According to The New York Times, fans of Star Wars have already begun to line up outside the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood in anticipation of next week's release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Though the films have always generated big crowds, the phenomenon outside the Chinese dates back to the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999 when a line began to form in front of the old parking lot to the west of the theater in the weeks ahead of the film's release.
Sixteen years later, in the era of computerized reserved seating, waiting in that line seems insane, especially considering the west parking lot was long ago transformed into a Madame Tussaud's branch. The Times reports the faithful are camped in the theater's grand courtyard and those assembled say the modern ticketing conveniences miss the point. "At night you freeze and in the daytime you cook, but you come for the camaraderie and the chance to be a part of cinematic history," said Erik Murillo. To an extent, he's right.
While I'll never understand the impulse to wait weeks or months outside a theater, I did wait for tickets at the Chinese Theater from around 5AM on the day they went on sale and subsequently spent May 19th, 1999 in front of the long gone Mann Chinese 6 theater annex waiting for my screening of the film. There was camaraderie as I found fellow Star Wars fans chatting about just about everything. One man bought McDonald's for a hundred people and said, "Let's celebrate! There will never be a day like this ever again."
It doesn't stop people from trying, though.
Meanwhile, director J.J. Abrams tells IGN that he, Lucasfilm, Carrie Fisher and George Lucas all thought long on whether or not Leia would become a Jedi.
Lastly, director Francis Ford Copola, a long time friend of Star Wars creator Lucas, tells Screen it's "a pity" Lucas became wrapped up in the colossal franchise. "George Lucas was a very experimental crazy guy and he got lost in this big production and never got out of it," said the Northern California-based maker of films and wine. "I still hope that he made so much money out of it that he will just make some little movies. He promises me that he will."