MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE, ALBANY, Ga. -- The force was strong with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany service members May 18 when at midnight a group of Marines and sailors ventured out to a local theater to usher in the sixth, and possibly final, installment of George Lucas' classic galactic saga "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith."
"I've been waiting for years for this movie and I'm excited that I'm one of the first to see it," said Lance Cpl. Jessica Tome, percussion player, Albany Marine Band.
Tome wasn't alone in her enthusiasm. Millions of fans flooded 3,661 theatres across North America and numerous cinemas worldwide to catch the final installment of what has become the highest grossing movie series of all time. In it's opening day Episode III shattered the single day sales record of $44.8 million set by "Shrek 2" in 2004 by more than $6 million, outpacing the performance of all the "Star Wars" prequels.
According to box office trackers, Episode III generated a whopping $158.4 million in its first four days on US and Canadian screens - "a record for a four-day period," Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc said.
"In this town, I didn't really expect this many people to show up, said Matthew Atkins, manager, Carmike Cinemas Albany. "I'm glad to see that all the Marines came out...as long as they all have tickets," Atkins joked.
In many venues across the nation, Star Wars fans were forced to wait in long lines, sometimes for days, in order to purchase tickets to the big event. Albany's local theater was no exception and, even as the countdown to midnight began, a line of eager moviegoers extended out the entrance doors and wrapped around the building. Fortunately, many of the Marines at the opening show had previously discovered a quick and effective way to reserve their seats from the comfort of their rooms - the Internet.
"I bought my tickets online a week ago so I wouldn't have to wait in a long line just to find that they were sold out," said Lance Cpl. Ned Nobles, trombone player, Albany Marine Band.
Some Marines like Cpl. Charles Boyer, road military patrolman, Provost Marshal Office, went the extra mile to show their enthusiasm by dressing as their favorite Star Wars character.
"I dressed up like Darth Maul (from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) because I wanted to try and win the costume contest they have here tonight. Boyer said. I'm sure the guys back on base will probably dog me about dressing up for (the movie), but it's all in fun."
As the credits rolled there may have been mixed feelings about how George Lucas chose to end his latest Star Wars trilogy but there was no mistaking the way moviegoers felt about being the first to see history in the making.
"This one was better than the last two Star Wars movies. I'd give it one and a half thumbs up," said Cpl. Antonio Portela, trombone player, Albany Marine Band. "What made it fun was that my friends and I were some of the first people to see it."