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'Star Wars' Superfan Describes Episode VII As 'The Movie We Always Wanted'


All the hype around the new "Star Wars" movie made us think about the last time people were this excited about "Star Wars."


ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: The new "Star Wars" movie "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" opens on...

SHAPIRO: In 1999, people lined up around the block all over the country just as they did last night. Some people camped out for weeks. That's a decision they may have grown to regret, or maybe they didn't. Here's NPR's Becky Sullivan.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: I found this story that aired on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED in April 1999, 42 days before the movie premiered.


MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: In the rain last night outside Mann's Westwood Village theater...

SULLIVAN: Outside this movie theater in Los Angeles, people were already lining up for "Episode I." Seventeen-year-old Daniel Alter was first in line. He is exactly as you might think the guy camping out for weeks to be first in line for "Star Wars." In this story, he and his friends pass the time by reenacting scenes from the original trilogy...


DANIEL ALTER: Where he was, what he was doing...

SULLIVAN: ...And then comes the money quote.


ALTER: I feel like it's my destiny to see "Star Wars" opening night. Maybe that's part of my destiny. Maybe it's one of the great things I'll always remember. I think I really will always remember seeing this film at the very first showing at 12:01 AM in the morning on Wednesday, May 19. It's going one of those things that will just stand out.



ALTER: That was embarrassing.

SULLIVAN: This is Daniel Alter now.

ALTER: Frankly, it's, you know - if I look back on it, it's not really a movie I love. I saw it, like, 16 times in the theaters, and I don't want watch that film ever since, to be honest.

SULLIVAN: That's because today, "Star Wars Episode I" is roundly remembered as being just plain bad.

You saw it 16 times, and you haven't seen it since.

ALTER: I had heard that some people had gone to see the original film like 64 times when it came out in '77, so that was in my head. I obviously never got to 64. I think 16 was about the level of intolerable.

SULLIVAN: Alter is a movie producer now. He says camping out for that midnight showing was some of the most fun he has ever had. He called it his Woodstock. When I talked to him last week, he was psyched about "Episode VII." He never thought a sequel trilogy would really happen.

ALTER: I've become continually more excited since its announcement, since we've seen things. Everything I've seen of it has been, you know - the movie we kind of always really wanted.

SULLIVAN: Even though he ended up not liking "Episode I," he did see it and "Episode II" and "Episode III" on opening night. So of course he saw "Episode VII" on opening night last night here in LA at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I spoke to him just before the movie started.

ALTER: There's people dressed up like the Cantina band outside playing music and people dressed up as all the other characters. It's pretty impressive.

SULLIVAN: Some things are different this time. Alter isn't waiting in line. Theaters here have assigned seating. He's older, of course, and he says the movie feels different. It feels nostalgic. It feels special. He and his friend got to the movie theater extra early to soak it all in.

ALTER: We ended up just geeking out a little bit talking all about what this night means to us, and now we're getting ready to go inside watch it.


SULLIVAN: By the way, Daniel Alter liked the movie. He won't see it 16 times in the theater, but three or four probably. Becky Sullivan, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.

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