From San Francisco to New York, hundreds of "Star Wars" fanatics turned out in 10 cities, paying up to $500 apiece Thursday to attend the premiere of the final film in the series, "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."
A red carpet lined the side of the Sony Metreon theater in San Francisco and volunteers dressed like storm troopers, X-wing pilots and bounty hunter Boba Fett. Fans gathered for a glimpse of director George Lucas.
Lucas, who says he plans to return to experimental films now that the last "Star Wars" film is completed, introduced the film at each theater at the Metreon.
Asked how he felt to see the "Star Wars" saga end, Lucas said: "I'm relieved and I'm glad that I get to go on and do other things. It's been 30 years of my life, so it's a lot of time."
Chris James, 36, of Montara, Calif., dressed like an X-Wing fighter pilot and was hoping to score a ticket.
"I think he's (Lucas) going to please the fans and I'm happy that he's going to complete the saga," said James, a software engineer.
At a post-screening party, guests could swat a piñata shaped like the Death Star and munch on "Wookie cookies."
The proceeds from the premieres went to charity. The film opens to the public at midnight showings May 19.
Stars at the New York event included Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Jedi Master Mace Windu, and Liam Neeson, who played Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace." Carrie Fisher — Princess Leia in the original trilogy — attended the Washington, D.C., premiere.
When Mark Hamill arrived in Los Angeles, fans burst into cheers. Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original episodes, ran across the street to shake hands and sign autographs.
Also present were Jimmy Smits, who plays Sen. Bail Organa in the last two episodes, John Ratzenberger, who plays Maj. Bren Derlin, and Bai Ling, whose scenes as Sen. Bana Breemuwere were edited out. Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in previous episodes, also attended.
The premiere also drew "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer, who said he interviewed for the role of Han Solo in the first "Star Wars" film but didn't get it.
"I met Mr. Lucas when I was 19-years old," Grammer told reporters. "I was a little too young but then two years later I was watching this movie and I said ... 'that was the movie (Lucas) was telling me about,' cause he said, 'We're going to do a fairy tale in space.'"
Bryan Burke, 37, and his 11-year-old stepson Matt Parks — both wielding plastic light sabers — traveled more than 300 miles from Powell, Ohio, for the Chicago screening.
"I think a lot of the Star Wars movies are about father and son bonding," Parks said. "So it's right for me to be here with my dad. This is such a big event for us both."
At Atlanta's Phipps Plaza shopping mall, red carpet patrons entered the theater as white-armored storm troopers greeted people.
Some children wore little Anakin Skywalker outfits while most of the older fans came in casual attire. But not David Morgan, a 23-year-old massage therapist who dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"I have my Adidas on to match my costume. It looks good, I think," said Morgan, who paid $2,500 for a VIP ticket.
Amy Allen, who plays the Blue Jedi in Episode III, said she's been "waiting for this moment for a very long time."
"It's kind of surreal to be in a movie that I haven't seen before. When we made the movie, I did everything by myself, with a blue and green background. To see it now is going to be great," Allen said.
Moviegoers in suburban Denver were greeted by costumed members of the Rocky Mountain Fan Force, a group of Star Wars fans who appear in costume at charity events.
John Soto Jr., 6, was decked out in a Luke Skywalker costume, swinging a balloon light saber. He told his kindergarten classmates that he was going to the premiere.
"It's kind of neat," his father said. "I grew up when my younger brother was going through the euphoria a lot of kids were going through with 'Star Wars.' Now I get to watch my child enjoy 'Star Wars' the way my brother watched it years ago."
"Revenge of the Sith" chronicles Anakin Skywalker's transformation from hero to villain Darth Vader. The film may be the darkest chapter in the "Star Wars" story, featuring more violence and a story line showing how a democratic government turns into a despotic regime.
Lucas has used previous premieres to raise money for charitable causes. Money raised at the San Francisco event will go to the Koret Family House, a group providing housing for seriously ill children seeking treatment away from home.