Tickets went on sale in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., on Wednesday. Crowds of Force fanatics waited for hours to buy tickets, some camping out overnight.
Tickets go on sale at theaters in Waynesboro, Pa., and Chambersburg, Pa., on May 18.
"It's a phenomenon. It could put me to sleep in the first five minutes and I would still love it," Keener said.
He purchased 12 tickets for family and co-workers at Phoenix Color. Watching the movie at the R/C Hagerstown Cinema 10 will have special meaning for Keener because he saw the original "Star Wars" movie at the former Leitersburg Drive-In back in 1977, he said.
Keener said he decided to arrive early and wait in line to be part of what he called the "Star Wars experience."
"The crowd's really energetic and anticipating getting their tickets," he said.
Shawn Johnson, 24, of Williamsport, predicted the movie will be a blockbuster.
"They don't even have to show it. Just the amount of tickets that will sell makes it a hit," he said.
For Peter Fogle, 18, of Martinsburg, W.Va., it's all about the camaraderie.
Fogle and his friend Alex Wiedel, 20, of Keedysville, waited in line Wednesday to be part of the excitement, he said.
The two sat on lawn chairs listening to the soundtrack to the new "Star Wars" release and flipping through magazines featuring the movie and its stars.
Fogle said he watched the re-release of the original movie at Cinema 10 and ''wanted to duplicate the experience."
Fogle lists "The Empire Strikes Back" as his favorite of the original movies.
He said "Return of the Jedi" was a cliffhanger and people will come to see "Phantom Menace," the new film, "to have closure."
Tim Moffit, 23, of Hagerstown, said being one of the first to see the movie means there will be less chance he will hear people talking about it and ruin the ending for him.
Moffit waited in line Wednesday afternoon with his wife, Shannon, 24, taking his friend Mike Brierley's place in line when he left for work.
Brierley, 25, of Hagerstown, has been a "Star Wars" fan since he was 5 years old. His son will be the same age when he is initiated into "the force."
Brierley was one of a handful of people who camped out at Cinema 10 on Leitersburg Pike.
He got off work at Tri-State Electrical Supply Co. at 1:30 a.m. By 3 a.m. he was in sitting in a chaise lounge in front of the theater.
"It's better than sitting at home watching the Psychic Hot Line channel," he said.
The first person to arrive at the theater was Brian Roberts, 18, who said he's using the time to study for his final exams at Hagerstown Community College.
Roberts, who lives in southern Washington County, arrived at 9 p.m. Tuesday and was joined by two friends who plan to graduate with computer science degrees from Hood College in Frederick, Md.
"We know we're crazy. We just want to prove we're true fans," Roberts said.
Other "Star Wars" enthusiasts got an early crack at tickets at the Hoyts Martinsburg Cinemas 10 where tickets went on sale at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
About 35 people began lining up for tickets at 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, led by Albert Perrone, 47, of Bunker Hill, W.Va.
"It's cool, it's big, it's America," said Perrone, adding he and his wife sat through two consecutive showings of the original when it premiered 22 years ago in New York.
With her husband, John, asleep at home, third-shift worker Dorothy Showalter cut her own rest short to surprise her husband with "Phantom Menace" tickets.
"My husband is a 'Star Wars' freak," Showalter said.
Ryan Horst, 17, of Martinsburg, and three of his friends skipped school to make sure they didn't miss out on next Wednesday's show.
"Our parents didn't have a problem with it. They wanted tickets, too," said Horst.
Martinsburg rock radio station WKMZ 97.5 enlisted a few people in the line to buy about 80 opening-night tickets for an upcoming promotion.
The station broadcast live from the Hoyts parking lot for about three hours Wednesday afternoon, with D.J. Bill Hutton wearing a Chewbacca doll around his neck and showing off his collection of "Star Wars" paraphernalia.
Desiree Shields, 19, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., and her friend Jennifer Folk, 18, of Martinsburg, said they were looking forward to finding out why Darth Vader turned to the Dark Side of the Force.
"I've been waiting my entire life for this movie," Shields said.
Staff Writers Laura Ernde and Bryn Mickle contributed to this story.