The biggest fan frenzy since Harry Potter is swirling around movie theaters this weekend.
In case you don't know any teenaged girls obsessing over Twilight, here's the deal: The first movie based on Stephenie Meyer's book series is opening this weekend. Twilight concerns a teenager named Bella who falls in love with a sexy vampire named Edward Cullen.
At the Edwards Mira Mesa Cinemas in San Diego, fans had started lining up Thursday morning for that night's minute-past-midnight screening.
Pumping up the crowd: Tina Peterson, who led her fellow eighth-graders in a cheerleader-style chant about Edward. They were among the hundreds of fans wrapped in sleeping bags, lounging in lawn chairs, and reading the Twilight book one last time.
Peterson and her friends said they just had to be there for the experience, which included staying up way past their bedtime to see "the best movie in the world." The teens had been waiting since summer for the movie to come out — 63 days, to be precise. They'd spent time each one of those days logging on to the Web to search for the latest news and footage.
Although no longer in high school, Leticia Robinson could still identify with the teen characters. She showed her passion for the film by wearing a Twilight T-shirt, necklace, purse, and pins — mostly from the retail chain Hot Topic.
At one preview screening of Twilight a few nights earlier, a group of teenage girls confessed that they had slipped out of school early to get in line. Krista Roe could barely contain her excitement.
"Oh my god have you read it?" Roe asked. "It's romance, and drama and life. It's just everything but with fictional characters. Mystical vampires and werewolves. It's awesome and they're all gorgeous!"
Roe is quick to dismiss criticism of the books' shortcomings — of, say, the language in which Edward expresses his feelings for Bella.
"It's not that he's saying, 'Oh, I love you,'" she says. "He's saying, 'I love you with all my heart. I would die to be with you.' He says all those cheesy lines, but when you hear them you don't think of them as cheesy. He doesn't know any better so that means so much more coming from him because he doesn't know they're cheesy, he thinks there's a meaning behind them."
Once the girls finally got into the preview, hearing those lines on screen made them squeal with delight. That amused Erica Hughes, an elementary school-teacher from Chula Vista, Calif.
"It's funny," Hughes says, "because you could tell that they had really read the books. When they really screamed was when they heard direct lines from the story, so I give them credit for actually having read the book. That makes me happy as a teacher."
Which brings us back to the eighth graders waiting in line for Thursday's midnight screening. Their boyfriends had come with them — to make sure they didn't fall too much in love with Edward, the girls said.
With or without boyfriends, though, the girls plan on seeing Twilight again... and again... and again. Beginning this Saturday.
First, though, they planned to take some time Friday to recuperate — with what Tina Peterson called "a sleepathon."