As befits a movie gunning to be the Biggest Ever, Monday’s Hollywood premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is shaping up to be bigger than big.
Crews on Friday shut down Hollywood Boulevard from Highland Avenue to La Brea Boulevard and began erecting a giant tent that appeared like it might stretch almost that distance. The space is being prepared to accommodate a giant party that will follow the 6:30 p.m. debut of the seventh installment in the space opera.
But this will not be just a standard showing at the TCL Chinese or El Capitan Theater. Instead, Disney has hired out both of those storied theaters and the adjacent Dolby Theater, sources say, to make room for a super-sized crowd of special invitees.
Security and crowd control will also be at Academy Award levels, with 50 uniformed officers patrolling the four-block stretch and the surrounding area, according to an LAPD official. By comparison, the premiere of “The Hateful Eight” a week prior at the Hollywood’s Arclight Cinerama Dome drew just four uniformed L.A. officers.
The company had to obtain a permit from L.A.’s Bureau of Street Services to close down the heavily-trafficked boulevard. It will pay for the cost of the extra police presence, as well, a city official said.
Three days prior to the kickoff, squads of fan boys and fan girls already dotted Hollywood Boulevard, particularly in front of the Chinese Theater. Many were there not just in anticipation of Monday night’s parade of stars but already waiting for the first public showings of “The Force Awakens,” which begin Thursday, Dec. 17. Even with most early tickets now purchased online, the “Star Wars” acolytes insisted on arriving early, to commune with their fellow space travelers.
Some of the fans on Friday made Jedi robes, while others knitted chain mail armor. Caroline Ritter and Andrew Porters of Australia looked forward to their Dec. 17 “Star Wars”-themed wedding, planned for the TCL Chinese’s famous forecourt. A Darth Vader character was scheduled to walk Ritter down the aisle, with a Storm Trooper honor guard looking on. As with all things “Star Wars,” there will be brand tie-ins: Baskin-Robbins will present a themed wedding cake, while Dunkin Donuts hosts pre-ceremony coffee and donuts.
Erik Murillo has been helping organize “Star Wars” camp-outs for the Starlight Children’s Foundation charity since 1999’s “The Phantom Menace,” when fans camped out for six weeks. “Not many people know, they think that we’re just sitting here camping out for Star Wars, but we decided to do the charity because why not? Why not raise money and why not raise awareness of this great organization?,” he said, “We decided that it would be a great tradition to camp out for Star Wars, since it’s our favorite film.”
Fan Andrew Park is on his second day of camping out, and says he’s had his eye on J.J. Abrams for several years. “I go to Comic-con every year and in 2008 I actually took a selfie with J.J. Abrams when he was this little unknown director, when he was just working on the show called ‘Fringe.’ It’s cool to watch him take on Star Wars,” Park said.
Disney officials have been almost entirely mum about Monday’s extravagant opening, needing little extra promotional pop for a film that is the most anticipated in recent memory. Some pundits believe the film, also known as “Episode VII,” will eventually become the biggest box office winner in history, topping “Avatar’s,” nearly $2.8 billion.
Fans eager to read the first reviews of “The Force Awakens” will have to wait until Wednesday when the official embargo lifts at 12:01 a.m. PST.
Alyssa Sage contributed to this report.
Photos by Chelsea Lauren/REX Shutterstock