Erika Engle

Thursday, May 19, 2005

May the work force
be with you

SOME Hawaii employers will have to juggle worker schedules today, thanks to George Lucas, and may be tempted to exact revenge on employees calling in "Sith."

Not that workers might abandon their posts today to see "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" or skip out because they stayed up late to see the 12:01 a.m. premiere.

Members of the first groups in line at Signature Dole Cannery Stadium 18, who had camped out since the weekend, said they were not digging out improperly.

Eric Castillo, whose notoriety in "Star Wars" fan circles secured him tickets for the Hollywood premiere and a special event in Indiana, was home sleeping in preparation for the big night when TheBuzz stopped by Dole Cannery yesterday.

Castillo bought 45 tickets for Circuit City co-workers including Ed Snyder, former co-worker Noa Fujimura, now at Oceanic Cable, and other friends.

They had taken turns maintaining their head-of-the-line status, between shifts at work, since Saturday. They were also first in line for "The Phantom Menace" in 1999 and "Attack of the Clones" in 2002.

Snyder laughed but also chafed at the suggestion they are geeks who need to "get a life."

"This is a fun thing that we do when ("Star Wars") comes around: We come out and support it," Snyder said.

With no apparent fear of scorn, Castillo has won costume contests with a C3PO get-up. He and his buddies built an R2D2 displayed among other memorabilia at the head of the line. The group also had food-and-drink-stocked coolers, an air-conditioned tent and an Xbox game console with a flat-panel Samsung TV purchased for the wait.

Circuit City Store Director Kilo Baird is among Castillo's ticket-holders and he doesn't anticipate lost productivity.

"They've rearranged their schedules, some people have taken vacation," he said, and others don't start work until later to allow for sleep between the movie and work.

"We've kind of helped them out that way, so that they'll be able to enjoy the premier," Baird said.

Two families of Ferreiras were represented in the second and third spots in line.

Aircraft mechanic Kamakana Ferreira was playing a game on his Gamecube as a friend slept nearby. It was his day off and he said he would not call in sick today. "We work swing shifts," he said.

An unrelated Ferreira, Brandon Ferreira, a food-service employee, has the week off; same for bartender Mike Rojek, while Matt Mau was off from Safeway in Hawaii Kai and Juno Chung was granted time off by his parents, who own the Koa House coffee shops in Wahiawa, Aiea and Kaneohe.

TheBuzz also contacted computer-services company SuperGeeks for comment.

Chief Executive James Kerr said he has noticed an influx of "Star Wars" paraphernalia in the office -- but he doesn't expect lost productivity. He has received no time-off-for-the-movie requests, but added, "If one of my guys needs to go see a movie and that's going to make a difference in his performance, I'm likely to give him or her the time off.

"The general consensus is, everyone's eager to see it, but they're more likely to wait for the crowds to die down."

Everybody is predicting galactic revenue levels for the movie and the exhibitors.

"'Star Wars' has established a record for us in advance ticket sales," said Dick Westerling, spokesman for Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group, which owns Signature Theatres.

Nearly a fourth of Consolidated Theatres' more than 100 screens on Oahu and Maui will be showing the film tonight and beyond. The 2,000 seats for the six screens at the Ward 16 were sold out, said Glenn Yim, Consolidated vice president.

It is a far cry from the first "Star Wars" movie, when for a time the only Oahu theater showing it was the now-closed Cinerama.

"That's why the lines were so long, around the corner," Yim said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com

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