Force is strong in this mountain town |

Force is strong in this mountain town

Summit Daily/Ryan Slabaugh Breckenridge resident Dave Carlberg donned his Obi-Wan Kenobi costume Wednesday night at Skyline Cinemas in Dillon.

DILLON – For Kyle Smith, the midnight premiere of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” was a rite of passage.Smith wasn’t born when the first “Star Wars” trilogy exploded onto the screen in 1977 through 1983. He was too young for his parents to allow him to camp out in theater parking lots when the prequels began to come out in 1999 and 2002. But now, at age 20, he’s old enough to geek out on “Star Wars” until the Wookies come home – and geek out he did.He planned the event for two months, creating a schedule of tailgating and movie-watching mania, which would conclude one hour before the midnight premiere.Smith set up his “Star Wars” tribute in Skyline Cinema’s parking lot at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday – well before Skyline employees came to work. He ran his computer off of his car battery and began watching the “Star Wars” movies until like-minded fans emerged.”The first line formed at 5 p.m. with a small group of core ‘Star Wars’ geeks,” said Dave Newman, assistant manager of Skyline Cinema. Newman closed the ticket booth at 7:20 p.m. with 34 tickets left. They sold out within minutes after he reopened the doors at 11:15 p.m. About 150 people stretched across the parking lot around 11 p.m.As the line grew, socializing took precedence over Smith’s film-viewing schedule. But, like any diehard, Smith returned to his obsession at 8:30 p.m., setting up his computer – on a Darth Vader beanbag, nonetheless – right outside the theater entrance. “Star Wars” junkies alternated between playing with light sabers and watching favorite scenes.”It felt like I was there with family,” Smith said. “We all believe in one thing; we come together and relate to each other.”One of the granddaddies of Summit’s “Star Wars” family, Dave Perry, stood outside Skyline at 11:45 p.m. waving his blue light saber – a replica of Luke Skywalker’s. It was the first in a series of four master replicas, of which, Perry owns all of them. He displays the light sabers – which come in Dark Side red, Yoda green, Skywalker blue and purple – on his wall, along with swords he fabricates. He hopes Darth Maul’s double-ended red light saber becomes available – if not, he’ll construct one. He couldn’t wait to see the new light sabers debuted in “Revenge of the Sith.”

“Watching the movies makes me more creative,” Perry said. “It opens my mind up.”For many adults, watching “Star Wars” takes them back to their childhood.”You get to be a kid for a night,” said Breckenridge resident Cory Coppock, who had all of the figurines, which he stored in his Darth Vader case as a kid.Billie Keithley, of Breckenridge, has been a fan since 1983, when she was 9.”I wanted to be up in outer space,” she said. “I thought I was going to marry Luke Skywalker.”Her husband, Pike Keithley retorts: “We’ve been married five years, and she still has more pictures of Luke in the house than of me.” He wears her name in a heart tattooed on his arm.Billie Keithley is a minority in the theater at the midnight showing; the proportion of males to females at “Sith” makes Summit County’s former 7:1 ratio in the 1990s look like single men had it made back then.’A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … ‘

It is 12:15 a.m. As the prelude travels along the screen, the crowd yells and applauds, nearly drowning out the theme song that blasts through the surround sound. Perry waves his blue light saber.”Gives you chills, doesn’t it?” Billie Keithley leans over and whispers to her friends.It’s the moment followers have been waiting for: They finally learn how a vivacious, blond-haired boy turns to the Dark Side.”Revenge of the Sith” is darker than previous movies. Some say attention to special effects and cinematography outweigh character development and plot detail. Still, most walk out of the theater at 2:30 a.m. a little bleary-eyed, yet impressed.”It’s on the same level with the original three,” Newman said.”It was the best of all six; it tied it all up,” said Josh Smith of Dillon.Most midnight viewers agree: “Sith” is the best of the prequels. But some fans are disappointed that George Lucas didn’t delve deeper into the characters and bring out their emotions more, in the way the original “Star Wars” trilogy did.”It exceeded my expectations, but the first ‘Star Wars’ were more artistic and had a better plot line. Now, they’re more cinematographic,” said Kyle Smith.

Still, the epic tale of a hero’s journey keeps fans coming back. Summit Cove resident Jim Unbehaun dressed as a Sith when the first prequel came out in 1999. This time, he didn’t dress up, but his “lasting obsession” with “Star Wars” remains.”I’ll see it at least another six times in the theater to catch the nuances,” Unbehaun said. “It transports you to a different place and time.”At 10 a.m. Thursday morning, Kyle Smith grieved the “Star Wars” saga is complete as he waited for a friend at Denver International Airport and talked on his cell phone.”It’s kind of a sadness that now it’s over,” he said.The only words of consolation to offer him: “May the force be with you.”Kimberly Nicoletti is out playing with light sabers. Contact her in cyberspace at

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