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Tom Brook talks to fans at the Zeigfeld Theatre in New York
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Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 15:16 GMT
Fans have 'mixed feelings' over Star Wars

star wars Before the show: fans amuse themselves outside Mann's Chinese Theatre

The Phantom Menace did not live up to expectations for many of the fans who queued up at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Star Wars
Hundreds of them have been waiting outside Hollywood's most famous cinema since early April to ensure they were first to see George Lucas' sci-fi epic when it opened at midnight on Wednesday across the US and Canada.

Gabriel Alvarez had been queuing on and off for three-and-a-half weeks - but the end result wasn't the blockbuster many of his friends hoped it would be.

"Everyone has a lot of mixed feelings about it. It was a good movie in terms of special effects, but in terms of storyline, plot development and character development it wasn't," he told BBC News Online.

Episode I 'a disappointment'

star wars Queuing up in Westwood, Los Angeles
"A lot of the organisers of the line are very sad because they think it's a bad movie - they've waited nearly 20 years for this.

"I don't know whether or not they'll be organising a line like this for the follow-up film, Episode II, because of the disappointment of Episode I."

Alvarez, 19, said he wasn't let down too badly by the film, which cost $115m to make.

"I'm satisfied with it - I was only expecting to see a special effects film, not the best movie of the year. I'd even give it seven, maybe eight out of ten."

Celebrities and 20th Century Fox executives attended the first showing, at one minute past midnight, including Leonardo DiCaprio, who is making The Beach for the studio.

'Amazing' atmosphere in cinema

star wars Fan Jim Dozier queues up in Kansas
"Everyone jeered when a trailer for one of his films came on. He wasn't happy," said Alvarez.

"They let us in three hours before the movie started - the atmosphere was amazing, really lively. There was a lot of screaming going on.

"Now it's just gone four o'clock in the morning and there's people queuing up outside for the showing at ten-thirty in the evening."

Alvarez, who works in an electrical store two hours from the cinema, was left to work out how he was going to get to work for nine o'clock. But he said his boss wouldn't mind him turning up for work after staying up all night.

"He's a Star Wars fan too - but I don't think he'll be going to see it for a few weeks yet."

Better reception in New York

star wars Dressing up as Darth Maul in Des Moines, Iowa
Across the United States, fans in New York were more upbeat.

Phillip DeBono, 16, said: "It's the best of the bunch. It's as good as Darth Vader is bad."

As fans came out of the midnight showing at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre, they passed more queuing in pouring rain and told them it was "excellent!" and "fantastic!"

One US employment agency has estimated 2.2m Americans will skip work to see the film on its first day.

Brooklyn legal assistant Warren Deans, 26, was convinced he would still be able to make it to work after seeing a 0630 showing.

He said: "I've been waiting 16 years to see this. It brings back the child in all of us."

The Phantom Menace is playing around the clock at five cinemas in New York - and at many others across the US. It opens in the UK on 16 July.

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See also:
19 May 99 |  Tom Brook
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Plot
13 Apr 99 |  Entertainment
Queuing for a film far far away

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