If the guy in front of you at today's showing of "The Empire Strikes Back" at the State Theatre is wearing a big black helmet that's obscuring your view, you'd be better off moving than asking him to remove it. You don't want to get on the bad side — or is it the dark side? — of Darth Vader.
The Sith lord and other "Star Wars" characters, members of the 501st Legion Central California Garrison, will be menacing moviegoers and posing for pictures before the 3 p.m. screening of a 35mm archival print of "Empire," the second film in Modesto native George Lucas' original "Star Wars" trilogy. This is the 30th anniversary of the release of the 1980 film, which many fans and critics consider the best of all six "Star Wars" movies.
Referring to the costumed enthusiasts of the 501st Legion, State Theatre manager Sue Richardson says, "Wes Page (the Modesto Junior College video/media production specialist who portrays Darth Vader) and his crazy cast of characters really lay it on. Darth Vader is very imposing and scares the daylights out of people. We normally open our doors a half an hour before showtime, but we'll open at 2 p.m. so people can take pictures."
The print is being loaned to the theater because of contacts Kenneth White, MJC dean of business and behavioral and social science, has with Lucasfilm Ltd., Richardson said. "This is a very rare thing, and it's huge for us to get it," she said.
Last summer, the State screened the original "Star Wars" to a sellout crowd, and Richardson said it's likely the 500-seat theater again will fill to capacity. So arriving early is recommended, not just to take pictures and ensure you'll have a seat, but to make sure it's not behind the big guy.
Tickets to today's show are $8. The State is at 1307 J St., Modesto. For more information, call 527-4697 or go to www.thestate.org.