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Wednesday, 14 July, 1999, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Queuing for a film far far away
By BBC News Online's Jane Black

"Who says it doesn't rain in LA?" Lincoln Gasking shouts cheerfully. "It's rained every day I've been here."

Star Wars
If he's not bothered by the weather, it's probably because everything else couldn't be going better for the 22-year-old behind the Los Angeles ticket queue for the premiere of Star Wars Episode I.

Rain hits the team's first weekend
Rain hits the team's first weekend
The media love him. At 9am local time, Lincoln has already done five interviews from the West Hollywood payphone next to his tent. Already there are 80 people doing shifts for tickets. His Website, the fabulously successful Star Wars Countingdown.com, complete with live Webcam of the queue, is getting thousands of hits per minute.

But most important, Lincoln and the 12 fans currently on the street with him in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre in West Hollywood are having a ball.

"It's very cold, very wet but there's no doubt it's a continual party here," he said. "Last night, an employee gave us a garbage bag full of popcorn and we watched Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on DVD."

A premiere far far away

It's a good thing they're having fun too. Lincoln and the other Star Wars fans have a long time to wait. The film premiere - on 19 May - is more than five weeks away.

Another fan, Noel McGuinness, says she has had plenty to keep her busy during 81 hours on the street.

"We have a Web connection up and we're in a chat room all the time talking to people interested in the line," she said. And she could not even count the number of times she's been on television.

Setting up headquarters on Hollywood Blvd
Setting up headquarters on Hollywood Blvd
Noel, a 20-year-old taking time off from her planetary science major at CalTech, says she is not one of "those Star Wars people". (She also denies any connection between her major and her interest in Star Wars.)

"I'm not a real big fan. I'm just here for the social experience. It's kind of like the Woodstock of our generation."

The Force is with us

Indeed, the queue in Los Angeles, and the some 60 others that will spring up from Sydney to London as the movie is released, is emblematic of the Star Wars phenomenon.

Is that Darth Vader behind him?
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone under 30 who hasn't felt the pull of the Force. The original release was a box office smash. The 1997 re-release added another generation of die-hard fans and pushed the trilogy's global box-office earnings to $2bn.

Since then, Internet fan sites, which have sprung up exponentially around the world, have continued to breed Star Wars mania. One search engine says there are 2,000 in Britain alone.

In addition to Lincoln Gasking and his partners' Countingdown.com, portals such as theforce.net, jedinet.com and starwarz.com offer rumours about the plot, breaking news on the technology and a place for fans to exchange ideas, theories and plans for the Big Day.

As "those Star Wars people" start to arrive in the queue (some have promised to do shifts in full Star Wars regalia) and Lucas Films releases pre-quel merchandise, the hype is only going to intensify.

This is good news for Lincoln Gasking and his crew.

The more television and radio interviews, the more chance Countingdown regulars will have to show off their new Internet television channel Countingdown TV, their efforts to raise $100,000 for the Starlight Foundation which helps disabled children and, of course, their sponsors.

Still, it's clear those in the queue still have their priorities straight. The best news, according to Lincoln, is the weather report: Sunny and 21 degrees for the rest of the week.

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