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Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK


Curtain up on new Star Wars

The Force is back: Premiered in US cinemas

Hollywood stars turned out in force to be the first to see the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga - the most eagerly awaited film of all time, according to its promoters.

Star Wars
In cities across the US, fans were also getting the first chance to see the movie, but at a price.

Tickets for the fundraising premieres were on sale for $500 - with the proceeds, more than $1m, going to a number of children's charities.

In Hollywood, many of the stars at the premiere were fans as children of the original Star Wars trilogy.

The BBC's Tom Brook at the New York premiere: "Star Wars mania was rampant"
John Singleton said that when he had seen the Star Wars saga as a child he had been inspired to become a director.

Others leaving the cinema in Westwood, Los Angeles, described Phantom Menace as "awesome".

Mixed reviews

[ image: Light sabre drawn and ready for thrills]
Light sabre drawn and ready for thrills
But while stars watching the charity screening gave director George Lucas's latest offering the thumbs up, movie critics have been less kind.

Some labelled it "very disappointing" and others called it a "let down". BBC News Online's Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook says the story is "very, very thin".

Mr Lucas says that, after the hype, a backlash is inevitable.

Carla Wohl of ABC News at the Hollywood premiere
And fans, who have been queuing for a month to see the film when it goes on general release on Wednesday, show no sign of turning their backs on the movie.

For them it is the film they have been waiting to see for 16 years, since the release of Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.

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