They arrived well before the sun, an army of die-hards outfitted in “Star Wars” T-shirts and “Star Wars” sweatshirts, “Star Wars” pajama pants and “Star Wars” accessories. There was a Sith and a Jedi, and what appeared to be a Han Solo. One young boy, who had been allowed a reprieve from school in order to be here, came armed with his own light saber.
It was just before 3 a.m. Thursday morning and soon, at the Showcase Cinema de Lux in Revere, this collection of fans would fill two theaters and settle in for what figured to be a very long day.
Over the course of the next 18 hours, they would take in seven films’ worth of “Star Wars,” a cinematic marathon that kicked off at 3:30 a.m. and wouldn’t conclude until well after 9 p.m. Thursday, following a screening of the series’ newest and much-anticipated installment, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Without question, this was a dedicated bunch. In order to be here, they’d skipped work, skipped finals -- all to watch a series of films that, in most cases, they’d already seen many times over.
“I came out of the womb with a light saber,” said Joe Goduti, 31, explaining what had brought him to a movie theater in Revere in the middle of the night.
But even for a fan base known for its extreme passion, seven “Star Wars” films back to back represented a rather daunting task.
Here’s how it went...
2:30 a.m.: Even a full hour before start time, there is already a large collection of cars in the theater parking lot.
One guy said he arrived at 10 p.m., then slept for a couple hours in his car. Others had been there over an hour. Four buddies stood chatting. For a couple of them, the movie-theater marathon was old hat, as they’d previously attended an even longer Marvel Comics marathon. Their advice on making it through? Some combination of Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, and beef jerky.
3:12 a.m.: As start time approaches, the lobby begins to fill. Some patrons carry blankets and pillows. The concession stands are open, and Mike Greene of Medford waits nearby, looking particularly chipper considering the hour. Like some of his other fellow moviegoers, he attended the roughly 30-hour Marvel Comics movie marathon, he says, and with the knowledge he’s gained from that experience, he’s endowed the three friends accompanying him this morning with the best advice he could to ensure they all made it, still functional, to day’s end.
“I told them don’t fall asleep, because you won’t wake back up.”
3:31 a.m.: The marathon begins with “Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” Theater officials had decided to screen the films in true chronology, and there was more than a little debate about this in the parking lot before the movie.
5:08 a.m.: There’s Anakin Skywalker up on the big-screen. Winning pod races, helping Jedi -- and drawing the ire of Yoda and the rest of the Jedi Council, who aren’t quite sold on him.
5:47 a.m.: The credits role. One movie down, six to go.
6:00 a.m.: “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” starts. Anakin’s back, a little older this time, and with a little more attitude. And a rat-tail. Eventually, he marries Padme, played by Natalie Portman. Someone in Theater 12 is snoring.
8:12 a.m.: “Episode II” draws to a close, and the crowd makes its way into the lobby, where the kind employees at Showcase Cinemas have set up an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet ($15 per person). Moviegoers wolf down breakfast, sip coffee. Overall, they seem to be going strong.
Asked how he’s feeling, Joe Garbarino, who’s relaxing in his chair and wearing a shirt with a picture of Darth Vader and the words “Who’s Your Daddy?” replies, “I’m good” – although he does admit that he “might catch a nap during ‘New Hope.’”
8:40 a.m.: One person who doesn’t look like he needs a nap is Megan Hunt’s 7-year-old son, Billy, who is scurrying around the lobby between movies playing with a light saber. Earlier in the morning, he had excitedly described all the “Star Wars” toys he’d brought with him depicting various characters, including Greedo, whom he described as, “you know, the one who kept asking Han Solo for Jabba’s money.”
9:20 a.m.: Next up, “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” Once again Anakin and Obi-Wan are out there fighting people with light sabers. Fighting people with light sabers is, of course, a very large part of the “Star Wars” films. Oh, and Anakin’s going to be a dad.
9:57 a.m.: As “Episode III” winds down, it begins to become apparent that Anakin Skywalker might not be such a great guy, after all.
10:01 a.m.: Actually, he might be pretty terrible.
10:05 a.m.: Yep. It’s official. Not a great human being.
11:10 a.m.: The crowd files out for a break. Many people, not as keen on the more recent “Star Wars” films, seem to welcome the upcoming shift to the earlier ones. Welcome to the almost-half-way point. On-deck is “Episode IV: A New Hope.”
2:02 p.m.: “The Empire Strikes Back” begins. In the eyes of some in attendance, this is the best of the “Star Wars” bunch. It doesn’t disappoint. Among the highlights: Princess Leia kisses her brother, there’s a bunch of snow, Darth Vader does his whole “I’m your father” bit, and at the end, the audience will give a considerable round of applause.
4:20 p.m. “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” begins.
4:46 p.m.: The auditorium is a mess. By this point in the day, the live-in moviegoers have really done a number on it. Popcorn litters the floor, and large room has taken on a noticeable stench.
“It’s like a middle school boys locker room in there,” is how Rob McKeown would later describe it.
It’s been a long day.
6:36 p.m.: “Episode VI” ends. One movie to go. The homestretch.
6:45 p.m.: The final break of the evening. With just a couple hours and one movie left to go, patrons file out into the hallway, wandering toward the concession stand or forming lines to the bathroom. Some do not look great.
“It’s been grueling,” admits Rob Viens, a 37-year-old from Portsmouth, N.H. “You wouldn’t think that sitting down [all day] would be too bad, but when you do it for 15 hours straight....”
Underlying it all, though, is a growing anticipation. In 15 minutes, the new “Star Wars” film will begin, and the excitement in the lobby is palpable. Some speak of second winds. Others make predictions about what might transpire in the J.J. Abrams-directed movie.
Most seem determined to power through.
“I’m running on Red Bull fumes and Swedish Fish,” said Eric Cyphers, 39, in the minutes before the evening’s final film. “[But] this is Heartbreak Hill right here -- you’ve got to make it over the hump.”
And with that, he headed back into a crowded auditorium, intent on finishing what he’d started.