You’d think with the advent of online ticketing and assigned seating, the idea of waiting in line to see a movie would be obsolete. You’d be wrong, especially when it comes to Star Wars.
With mere hours to go before the opening of Rogue One, there are fans camped out right now to see the latest Star Wars film, even though they’ve already bought tickets with their seats already reserved. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have discovered that even though people can reserve seats, there is still a subset of fans that love hanging out with other like-minded fans,” said Peter Genovese, Co-Owner of LiningUp.net, a site that facilitates the process. “When we put on these lines and get people who have never participated before, they quickly realize how fun it is to hang around with others that understand them and their fandom.”
Long lines of crazy fans have always been a huge part of the Star Wars narrative. Some of the most famous Star Wars photos ever feature huge lines of people waiting to see the movies. For the prequels, lining up almost became an endurance test (more on that in a bit).
While Star Wars has always been known as a franchise at the cutting edge of technology, that technology has also done its best to hamstring the franchise’s social experience. After what most fans assumed would be the last Star Wars movie, 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, online ticketing became the industry standard. Assigned seating is becoming more and more popular every year too. Lining up had become outdated. And yet, when the team behind LiningUp.net heard that Star Wars was coming back with Episode VII and beyond, they quickly jumped into action.
“When we finally heard about an Episode VII being made, we all decided we wanted to do another line again, albeit it a shorter one since the movie was going to be released in December,” said Genovese. “We had to factor in weather, so we did a 12-day line event for Episode VII, which was a great success.”
How can a line be a success? Well, it’s two-fold. Since the line for 1999's The Phantom Menace, Star Wars lineups have generated over $10,000 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation. “Charitable work has always been part of the Star Wars community,” said Ric Peralta, a California optician who does PR for the line. “And it certainly creates a level of legitimacy to our presence for weeks on end on the sidewalk.”
Beyond that, people who wait in line liken the experience to a party. “To us, this is no different than tailgating at any sporting event,” said Craig Haasis, a LiningUp.net co-founder. “You’ve got your tickets and your seats, but you’re out there in the parking lot having a blast with fellow fans. Granted, tailgating doesn’t last for 48 hours or six weeks like our lines have, but the camaraderie is just one facet of why we do this.”
Six weeks is how long Haasis and several others waited for all three Star Wars prequels; when Rogue One premieres, they will have only waited in line for 48 hours. “We want to treat the Star Wars story films differently from the saga films so we went for a dramatically shorter line,” said Peralta.
However, any length of time in line poses some logistical questions. LiningUp.net works carefully with the theater they’re at, in this case the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, Cali., to make sure everyone is safe and relieved. They have 24-hour access to the theater restrooms. People can clock in and out of line for set amounts of time if need be and the theater hires security guards for the overnight portions.
In the meantime, memories are made. Friendships blossom, marriages have sparked, and eventually, everyone watches the movie. But when it comes to Star Wars, no matter the place or time, it’s never just about the movie.
“Since 1999, the mechanics of moviegoing have changed dramatically,” adds LiningUp.net organizer Sameer Bakhda. “We could indeed buy our tickets online, and get our reserved seats, and show up five minutes before midnight; and for the vast majority of moviegoers, that will be their experience. Sterile, passionless, and without any human interaction. But that is not what the Star Wars experience is all about.”
The Rogue One line is currently sold out, but LiningUp.net plans to party for every Star Wars movie for the foreseeable future. You can join in at Liningup.net. For more on the Starlight Children’s Foundation, click here.