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Out in force

Dozens of people and counting are lined up outside Tinseltown in Medford today holding toy lightsabers, sporting costumes, playing games and joyfully waiting for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the next episode in their favorite cinematic adventure.

The Sabin family of Grants Pass was the first in line to see the first "2-D" showing at 7 p.m. Larry Sabin was dressed as Han Solo, his wife as Princess Leia, and their two kids, Taylor, 21, as Luke Skywalker, and Nicole, 15, as an Ewok. Taylor arrived at 4:30 this morning to reserve his family's space.

"We've been planning that since we got the tickets six months ago," Larry Sabin says, adding the premiere of the seventh "Star Wars" film is a great way to get his family together.

At the front of the line for the "3-D" version was Brandon Coulter, on leave from the Navy for the holidays. He warmed up in a sleeping bag at a folding table shared with Heath Davidson, Scott Draper, Brendon Surgeon and Steven Mein. An open Cards Against Humanity box, two toy lightsabers, a Dutch Bros. cup and a MacBook Air playing music were keeping them occupied until their 11:30 p.m. showtime. On the laptop was "Star Wars" episodes one through six, which Coulter says he plans to revisit after sunset.  

Farther down the line was a group of friends waiting for the first 3-D showing at 8 p.m. Sean Bartlett, 17, of Rogue River, played a game of Sorry! with Medford friend Jesse Jourdan, 20. They also had Uno and a deck of cards, and had been in line since 10:30 a.m.

"Originally we were planning to get here at five, but then we woke up and looked at the clock and said, 'How about 10?'" Bartlett says.

Bartlett says they've tried to ignore spoilers, reviews and previews.

"We blocked it out," he says. "We want to be surprised."

James Lucas reserved a space in the 2-D line starting at 4:45 a.m. for Shalon Zimmerman and Zimmerman's daughter, Abby, 17.

"She spent her first birthday waiting in line (for "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"), so I had to bring her back," Shalon Zimmerman says.

Sean LePaige, wearing a Darth Vader T-shirt, read "Star Wars" Trivial Pursuit cards with Jeremy Holmes of Medford and Erin Galbraith of Ruch. He'd been calling the theater for line updates since 7 a.m. before arriving about 11 a.m.

"I couldn't sleep last night," LePaige says.

He recalls when he heard about the first "Star Wars" film in 1976 at a Los Angeles "Star Trek" convention attended by George Lucas and Mark Hamill, who showed early footage of the film to attendees. LePaige lived in the Los Angeles area at the time, and a year later, at 19, he lined up with three friends at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

"We were in our 'Trek' costumes because that's all there was at the time," LePaige says.

"Scattered throughout there were other 'Trek' outfits."

Watching it become a phenomenon was a surprise.

"We knew it was fun," LePaige says.

LePaige credits George Lucas for making science fiction and nerd culture part of popular culture.

"When I was a kid it wasn't cool to be a nerd, but now it is," LePaige says, looking at the crowd. "And I'm so happy for that."

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Franky Hatley, 11, of Grants Pass gets into character while waiting in line for the opening of the new 'Star Wars' movie at Tinseltown in Medford Thursday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Brandon Coulter, Heath Davidson, Scott Draper, Brendon Surgeon and Steven Mein kill time with games while waiting for the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch