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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Force behind Phantom video
Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson
Phantom stars: Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson
Hundreds of Star Wars fans queued in the pouring rain to snap up the world's first copies of Episode I: The Phantom Menace on video.

The movie blockbuster went on sale from midnight on Sunday at selected HMV stores across the UK.


Liam Neeson and Jake Lloyd
Liam Neeson and Jake Lloyd in a scene from the Phantom Menace
But US fans will not be able to get their hands on the video until Tuesday, due to Monday's public holiday.

HMV's head of press Genarro Castaldo said the chain was very pleased with the early morning sales.

"We opened 40 stores in total and considering the amount of rain we had, the response was very good."

London's Trocadero Centre store was the busiest outlet and drenched fans were given the red carpet treatment, with a laser show, dry ice and special effects getting everyone in the mood.

Castaldo estimated that at least 300 people went through the doors in the two hours the store was open, with other branches in Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff all doing good business.

Frenzy

But he admitted the rush was nothing like the frenzy that greeted the video release of Titanic.

"The overall ship-out from the film company for Phantom Menace was in excess of two million copies, compared to four million plus for Titanic," he said.


Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
Box office champs: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
"The clamour was much greater, but you have to remember that Titanic was released in the run-up to Christmas and the Star Wars release has not been hyped so much, although the initial shipment of copies are all expected to be sold."

The Phantom Menace, which cost $115 million (72m) to make, is the third biggest grossing film of all time, despite mixed reviews.

Only Titanic and the original 1977 Star Wars film have taken more money than George Lucas' prequel.

Episode 2 is currently in pre-production and scheduled for release in 2002.

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