Making a beeline for box office

Movie: Fans have been waiting so long for `Stars Wars' prequel, camping on the sidewalk is a minor inconvenience.

May 12, 1999|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Playing chess and greedily swigging bottled water, Charles Lillie, 27, and James Cornblatt, 19, slouched outside the Senator Theatre yesterday afternoon, waiting for their chance to snag souvenir tickets for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," which opens across the country on May 19.

They and other fans started lining up at the Senator as early as 6 p.m. Monday night for the tickets, which go on sale today at 3 p.m.

To "Star Wars" buffs Lillie and Cornblatt, the idea of a special souvenir ticket is cool, but not essential.

"I'd buy it if it was written on a cigarette butt," said Cornblatt, a 19-year-old from Fells Point.

This afternoon is the first opportunity for everyone in the area to get "Phantom Menace" tickets. But while other local theaters are allowing credit card phone orders, the Senator prefers to be a "rebel" theater, challenging fans to show up in person and pay in cash, according to Tom Kiefaber.

Most of those lined up at the Senator yesterday had their Wookie-loving hearts set on the theater's 12: 01 a.m. premiere showing next Wednesday. Late-comers should be able to purchase advance "Menace" tickets until June 8 for specific show dates and times.

Each individual can purchase up to 12 of the $7 tickets, which feature a picture of the Senator's marquee (featuring "Phantom Menace") bordered by the theater's insignia on a white background.

One part of the ticket will be torn off for admission, leaving the rest as a collectible. The Senator has 100,000 for sale.

Kiefaber said he plans to sell souvenir tickets to future Senator openings. He decided to use souvenir tickets for "Phantom Menace" because "Star Wars" attracts a rabid fan base, eager to retain tokens of their cinema experiences.

The theater's ticket promotion is only one instance of widespread "Phantom Menace" mania. Fired-up fans have been lining up outside theaters across the country since April.

At the Senator, about 40 mostly young people were camped out by early afternoon yesterday. Josh Fissel, 19, and his brother Tommy Paul, 13, arrived at 6 p.m. Monday to be first in line.

Yesterday afternoon, Fissel lay inanimate between a Little Mermaid blanket and a "Star Wars" sleeping bag. Paul sported a black baseball cap picturing a stormtrooper and the phrase: "Freeze, Rebel Scum."

The pair have changed socks and underwear in their car, Fissel said. "If I had to wait in line all year to see it, I would," said Fissel, who works at Toys R Us. He said that he put his college plans on hold to commit himself to obtaining "Phantom Menace" tickets.

His younger brother, a South Baltimore resident, is enthusiastic about the souvenir tickets, but understands he and his brother will have to wait in line again when the film actually opens. Taking the time doesn't bother him, he said, but it might foul up his and Fissel's plans to dress as Obi Wan and another Jedi for the opening.

"If we have to stand in line a few days before, then we can't really get our costumes together," he explained.

Those on line with the brothers seemed peaceful in the cool afternoon shade. Some reclined in lounge chairs, reading sci-fi novels. Others dozed beneath umbrellas. Groups of kids held hacky-sack tournaments, while other fans engaged in trivia quizzes.

"Did you know Cliff Clavin from `Cheers' was in `The Empire Strikes Back?' " asked T.J. Amendola, a 21-year-old Loyola graduate.

Despite the laid-back atmosphere, Amendola, who said she was waiting in line to acquire tickets for her friends who have jobs, doesn't want to make a repeat performance when the film opens.

"I'm kind of hoping other people will wait for the movie, considering I'm doing the whole thing myself this time," said the Charles Village resident, who actually was kept company by her panting Siberian husky, Casey.

For her time in line, though, Amendola made an old-school "Star Wars" fashion statement with a fluorescent orange T-shirt featuring a fading, cracked iron-on of Darth Vader, accessorized with a vintage "Empire Strikes Back" lunchbox. She decided against the notion of dressing Casey like a stormtrooper, with "Star Wolf" emblazoned on her back.

No one in line was decked out in full "Star Wars" regalia, in fact, but theme T-shirts, towels, sleeping bags and even a few plastic light sabers abounded.

Kristina Imel, 26, who was third in line, appeared to be wearing her hair in an homage to the famed "braided doughnuts" coif of "Star Wars" heroine Princess Leia. But Imel, a child-care worker from Herring Run, claimed she had not intentionally emulated Leia's intergalactic 'do.

"Her [braids] were more to the side," suggested Imel.

While she waited for her husband, Manuel, to take the next shift in line, Imel made the best of her time, soaking up the sun, reading her mail and savoring McDonald's french fries.

"I know other people are ordering through credit cards," she said. "But this is the place to be."

Pub Date: 5/12/99

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