The Force draws "Star Wars" fans early

Tents are seen outside the Edwards Newport Cinemas May 8, 2002 in Newport Beach, Calif. Fans are camping out to attend the opening screening of "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," scheduled to open May 16, 2002.

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A handful of die-hard "Star Wars" fans already have started lining up to see the next movie in the sci-fi saga -- more than a month before it opens.

"We're just really persistent people," said Luis Lecca, a martial arts instructor who has spent eight hours a day waiting and braving hecklers. "We see something we want to do and we do it."

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"Star Wars" fan Jewels Green displays a painted rendition of the Death Star on April 27, 2002, opening day of the line for the "Attack of the Clones" premiere in New York City.
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About a week ago, about 70 fans pitched camp near the landmark Grauman's Chinese Theater, where the original "Star Wars" premiered in 1977.

They'll wait there in shifts to see the first show when "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones" opens May 16.

The ritual began in 1999 when fans, some from as far as Australia, organized to form a ticket line six weeks before the last film in the series opened, said event organizer Peter Genovese, a 26-year-old college student.

Participants earn time on the line. The amount of time each spends waiting determines their position in the final line when tickets are sold, Genovese said.

Members of the group also are required to donate least $50 for the Starlight Children's Foundation, a nonprofit organization working with seriously ill children and their families.

When the last film in the series, "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace," premiered in 1999, a line of 150 people collected about $25,000 for the charity, Genovese said.

Among six people lounging on the street Wednesday was Steve Elms, a computer network operator. Keeping contact with his boss through a cellular phone, he plans to camp out for the first week and the final week.

"I have no place else to go," said Elms, 39. "It's just fun sitting on Hollywood Boulevard watching the freaks and the tourists walk by."

It's not been announced when tickets for "Attack of the Clones" will go on sale.

In between trips for fast food and late-night debates on the intricacies of the "Star Wars" films, Noel Lamothe already is busy making plans for another cinematic outing.

"We're already talking about [a line in] 2005 for 'Episode III,'" he said.