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BBC Correspondent Tom Brook: Ziegfield theatre was ground zero for Star Wars fans
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Brook: Ziegfield theatre was ground zero for Star Wars fans
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 09:52 GMT
Fans rave over Star Wars

fans As midnight neared some fans were desperate to see the film

After weeks of queueing, the wait has finally ended for fans of the new Star Wars movie - Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which opened in cinemas across the United States in a special midnight showing.

Star Wars
The first fans to get a chance to see the film were those in New York where large crowds gathered at the famous Zeigfeld Theatre.

They stood patiently in line for the special screenings, and when the clock struck 12, the projectors began to roll.

Afterwards, their reaction was ecstatic, despite the poor reviews the film has received from the critics.

Robert Farrell, who paid $100 for a ticket, said: "It was worth every penny.

For Phillip DeBono, 16, who waited five days in line, it was the best of the Star Wars series.

"This movie is the best of the bunch," he said. "It's as good as Darth Vader is bad."

Other audiences around the world will have to wait until mid-July before they get to see the movie.

Star Wars bonanza for ticket touts

Many fans had tickets for the film, but for those who didn't, ticket touts in the US were willing to help - for a price.

Touts who bought tickets when they went on sale last week for around $9 each were charging up to $100 for a ticket to see the film.

Lincoln Gaskin was one of the first fans to get a ticket in LA
Director-producer George Lucas and 20th Century Fox had initially decided against advanced ticket sales to prevent ticket touts cashing in, but they relented under pressure from US cinema owners.

Tom Sherak, head of 20th Century's US film group, said: "It's horrible. This is just what we didn't want."

Advance tickets were picked up last week by fans like Lincoln Gaskin of Los Angeles who has camped out for over a month.

Ticket outlet MovieFone had its phone and computer lines jammed.

Although each customer was limited to buying 12 tickets there was no formal way to stop people returning to buy more and then selling them on later for an inflated price.

The Phantom Menace vs Titanic

There is speculation that The Phantom Menace could be the top grossing film of all time. To do that it would have to beat Titanic, which grossed $1.8bn at the box office, of which $600m was made in the US.

It is also up against the 1977 release of the first Star Wars, which took in $461m in the US, and 1982's ET which took just under $400m in the US.

George Lucas played down the prospect of his film toppling Titanic from the number one spot - or even beating the first Star Wars film.

"Chances of this film beating the original are slim to none, and I don't really even expect it to beat ET.

"But I do expect it to be one of the top 10 grossers of all time," he said.

While reviews have been mixed, screenings last week sparked speculation that the film may pass $1bn in world-wide box office receipts. One studio head, Disney's Joe Roth, predicted it may pull in as much as $1.5bn.

Whatever happens Lucas has said he plans to be on a beach in the South Pacific on Wednesday - far away from box office reports, or phone calls from studio executives.
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See also:
19 May 99 |  Tom Brook
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Plot
14 May 99 |  Entertainment
Star Wars tickets on sale

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