Beat by Beat: Opening Ceremonies

Editors Note: While the below events transpired inside, an entirely different story unfolded outside. Please read this statement regarding the events of that night.

 7:30 PM: As the thousands of fans stream into Hall K of the Los Angeles Convention Center, a classical pianist performs a medley of John Williams’ score from all six Star Wars movies.


7:40 PM: The hall has now filled to three-quarters capacity. The pianist is performing Obi-Wan’s theme (a.k.a the Force theme, or the Throne Room Theme) from A New Hope. On the screen is the triangular CIV logo against a fireworks-spotted skyscape of Coruscant.


7:50 PM: The last rows are now beginning to fill in. Lightsaber salutes in the frontward rows are met by cheers. Tom Warner, Senior Director of Marketing at Lucasfilm takes the stage. “Hello Los Angeles! Welcome to Celebration IV. We’ve had a slight change of schedule to introduce a very special guest.” Warner recounted past venues that hosted Celebrations, like Denver and Indianapolis. “It took us about two seconds to decided where we wanted to be. For the 30th anniversary we knew we had to bring it back to Los Angeles. So, it is my pleasure to introduce the mayor of Los Angeles: Antonio Villaraigosa.


The mayor takes the stage wearing a Star Wars tie. “Let me welcome all the delegates of the New Republic to the city of Angels!” It’s been 20 years since the first ever official Star Wars event, the Mayor describes. “Today, we’re officially declaring today Star Wars day in the city of Los Angeles! We’re very excited to host you today. I understand it I’m one of the first mayors to greet you. My son wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an honor to host you in this city. Spend as much as you can! We’ll take it in. Let me just to say, ‘May the Force Be With You!'”


The Mayor then introduced City Councilwoman Jan Perry who expressed similar sentiments, and quoted the proclamation. “It’s a beautiful sight to see all of you! I’m so happy that you’ve chosen to come to downtown Los Angeles… and a special shout out to the 501st battalion!”


8:00 PM: “Let’s get on with the show and get to the fun stuff!” said Warner. A booming announcer formally started the show, and then video recapped the efforts to kick the year-long Star Wars Celebration. That is, a highlight reel from the Star Wars Rose Bowl parade plays. It ends with a shot of the USC Marching Band… and then transitions to the real deal. Marching down the aisles of the audience is the USC Marching Band, playing (what else?) the Imperial March.

The band make its way to the front of the line, accompanied by various international 501st members in full armor, bearing the flags of their countries of origin. They arrange themselves in front of the audience, marching in place.


8:05 PM: The crowd erupts in applause as the band starts another set and disperses. The music that replaces their march is a definite change of pace — it’s the pianist Ewok parade. A number of 501st stormtroopers take the stage. Suddenly an Ewok sneaks onto stage (yeah, you read that right) and chases the troopers off with his spear.


Another march starts up — the Raiders march. Indiana Jones comes on stage and cracks a whip at the Ewok… who pulls off the head to reveal: Steve Sansweet.

“Now I know why I’m not a costumer.”


8:10 PM: “Tonight we celebrate that day 30 years ago when that space fantasy opened on only 32 screens in North America.” Sansweet describes the climate of 30 years ago, about how few theater owner or executives showed faith in the film yet the fans knew it was big before anyone. “It was the fans were there then, and we’re still here 30 years later.”

Sansweet passes on George Lucas’ regrets for being unable to attend. A video has a personal message from George Lucas. He explains, “I’m off working on a project about a man with a hat and a whip. Hopefully this 30th celebration will turn into a 40th or 50th, and I look forward to seeing you at one of those.”

Sansweet then offered a live satellite interview from London with Lucas… or… let’s say a less-than-lifelike paper bag puppet proxy.


8:15 PM: Sansweet continues a tradition kicked off at Celebration III: the parade of celebrities. Joining Steve on stage were… eventually (he stalled with an improvised Ewok jig)…


Producer Robert Watts, Mary Apostagos (Ewok), Richard Bonehill (stormtrooper) Lightning Bear, (stormtrooper), Jon Berg, Mike Edmunds (Ewok), Paul Blake (Greedo), Dermot Crowley (General Madine) Micke Carter (Richard LeParmentier), Motti Rusty Goff (Ewok), Kent Colley (Admiral Piett), Don Bies, Julian Glover (Veers), Shawn Crawford, Jerome Blake (Rune Haako), Anthony Forrester (Fixer), Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter) Andy Secombe (Watto), Barry Holland (the “you Rebel scum” guy), Colin Higgins (Wedge), John Knoll, Gerald Hume (Jabba’s Palace), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Matthew Wood (General Grievous), Dave Filoni (Clone Wars director), Rena Owen (Taun We), Tom Kane (animated Yoda), Dave and Lou Elsey (Creatures) George Roubicek (Praji), Amy Allen (Aayla Secura), Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing), Shannon McCrandle (Mara Jade), Orli Shoshan (Shaak Ti), Producer Howard Kazanjian, Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett), Debbie Carrington (Romba), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Lorne Peterson, Alan Ruscoe (Plo Koon), John Coppinger (Jabba’s palace), LucasArts’ Haden Blackman, Nathalie Cox (Juno Eclipse), Sam Witwer (Vader’s Secret Apprentice), Ian Liston (Janson), Felix Silla (Ewok), Bruce Spence (Tion Medon), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Whitesun), Michael Kingma (Tarfful), Femi Taylor (Oola), Arti Director Norman Reynolds, Simon Williamson (Max Rebo), Nina Fallon (Stass Allie), Kevin Thompson (Ewok), Zachariah Jenssen (Kit Fisto), and Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho).

8:25 PM: Jay Laga’aia leads everyone assembled in singing “Happy Birthday to…” Star Wars, complete with a commemorative cake. “We didn’t think it’d be fair for us to have cake and you not have any,” says Jay, so there is actually cake available for everyone here in attendance.

8:30 PM: Can’t… type… eating… cake….

8:33 PM: Steve Sansweet introduces Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing. “Hi everybody. I’m the after-cake entertainment. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years. What a difference 30 years make. Movie todays open on thousands of screens. 30 Years ago, Star Wars opened on 32 screens. Movies today are marketing juggernauts, but when Star Wars came out it didn’t have any tie-in promotion. No merchandise. Very little in terms of ad budget. So, you may ask… how did it become the biggest film franchise of all time? Because of you!”

8:35 PM: “You grew up, you grew older, a lot of you had kids, and you stayed fans. That means you and we Star Wars, Lucasfilm, George Lucas, we’ve been together 30 years. That’s a long time. It’s a relationship. There’s been ups and downs. We’ve had our fights. And then we kissed and made up.” Roffman cites one example — Greedo shooting first. He also brings up Jar Jar Binks. “It’s interesting because your kids probably that that was okay. The truth is, there is a new generation of Star Wars fans. And just like most of think that it is the original trilogy that rules, some of the younger ones think the prequels are better. It’s great that we get to have these debates and disagreements. It’s all part of being a family.”

8:40 PM: Roffman describes one of the tough decisions made in his lengthy tenure — the launch of a publishing campaign in 1991. “You all made it number one on the national bestsellers.” He then described the relaunch of comics. And the launch of Star Wars videogames with X-Wing. “Then in 1995, I had to make a call whether or not we tiptoe back in the toy market again,” he says. “Not only do we put out Star Wars action figures, but do we put them on steroids as well? I got talked into that one, and I eventually talked Kenner out of that one.”


Roffman then described one of biggest until-recently-unfilled dreams in licensing, one that would require the cooperation of the United States Federal Government. “How could we get the United States Postal Service to honor Star Wars, and not with one stamp. How could you do it with just one stamp? It had to be a sheet.” After a lengthy process, the stamps became a reality on the 30th anniversary.


“There’s 15 Star Wars stamps, 400 R2-D2 mailboxes, two different contests, a special website, I have to say the Postal Service was really behind this,” says Roffman. He then introduces Chief Marketing Manager of the USPS Anita J. Bizzotto, who names and thanks the people at the USPS who made the Star Wars stamps a reality.


8:45 PM: Anita Bizzotto describes the stamps: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3po, Yoda, Emperor, Obi-Wan, Falcon, stormtroopers, X-wing, Padme, Anakin and Darth Maul. “These stamps are beyond our imagination. They create a lasting tribute to one of the greatest film sagas of all time. Bizzotto and Roffman unveil the stamp art to the audience.

“But that’s not all. How many of you have a favorite of the 15 stamps? How many of you went and voted for your favorite stamp? For only the second time in history, the American public went and voted for their favorite stamp.” Bizzotto unveiled the winner: Yoda. The audience bursts into applause, and the pianist plays Yoda’s theme.

8:50 PM: Sansweet returns (now in a tux, not an Ewok suit). He lists some of the sights and sounds of Celebration IV, many of must-sees that you’ve been seeing here in this blog and our Flickr photostream. He then brings out Charles Ross, the One Man Star Wars performer, for a recap of the original A New Hope.

8:55 PM: Charlie’s already at the droid auction. He wraps it up at the Binary Sunset. Sansweet continues describing the show, including introducing Jay Laga’aia. He gives a run down of some of the activities on his stage.

9:00 PM: Hoping to shake things up a bit, and get the butts out of the chairs, Jay starts up the music and sings “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.

9:05 PM: Sansweet’s back, switching gears to forthcoming LucasArts games. He starts off with Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron. He introduces the premiere of the Battlefront trailer, which calls out character customization as a key feature of the new PSP game. The all-new storyline puts you in Han Solo’s squadron of rogues. It is due out this Fall.

9:07 PM: The next subject Sansweet introduces is the movie Fanboys. He screens the trailer. (The Trekkers vs. Fanboys scene plays particularly well). “I’ve seen the rough cut, and you are going to love this movie.”

9:10 PM: Sansweet next introduces emcee Scott Chernoff. He runs down what’s happening on the Petree Stage (“Otherwise known as the Awesome Stage”).

9:15 PM: Chernoff describes his love of Star Wars in pop-culture, so he’s particularly excited about Seth McFarlane (“Family Guy”) and Seth Green and Matt Senreich (“Robot Chicken”) appearing on his stage.

9:19 PM: All new trailer premiere for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

9:22 PM: Sansweet next introduces a tribute reel that remembers those who contributed to the saga — both in front of and behind the camera — who contributed to making Star Wars a reality.

9:30 PM: Sansweet introduces emcee Doug Stevens who describes some of the programming on his stage.

9:34 PM: Sansweet introduces an abridged version of The Force Unleashed webdoc as he describes it as the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, the first step for the next 30 years of Star Wars and beyond.

9:37 PM: The crew from Star Wars in 30 Minutes take the stage to re-enact 30 years of Lucasfilms… in three minutes. They quickly breeze through Star Wars, The Star Wars Holiday Special, Empire, Raiders, the birth of the THX sound standard, Return of the Jedi, Temple of Doom, The Ewok Adventure, The Battle for Endor, Captain E-O, Labyrinth, Howard of the Duck, Willow, Tucker, Last Crusade, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III.

9:45 PM: Sansweet introduces Dave Collins, the last emcee of the night, who runs through the programming at his stage.

9:50 PM: Amira Sa’id, belly dancer extraordinaire, comes onto the stage to strut her stuff (you should have seen the photos by now)

9:53 PM: Sansweet begins to wrap up, thanking all those who helped. “The first 30 years have enriched the popular culture worldwide, provided bridges for global friendships, and made it okay — and even chic — to geek out in public. Can you just imagine what the next 30 years holds? I can’t wait, because as you know, Star Wars is forever!”

9:56 PM: Rocket Man (you may remember him from his appearance at the Rose Parade) actually soars in and lands his jetpack on the stage.

“Thank you, and good night!” says Sansweet.


24 Responses to Beat by Beat: Opening Ceremonies

  1. Thrawn says:

    Thanks for the updates. Loving the new blog; keep it up!

  2. Raven says:

    Me and a lot of people were there in line for the opening ceremonies and they made us stand at the door for 20 minutess or more then told us to back up. Then they started to tell everyone to leave the building immediately. We asked why and they would not tell us. They had made us check in the new light saber we had just bought for our son at a desk before we went in. We went to go get it when they told us to leave and security started telling everyone to leave and come back later to get our things. Most of us said we wanted our stuff and stayed then they made the staff at the check in leave so we never got the saber back. After they made us all leave through the back door not the front door we came in. We stood outside to find out what was going on. After about another 20 to 30 minutes. They told us we would have to come back tomorrow. They still wouldn’t tell us why. They said that the event was canceled. I get back to my room and read that the event is still going on. They told my wife as we were leaving that they were evacuating the room the event was in. I am not very happy at all. If the event was full just tell us. We realize you can only fit so many people in a room. I would have said Okay I should have gotten there 5 minutes earlier. You don’t make people stand around then yell at them to leave and not let then get the stuff they made you check in.

    Ryan “Raven” McCollough
    Very unhappy Star Wars fan.

  3. brand 'em' says:

    Great coverage with wordpress + flickr.
    Great work, and keep it up.

  4. Carl Hollomon says:

    I was at the Convention Center and they made us all leave because of a reportedly “suspicious package.” Did you just post a “news” story about an event that didn’t happen? Oops!


  5. Dan says:

    NO KOTOR 3 ANNOUNCEMENT??? I will be burning everything in my house associated with Star Wars and Lucasarts……”You have failed me for the last time Lucasarts!!!!”

  6. Adam Walker says:

    Um…was this from a script, or were we lied to? Hundreds of people were evacuated from the convention center, we were told there was a bomb threat, and were also told that people had been evacuated from the stage itself. What is going on here?

  7. R2 Fan says:

    I was also one of those people “evacuated.” I was at the top of the escalator when a woman began yelling that the LAPD said that there were too many people right now and the line would have to stop. Then a few minutes later that same woman came back and said we could go in now, but would have to check all bags and lightsabers. Then about 2 min later a man came running out saying turn around and immediately evacuate the building. After being outside for about 5 min, the PD were putting up yellow tape and told everyone that they needed to cross to the other side of the street. What really happened?! Did the show go on? How many were able to see it??

  8. Arcana says:

    It was a bomb threat and was handled extremely poorly. News reported tonight that it was a “suspicious object”. We were AT THE DOOR, literally the next person to sit down. It’s fine to let everyone stay in the convention center and blow up but the people waiting in line had to be moved to safety. Absolutely ridiculous. I’d like to personal thank the LAPD for ruining our chances to be the NEXT one through the door.

    Still I appreciate the update here so we can at least get an idea on what was said and shown.

  9. Adam Walker says:

    Okay, so the news just reported that, in fact, the show did go on. Those of us who were ushered out were supposedly done so because of a “suspicious satchel.” However, the people inside were deemd safe.

    Am I the only one who senses something majorly scammy about this? They found something they thought was a bomb, but Mayor Villaraigosa as well as six thousand fans were left inside?

    It striked me that this is major damage control to justify the completely a**-backward way the event was handled. It’s perfectly underatandable that you can’t put 25,000 people in a room designed to handle 6,000- but a crowd clicker should have been employed from the beginning the line started to keep count. It is inexcusable that experienced convention people had no idea how many people were in line, and didnt’t at least tell the people who could not get in that they were wasting their time. It is even more inexcusable that an “emergency” was handled in this manner.

    In an “emergency,” do we leave 6,000 people inside? Do we shut off all exits except for one? Do we send people to cross a street without letting them get to a crosswalk, rather encouraging them to cross against traffic? I was told by two convention center employees that their walkie-talkies were taken from them during the “emergency.” Have we not learned from recent attacks that the last thing one does in an emergency is take away people’s ability to communicate? Somehow, I think the thousands of dollars worth of exhibitors goods were protected. Somehow, I think the hundreds of thousands of dollars floating around the center were secured.

    This was no emergency.

  10. Maggie says:

    Those of us inside Hall K knew nothing about this! I just found out about this on the news when I got back to the hotel! I feel really safe that they evacauted the entire center except for the 6000 inside the hall.

    If you didn’t get to see the ceremonies though, consider yourself lucky. It was awful and actually made me feel embarrassed to be a Star Wars fan…something I never thought would happen ever!

  11. R2 Fan says:

    What channel did you guys see it on the news? I have it on, but haven’t seen anything yet. Do you think this “bomb scare” is going to be cleared up for tomorrow?

  12. Arcana says:

    It news channel that reported on it was NBC, Channel 4 news

  13. Arcana says:

    It was cleared up at 9:30pm tonight per the news report.

  14. Brandon says:

    This night was crazy. Me and my wife were ten feet from the door to the auditorium. We could see movies playing…hear the band…I think I spotted an Ewok on stage.

    But while they were apparently eating cake we were being tossed around from one place to another without any straight answers or even a “look, you can’t get in…go home.” Not that we could go home with our car behind police tape.

    We were still there at 9:30–it was 9:40 before we were able to leave, and the bomb squad was just arriving. My wife and I watched them show up. We talked with a police officer around 9:30 and he was saying they had been hosing down the “package” with water, and were just starting to “investigate”. I’ve written my full account (with a few pics) of the evening’s mis-adventure on my blog:

  15. Brandon says:

    This night was crazy. Me and my wife were ten feet from the door to the auditorium. We could see movies playing…hear the band…I think I spotted an Ewok on stage.

    But while they were apparently eating cake we were being tossed around from one place to another without any straight answers or even a “look, you can’t get in…go home.” Not that we could go home with our car behind police tape.

    We were still there at 9:30–it was 9:40 before we were able to leave, and the bomb squad was just arriving. My wife and I watched them show up. We talked with a police officer around 9:30 and he was saying they had been hosing down the “package” with water, and were just starting to “investigate”. I’ve written my full account (with a few pics) of the evening’s mis-adventure on my blog:

  16. Raff Hall says:

    Beat by Beat: Closing the Opening Ceremonies
    I had bronchitis today and left the doctor’s office to get my antibiotics and make it to the Star Wars celebration. I have spent over $200 of my paycheck this week, getting into an “event” where the only thing to do is spend more money on Star Wars crap. Sure I love the toys but this was a public relations nightmare! I was 30 people from the door to the opening night’s entertainment only to get treated like cattle at a round up. I stood for 2 hours in a line too long to make it to a seat. No one told us anything helpful. News people (perhaps from ABC) came out saying why aren’t they letting more people in? GOOD QUESTION! Empty seats and 15-20 feet of empty space in the back made us think we were only seconds away from getting in. After the Mayor of L.A. introduced Lucas spokesman and host Sansweet. I saw a video of George Lucas welcoming a less than full auditorium and then confused staffers gathered around whispering and we were FORCED outside with no explanation. Police tape & firetrucks as well as police trucks and armed SWAT types would not allow people leaving to get to there checked bags or cars. The confussed staff for the event said “just cross the street. You can’t use the crosswalk” Traffic was not diverted and the fans who got into the event stayed inside while the LAPD treated the garage and sidewalk outside like a bomb scare was happening. I had to wait almost an hour for the shuttle bus to get the OK to leave and the driver wouldn’t take me to the scheduled stop I needed. SO…… back I went to the “crime scene”?!? I sat for 30 more minutes and then with only one other passenger than myself, I got dropped off. Star Wars HELLebration 4 was poorly run and the LAPD once again get a gold star for awful public relations weeks after beating & shooting rubber bullets at protesters and news people. I fear going back Saturday although I bought a 6 day pass. I hope as public relations spokesman Sansweet can fix the damage done by the handling of this emergency or lie or whatever it was.

  17. Raff Hall says:

    I could see what was happening on the stage and thought when the marching band and stormtroopers cleared the way we would be seated. The staff seemed confused so I must say the LAPD are to blame more so than Star Wars Celebration orginizers. The police here in L.A. cause riots and treat crowds like cattle all the time. Think nazi stormtroopers outside the hall and Empire stormtroopers inside the hall. I fear going to the convention center Saturday-Monday. Why was the mayor left inside a building if there was a bomb threat? Something sounds fishy and as Judge Judy says “if it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t true”.

  18. ana says:

    So is it safe to go tomorrow (Saturday) to the convention?

    I don’t want to go and then people telling me that I need to go back because they evacuated the building.

    I was in line with a friend and then all of the sudden all the crew(the guys in blue t-shirts with yellow letters) from the convention disappears and then someone comes out the door evacuating a lot of people, then he told all the people in line to leave the convention because is close for the night. So my friends starts to get scared but after asking more people we left the convention center, later we saw at the news that the star wars ceremony really took happen and they were singing happy birthday.

    Then in the I check in the internet for more news and I saw this:


    Traffic was briefly redirected Friday night after a suspicious package was found near the Los Angeles Convention Center where a “Star Wars” convention was underway, authorities said.

    The package was found at 7:31 p.m. about 40 to 50 feet from the convention center by officers from Los Angeles’ Department of General Services’ Office of Public Safety, which protects Los Angeles city facilities, Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Wilson said.

    The package was found on Pico Boulevard between Cherry and Figueroa Streets, Wilson said.
    Fire and police officials set up a perimeter and summoned a bomb squad to X-ray the package, and discovered that it only contained clothes, he said.
    People were leaving the Convention Center when the package was found. Authorities controlled traffic briefly to keep people away from Pico Boulevard, he said.

    No one was injured, and no evacuations were necessary, he said.

    >>So after reading all the posts and this I don’t know what to think right now about the convention and if I should go tomorrow.

  19. I was there and stayed UNTIL AFTER the nightmare was over. I was one of the many people who couldn’t get their car from the South garage.

    After everyone left (they didn’t have to) or was forced to leave (they shouldn’t have been), we stayed for the “festivities”. 2 hours later, a cop waves us over from the crosswalk, assuming this was the “all clear” the tape started coming down and the “magical” LAPD had started departing.

    At this point we had met someone who went to register for Saturday and he arrived just as the fiasco started. So you all know since it seems that no one has said anything about it yet, it is SAFE to go on Saturday. As soon as it was over they let us back into the building and I went straight from registration with a plethora of questions. They seemed to be just as lost as us and told us that the celebration continued as we we’re all left outside. They also said that the schedule went back to normal and things that we’re open as of 9pm had resumed (the Celebration store, fan films, etc).

    The whole thing was awful and I was one of those people who was close to getting in, to make matters worse: they rushed everyone across a busy street, refused to let anyone get cars or bags and somehow thought that it would be intelligent to tell everyone to go home (without their cars).

    Oh and PS: Rumors are lame, if you don’t know what is going on in a situation then don’t make assumptions.. it makes you look like an idiot and only makes matters worse in a “crisis”. Remember this is CA, things like this just come with the territory.

  20. brand 'em' says:

    Lucas and staff, you should post a pr message addressing the bomb scare from last night.

    After all, if not for the loyal fans, SW would not be where it is today.

  21. Pentaras says:

    I can tell you guys that quite a few of us were completely unaware of what happened. I worked as a volunteer in the autograph hall, and, as such, was allowed to go in the VIP entrance. I got seated towards the middle, about 12 rows back. We watched the show from beginning to end, then went to our car and went home. I didn’t hear a thing until the next day, and, a couple of days later, I am only now becoming aware of the details. I am at a total loss to understand just what went wrong on all of this.

  22. […] You can see another fan’s blow-by-blow account of the ceremonies here: Beat-by-beat. […]

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