- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

“Star Wars” fans began lining up in front of the Uptown Theatre in Northwest yesterday to await the arrival of the third chapter — and final installment — of the decades-old galactic saga.

Camping out in front of the theater days before a “Star Wars” movie hits the silver screen has become a tradition that fans say is as much a part of the phenomenon as the movie itself.

“It used to be because that was the only way you could get tickets, but it turned into such a good time,” said Vance Rego, 35, of Gaithersburg, who camped out for the first two chapters and was camping out in front of the theater yesterday.

“So now the camping out is pretty much all about being in the line.”

An executive manager at a Target store, Mr. Rego took vacation time from work so he could reserve his spot early Monday morning. The campout at the Uptown began at least two weeks before the movie’s premiere.

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” opens nationwide tomorrow.

“We’ve all become friends, and we only see each other [at the premieres]. We have a good time at night… and this is the last chance we’ll have to do it,” Mr. Rego said.

“Revenge of the Sith” completes George Lucas’ prequel trilogy about the roots of Anakin Skywalker, a pilot and Jedi knight who turns to the dark side as the original trilogy’s villainous Darth Vader.

The third installment has been highly anticipated among the “Star Wars” following.

“All the questions will be answered — why Anakin becomes Darth Vader, what happens with the Empire,” said Dan McDonald, 41, a Target store employee from Springfield who saved “every possible vacation day” to wait in line.

Mr. McDonald officially began camping out Thursday night, but has been going home and to work. Last night was the first night that he spent in front of the Uptown.

Mr. Rego has been sharing his tarp with a man named Nick, whom he met in line at the Uptown during the previous two sequels. Nick came to the District from California just so he could watch the movie at the Uptown, Mr. Rego said.

“The one thing about seeing the movie, the very first showing, the theater is full of nothing but die-hard fans,” Mr. Rego said. “There’s nobody rustling with their popcorn, there’s nobody trying to open a bag of Gummi bears. Everybody’s there for one reason: to watch the movie.”

Mr. McDonald said he has read a book about “Star Wars,” but that will not spoil the experience.

“The book is based on the screenplay, so obviously there are going to be some things in the book that are not in the movie,” Mr. McDonald said. “But the things that are in the book, when they come out on the screen, they’re going to be amazing. So there are some things to look forward to.”

Adrienne Maul-Sari, who organized the campout at the Uptown, sat barefoot during the evening rush hour yesterday, surfing the Internet on a laptop while her husband, Halit Sari, slept in a tent at the head of the line.

“It’s the last time we’ll be able to get together as a group,” said Mrs. Maul-Sari, who also helped organize a collection fund for Children’s Hospital and canned food drive for the Capital Area Food Bank at the line.

Mrs. Maul-Sari said she has been in line since May 6. Although she recently began a job as a private detective, she has taken time off without pay.

An avid “Star Wars” fan, Mrs. Maul-Sari hesitated to criticize the much-maligned second chapter, “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” — as well as the first prequel, “The Phantom Menace.”

“Well, the first [prequel] I loved,” she said. “In the second one, I tend to like the action more than the love story, but the love story — you have to have it. Leia and Luke wouldn’t be born if you don’t have the love story. I don’t think you can bash the second one.”

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