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Saturday, January 5, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pair plan to live outside Cinerama until Star Wars movie is released in May

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Force is strong in John Guth and Jeff Tweiten. How strong?

"Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" won't open until May 16, but the two Seattle-area fans are already in line for the film.

Guth, 32, and Tweiten, 24, claimed the widely uncoveted first and second places in line outside the Cinerama on Jan. 1. Boldly thumbing their noses at hygiene and day jobs, they intend to wait there with only short, alternating breaks, for the entire four and a half months. They're using sleeping bags, and if the weather gets too much like the ice planet Hoth, they say they'll sleep in a van.

The Force is so strong in them that they're undaunted by the fact that they don't know whether "Episode II" will even play there. Neither does Cinerama's management.

Guth is president of the Seattle Star Wars Society, and counts among his favorite pieces of memorabilia a tuxedo custom-made from a set of "Star Wars" bed sheets, which he wears to all special "Star Wars" functions. "No one else has one in the world," he said. Tweiten is one of the club's roughly 1,200 members, and has a life-size Yoda replica he won in a "Star Wars" trivia contest.

In a written statement, the two said they are "dedicating their lives to a cultural phenomenon that has inspired their hearts and instructed their values throughout their lives." But standing outside the theater in normal street clothes yesterday afternoon — apart from the storm troopers drawn on Tweiten's jeans — they instead emphasized a performance-art aspect to their stunt.

"We're trying to capture the art of waiting," said Tweiten, a former art student who said he had been living with his parents on Bainbridge Island prior to the sidewalk campout.

Guth said he owns a home in West Seattle and a multimedia production company, but declined to name the company. To capture "the journey and the evolution of waiting for an event," the two are taking hourly photos of themselves and will post them on a Web site still under construction (www.WaitingForStarWars.com).

"Sometimes the best thing about something is the wait," Tweiten said.

A number of critics claimed that was the best thing about "Episode 1: The Phantom Menace."

Guth and Tweiten also want to set a world record for waiting in line for a movie. Asked what the current record is, Guth said he had club members looking into it. The duo initially had planned a two-year wait for the "Star Wars" movie, but decided to scale it down and make a start with the new year.

How can they afford what they're doing? Largely through donations from club members, Guth said. Expenses are low — a couple bucks a day for food, mostly. They kill the time by reading, watching movies on Guth's portable DVD player and talking to people in line for the movie currently running at Cinerama, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

"Do you have girlfriends?" asked Melanie King, who came to see Guth and Tweiten after reading about them on the movie fan Web site, "Ain't It Cool News" (www.aintitcool.com).

Both men are single.

King's first reaction: "Oh my God, Seattle is like geek central now." This sentiment was reflected in harsher language by the bulk of respondents on that Web site's message board, while a few of the postings supported Guth and Tweiten's marathon wait.

"I admire their enthusiasm for the movie, but as it's been proven in the past, everyone who wants to see this or any other film will be able to get tickets for it," said Brian Callaghan, the spokesman for General Cinema, which manages the Cinerama.

For instance, "Phantom Menace" initially ran around the clock there in 1999, allowing people to show up and see it on opening day, he said.

Adding that Guth and Tweiten won't be allowed to use Cinerama's restroom, Callaghan said, "We don't encourage anyone to spend five months outside a movie theater."

But the Force is so strong in Guth and Tweiten that they've gotten other nearby businesses to open up their stalls. And they're prepared for ridicule from the dark side, "The Daily Show," wherever.

A Death-Star-size understatement: "Not everybody's going to understand this," Guth said. "A lot of people, just because they're not doing it, they think it's weird."

And what if "Episode II" ends up playing somewhere else after all this?

"Then we'll go there," Guth said.

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