Just the ticket after a long wait in a queue far, far away
Published 15/12/2015 | 05:46
Star Wars fans who have been camping outside the famous TCL Chinese Theatre ahead of the release of the new movie were rewarded when they were invited inside for the world premiere.
More than 150 devotees were lining up to secure the best seats in the house when Episode VII - The Force Awakens screens for the public later this week, but they received an unexpected treat when they were ushered into one of the three cinemas showing the film for the first time.
But two fans turned down the coveted tickets in favour of waiting for the public screening on Thursday.
Caroline Ritter and Andrew Porters flew to Los Angeles from Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia, to camp outside the cinema until the movie is released in America, when they will tie the knot on the forecourt.
Ms Ritter, 34, will walk down the makeshift aisle in a white dress accompanied by Darth Vader, while Mr Porters, 29, will wear a traditional suit but will sport a Stormtrooper bow tie and braces.
Mr Porters said: "They invited us in. We declined. It's part of our wedding reception with friends so we passed to see it on Thursday. It was hard but it is the right decision."
He said about 70 people from the queue accepted the invitation.
Ms Ritter, who works as a coal miner in Australia, said: "At 2pm on opening day we will walk down the aisle. We go see the movie as a celebration after so I hope it's good.
"I am cautiously hopeful, having the original cast back in it makes me really hopeful, I think it will be good but we will wait and see."
She camped outside the cinema in 2002 before the release of Attack Of The Clones and said she was excited to return with her fiance 13 years later.
"Because 2002 was such a big event for me and changed the course of my life, it seemed right. We have been engaged for eight years but not successfully planned a wedding so this all just fell into place," she said.
Fans who have been waiting outside the cinema compare the atmosphere to summer camp for Star Wars, and many have waited patiently outside cinemas for weeks at a time to watch previous instalments in the franchise together.
They are doing it for a good cause too and are aiming to raise a big sum for charity from donations from supporters.
Ms Porters said: "The best wedding present would be smashing out 10,000 dollars' target for the Starlight Foundation. To donate you can text Jedi or Sith to 80000 to donate five dollars or follow links at liningup.net."
Organisers of the campout have secured almost half the seats in the cinema to sell to people in the queue. Fans must spend at least 24 hours in the queue to be eligible to buy a pair of tickets and each additional 24 hours gives the option to buy another ticket. The more hours a fan banks in the queue, the sooner they will get to choose their seats.
Nate Chukey, 45, said that seeing the film was only a small part of the experience.
"I was always lining up just to line up, it's a tradition and I would do it even if the movie was bad. However with JJ Abrams, old special effects, our favourite actors, the only thing left is the writing, it could be good, it could not be," he said.
"Waiting for it like this makes me appreciate it even more."