Star Wars Memories: The Phantom Menace camp out

It has come to my attention (thanks to dunc) that today is the 15th anniversary of the release of The Phantom Menace.

tickets please

I guess that is right. That means it’s been 15 years since I graduated high school. Freaky.

Though, for me, the movie premiere was only a small part of the experience. Most of my TPM memories are from a week before, on May 11, when my friends and I camped out for midnight premiere tickets for Baltimore’s historic Senator Theater. The Senator is an old movie house with one BIG screen, THX certified sound and only 800 seats. If you wanted to see the midnight show, you had to set up camp.

front of the line

We were 180th in line, this was not our main view. We were actually on the front lawn of a dentist’s office. No one really seemed to care though. I think a movie with this sort of following only comes around every few years so I’m sure they hadn’t had crazy teenagers sleeping on the sidewalk before. My parents let me skip school for the occasion (which, me being a total straight laced nerd was a BIG deal). This was MY senior skip day. And night. And then a little bit of day again.

This was all pre-WiFi and Smartphone, mind you. I had my cell phone for emergencies but that was all I used it for. We had to use the bathroom in the bar across the street and after that closed the gas station at the corner. The local news paid us a visit, I remember being elated to see footage of us all sitting around playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit on the TV (I had told me mom we might be on the news and she managed to tape the 3 minutes segment for me).

I have to say, this has to be one of my favorite fandom memories. Being outside with all these other fellow Star Wars fans. In the morning we sent out search parties for food and the bagel shop down the road was smart enough to show up and hand out their menus so that was where we all went.

I don’t know if anyone camps out for movie tickets anymore. I know I haven’t done it since Revenge of the Sith. Now that you can order online, it takes some of the magic away. Though I can’t think of a movie I would need to see at midnight. I will see the next wave of Star Wars movies in the theater, but I doubt I will be excited enough to want to camp out.

Anyway, a week went by and we were back at the theater at midnight for the movie. While I was in the moment, in a theater of 800 crazy Star Wars fans who knew all the write moments to applaud, cheer, and laugh it was a fantastic time.

Afterwards, after I had left the glow of the theater, I found myself trying to make myself love the movie but knowing deep down that it had missed the mark. (I clearly remember the guy in front of us in line had Star Wars tattoos all over him and he had just had Darth Maul added to the collection. After the movie was over, I wondered how happy he was with the movie.) It was a confusing time. I just kept hoping that the next movie would make it all better.

What about you? Did you see Phantom Menace at midnight or on opening day? Do you remember your reaction?

mission accomplished


  1. I was in 7th grade when it came out. Some of my classmates and I went to see it after school one day with our music teacher, who was a HUGE Star Wars fan. I had a blast, and saw it a few more times after that with my parents. I think I was just about the perfect age for it–Jar Jar didn’t annoy me too much, and I hadn’t reached the age where I started having expectations for movies.

    I had always wanted to camp out and dress up for a SW film, but I didn’t get the chance to dress up and wait in line until ROTS. I loved your photos–I had so much fun in line during ROTS, I can only imagine how much fun it would have been to camp out.


    • That so cool that your classmates and you saw it with the music teacher. I know I credit John Williams’ music for making me want to join band (though I still have no idea why I chose FLUTE!) so I totally understand why a music teacher would love the films.

      I didn’t get to camp out for AotC. Tickets went on sale while Star Wars Celebration II was happening so I had to send friends out to stand in line for me. I did camp out for RotS and that was a completely different experience, worthy of it’s own post.


  2. I was on vacation with family in Florida at the time so I got to see it in a theater in Orlando on opening day. It was an amazing experience and I was very glad I saw it in the States, as SW fans here don’t applaud or cheer and the excitement of the surrounding American fans just added to a crackling atmosphere. I’ll never forget the sense of total, innocent joy I got when that LucasFilm text flashed up on the screen before the film started. I came home, having seen it six weeks before my friends here in Ireland would, which elevated me to instant SUPERNERD status.


    • I find it fascinating that Irish Star Wars fans are not as loud and crazy as American fans 😉 That must have been a glorious six weeks of SUPERNERD status. Did they try to get all the details from you? Did you see it again with your friends after it came out in Ireland?


      • If there’s no booze or sport involved, we’re a very reserved lot! Ah, yes, some tried, others didn’t want to know but would still stare with curiosity at any little non-spoilery piece of information I divulged! I saw it three times here when it opened. I felt pretty much the same way that you did, but at that stage I was so SW obsessed (I’d just beforehand discovered the books) that most of us were just happy that the prequels were finally here.


  3. Reblogged this on orangerful and commented:

    Posted this 5 years ago. I think my feelings towards TPM have changed over the years. While it will never be perfect, it is actually a fun movie and I think of all the prequels I have rewatched it the most. And it will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first movie I really got to camp out for, dragging my friends into the fandom world with me. Star Wars is Forever.


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