Apple store and Star Wars premiere lines share more than just the caliber of dork that shows up long before the actual event. To be sure, they both have what most people would consider "weirdos" in the crowd. Those eager iPhone 5 owners pictured above don't look too different than people who dress up as Jedis (pictured right via Reuters) before a Star Wars premier. But the parallels go beyond the type of people who do it: these line-ups have spawned their own culture that's more about getting together to wait in line than the product they're waiting for.
What started out as clamoring to get a popular, new gadget has turned into more of a to do than excitement for a hard-to-get phone. When the iPhone was first announced all those years ago, people went because of the novelty. Those people wanted to be the first to own the first Apple phone. Now, many of the same people have returned to the lines, and not just because they want to get their hands on an iPhone 5 first. "If we just wanted the phone we could have ordered it online," veteran iPhone line waiter-inner Jessica Mellow told USA Today's Jefferson Graham. "It's more about camping out. It's a cool experience. Meeting new people. That's the best part."
A unique special bond is made when you're doing something insane outside with a bunch of freaks like you. These are our people and this is what we do! That's the same type of unrelenting spirit we've seen with Star Wars fans, who lined up outside of a theater that wasn't even showing the Revenge of the Sith. "Even if it's not here, we'll just go see it somewhere else. We're not doing this just for the movie," a devoted Star Wars fan told our own Gabriel Snyder when he was at Variety back in 2005. These people wanted to wait outside, not because they cared about the movie (likely most of them thought it was a shameful prequel), but because they wanted to go through the same experience as those who waited outside for the first ever Star Wars premiere, which opened at that same location. (Star Wars lines continued long after the premiere as we see movie goers waiting to see the show at a different Los Angeles theater, two weeks after the film's debut, via AP.)
While many go for the tradition, there's another more entrepreneurial aspect to the show. These line enthusiasts are also taking advantage of the media's insatiable appetite for covering people standing still in a line by making the most of the publicity. As much as people are fawning over the new Phone (and there is a lot of that going on), there is an almost equal amount of fascination with the freaking out itself.
Starting last week, we got articles about the people already standing in front of Apple stores, for example. Star Wars fans, too -- partly because of all their weirdness -- drew that same fascination (see: Triump the Insult Comic Dog interview a group of Star Wars nerds). Many waiters know this and that's why we get people like Hazem Sayed, first in line outside the 5th Avenue Apple store. Another veteran line-goer -- last year he paid $900 for a primo position to get an iPad 2 -- Sayed told CNET he is doing it to generate publicity for his "social network software application Vibe." Mellow, too, has ulterior motives. "She readily acknowledges that she is in line partly in an effort to promote a company," writes CNET's Greg Sandoval. Those Star Wars fanatics had other motivations, too. Some wanted to collect donations for a charity, others hoped the press would get the movie to play at their theater of choice.
We can also count on both of these lines for their consistency. No matter the quality of the thing they are waiting for, they will come. When the iPhone got so-so reception, they showed up. Even after the other two new Star Wars movies, The Phantom Menace (57 on Rotten Tomatoes) and Attack of the Clones (67 on Rotten Tomatoes), disappointed die-hards, the most devoted still queued up for Revenge of the Sith. That's because the line and the thing that is being waited for are two distinct beasts.