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‘Star Wars’ fans can’t get enough at the marathon in Hollywood

Star Wars marathon
Christopher Duarte, 55, of Barstow, checks out a costume exhibit during a “Star Wars” marathon at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, culminating in the premiere of “The Rise of Skywalker” on Thursday, December 19, 2019.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Arce showed up dressed for battle for the latest marathon screening of the “Star Wars” film canon: The 21-year-old Colorado resident sported an orange-and-white flight suit that looked straight off the set of any of the iconic films going back to the 1977 George Lucas-conceived original, and is prominent once again in the newest entry, “The Rise of Skywalker.”
“I traded my green one for this one,” he said sheepishly during one of the breaks between the nine movies shown over 25 hours Wednesday and Thursday at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
The “green one” refers to the flight suit he wears in real life while attending the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colo.
Arce’s father introduced him to the ongoing saga of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo through the 2005 prequel “The Revenge of the Sith,” which also launched his journey to understand the ways of the (Air) Force.

Star Wars marathon
Fans including Chris Arce, 21, of Colorado, participate in a “Star Wars” marathon at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on Dec. 19, 2019.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot,” he said.

In advance of seeing “The Rise of Skywalker,” Arce also confessed to being “a big Kylo Ren fan”: noting, “I hope he gets a good sendoff; I hope they don’t just kill him off.”
Arce’s story isn’t unusual in the “Star Wars” universe. The very existence of marathon screenings of ongoing series of blockbuster films such as this and comparable ones for the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (which topped the “Star Wars” marathon last spring with a 60-hour, 22-film marathon) and the Harry Potter movies points to the deep bond they’ve established with a dedicated swath of movie fans.

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But it’s gone well beyond mere fandom for some, like Arce — and Rahul Menon.

Menon, 29, saw “Episode I — The Phantom Menace” when it was released in 1999, when he was a kid still living in New Delhi. It sparked a lifelong love affair with those films, to the degree that he’s now living in St. Louis and studying film and media management at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Menon used his winter vacation time to make a bucket-list visit to Hollywood precisely so he could attend the marathon at the El Capitan, knowing it is virtually across the street from the former Mann’s Chinese Theatre where “Star Wars” premiered so long ago and far away from him in May 1977.

Star Wars marathon
Rahul Menon, 29, came from St. Louis to watch a “Star Wars” marathon at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood leading up to the premiere of “The Rise of Skywalker.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

He cited Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma as the holy quintet of American directors he most admires but confessed that his L.A. pilgrimage also would include a stop at the New Beverly Cinema owned by Quentin Tarantino.
The “Star Wars” marathon fed superfans’ yearning to revel in every nerdy bit of the saga’s lore, aided and abetted between films by staffers from the Nerdist website, itself another manifestation of the institutionalization in recent years of sci-fi and fantasy movie enthusiasts’ obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
One staffer prompted viewers to be on the lookout for “The Last Jedi” actress Laura Dern mouthing the word “Pew!” when firing a blaster during one of the pivotal moments in director Rian Johnson’s 2017 entry in the latest trilogy.

Another noted the cross-franchise influence of “Star Wars” into the MCU evident in “Captain America: Civil War”: “Spider-Man never would have been able to figure out how to bring down giant Ant Man,” Nerdist staffer Michaela pointed out, “if it hadn’t been for the scene in that ‘really old movie’ ‘The Empire Strikes Back’” in which Luke Skywalker and his fellow Resistance pilots wrapped cords around the feet of giant Imperial At-Ats to topple them.

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A fascination with “Star Wars” films is passed generation to generation with as much love and respect as a prize lightsaber. That was evident in the detailed Rey costume worn by 11-year-old L.A. resident Lindalee Rose, attending the marathon with her father, who first took her to a theater to see one of the films for a 30th-anniversary screening in 2013 of “Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.”

Star Wars marathon
Lindalee Rose, 11, of Los Angeles dressed as Rey for the “Star Wars” marathon at the El Capitan Theatre.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Filmmakers also seem to relish the marathon idea: For those passionate enough to pony up the $125 price for this week’s “Star Wars” marathon, “The Rise of Skywalker” and “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams supplied customized beverage insulators (printed with the phrase “The Line of Skywalker”) for fans waiting to enter, and later sent over pizza for all, according to El Capitan Theater manager James Wood.

Inside, cast members Ahmed Best (the voice and motion-capture actor for Jar Jar Binks in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”), Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett in “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”) and Greg Grunberg (Resistance pilot Snap Wexley in “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker”) helped introduce films they appeared in. Series stars Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac sent filmed clips with their greetings to the special audiences.

Star Wars marathon
Director J.J. Abrams sent over giant pizzas to feed fans during a “Star Wars” marathon at the El Capitan Theatre.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Attendees also received swag bags that included a “Star Wars” blanket for catnaps, while trivia contests reveling in the most minute details of the saga were held throughout the event. (Question: Which docking bay was the Millennium Falcon in during the first film? Answer: Docking bay 94.)

As for Arce, he demonstrated that just because he is a superfan, that doesn’t mean he’s not discriminating. He cited “Rogue One” as his favorite among the Disney-era “Star Wars” films, and said he enjoyed some audience heckling during moments of Lucas’ oft-derided 1999-2005 prequel trilogy.

“Some of the dialogue in those is pretty bad,” he said, chuckling. But the formative quality of his introduction to “Star Wars” hasn’t diminished over time.

“‘Revenge of the Sith’,” he said, “that’s still my favorite.”


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