Sitting in a multiplex Tuesday afternoon, Jay Adams had to admit to himself he was, indeed, “a geek.”
He was at the Brenden Concord 14 for the sole purpose of being among the first to see the trailer of “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, ” scheduled to premiere Memorial Day. Airing in select theaters, the preview was audiences’ first glimpse of the long-awaited prequel to the trilogy, and, in effect, a sneak preview itself.
He consoled himself that at least he wasn’t as bad as the guy who whipped out his cell phone to call his friends.
“He was almost in tears, ” Adams recounted. The man raved about how the trailer kicked derriere, and advised his friend: “Wear your Depends!”
Just when movie audiences have adjusted to publicity blitzkriegs a year in advance read “Godzilla” comes the next level of Hollywood hype: exclusive advance screenings of trailers. In the East Bay, the Jack London Cinemas and Brenden Concord conducted the special showing, which will be released to thousands of screens nationwide Friday.
“It was like a present to the fans because they’ve been so loyal for 20 years, ” a LucasFilm representative explained.
Most fans who came out on the weekday afternoon had first heard of the trailer screenings on a Monday “Entertainment Tonight” report. They found the screening locations on the Web site http://www.starwars.com.
The preview played before and after showings of “Meet Joe Black” and “The Waterboy.” The No. 1 comedy, “The Waterboy, ” got an unnecessary box office boost from fans such as Karl Stordahl of Walnut Creek, who had already seen the Adam Sandler film. He paid matinee price just to watch two minutes and 10 seconds of “Star Wars” glory, then leave.
“I’m a Star Wars’ freak, ” admitted Stordahl, who had the day off. “I didn’t even like Waterboy.'” The 19-year-old’s destiny apparently was predetermined: His parents spent their first date watching “Star Wars.”
The trailer doesn’t give more than glimpses into the grandiose effects audiences have come to expect from George Lucas. It begins in a fog, cutting to a slender silver ship against the backdrop of golden sands, then to a city of red-topped domes reminiscent of swashbuckling Arabia.
“Every generation has a legend, ” the trailer reads. “Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning.”
The scenes then blast headlong into visions of fantastic creatures and point-of-view hurtles between red rock, all underscored by the familiar orchestral pomp of John Williams. Big-name celebrities and familiar “Star Wars” characters pop out of the scenery: Samuel Jackson and Yoda, Liam Neeson and R2D2 and C3PO.
While the seats were hardly packed at the Brenden, it was a larger-than-usual matinee attendance. “The response has been pretty good, ” said Brenden customer service representative Lorenzo Walker, who added that some people apparently thought the actual movie was screening.
Patty Archaulette, director of the California Film Commission, says “Independence Day” was the first to start the publicity machine going about a year in advance. As for “Star Wars, ” “they’re resurrecting the impact it had 20 years ago, ” Archaulette said. “They build and build the expectation, so when it comes out, it’s going to be a bigger boom than Independence Day.'”
For those who grew up with the trilogy, expectations have been building for 15 years. “Star Wars” has become part of a generation’s mythology, and they want to see the legacy continue.
“It was part of my childhood, ” Adams said. “It’s a way of going back and being a kid again.”
This article originally appeared in the Contra Costa Times