “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi,” 1983
- “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” 1999
- “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” 2002
- “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” 2005
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” 2015