UNIVERSAL CITY — Blinking away the smoggy sunlight, Abby Baum emerged after two hours of suspense and screams in the Cineplex Odeon theater Friday morning--and pronounced herself exhausted.
"I've never been to a movie so early before," grumbled the 12-year-old Virginia girl, whose parents gathered up their family for a 9 a.m. screening of "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" at Universal Studios' CityWalk.
"It was even better than the first one," said her father, Sam, as he fought off a yawn.
From Lynchburg, Va., to Reno, Nev., to the Persian Gulf, a hearty handful of early risers made for the theaters Friday morning, some as early as 8 a.m., to beat the rush of moviegoers expected later in the day.
But not all of them needed alarm clocks.
Fresh from an all-night graduation party at Disneyland, Eric Brandenberg and seven other seniors from Notre Dame High School shook off a sunrise bus ride and ambled up to Universal Studios in time for the film's 8 a.m. showing.
Afterward, the tired group of friends lingered outside the theater, flanked by jungle mock-ups of the movie set that periodically shook with the roar and the pounding footfalls of an unseen tyrannosaur.
Children, some out of school, some far too young for it, slipped into the theater with their parents while Brandenberg and his friends talked. There was no line--yet.
"I haven't slept all night," the 17-year-old senior said, to which his friend Joe Sindel, 18, quipped: "Maybe you slept a little during the movie."
Eighteen-year-old Jackie Wade, who was due at her receptionist job at a neurological research institution an hour later, said, "I kept elbowing [Brandenberg] to move . . . Every single person in the movie theater jumped at one part" except for the dozing Brandenberg, she suggested with a smile.
Caught up in the "Lost World's" Paleozoic monsters, another friend, Amanda Goosen, 17, said, "I want to be a dinosaur person now. I want to be like Julianne Moore [one of the stars]."
But when told that paleontologists' income is modest, Amanda added: "Maybe I'll just do it for fun."
Far more likely to take up the profession--at least by their dress--were Lola and Darrin Forsythe, who were wearing safari garb identical to that of the two paleontologists in the first movie, "Jurassic Park."
And it was no accident. A lover of film and now dinosaurs, the Burbank man had boned up on "Jurassic Park's" pre-release ads and arrived at its 1993 opening in full film dress--tan pants, blue-denim shirt, Panama hat and red bandanna around the neck, just like the star paleontologist.
Four years later, in the same outfit, the 36-year-old Forsythe took in the 9 a.m. showing of "Lost World" with his 41-year-old wife. "The movie was very good," she said as she adjusted her safari hat. "Even better than the first one."
Visiting from the Middle East, three Navy lieutenants--one from Egypt and the others from the United Arab Emirates--paused outside the ticket booth Friday morning and said they were eager to see the movie.
"It will be good, no?" asked Lt. Mohammed Malik, 28, who was in civilian clothes.
Some had their doubts, like 9-year-old Alex Shefton. "For the past two weeks, I've had the same nightmare--velociraptors are all over the house," Alex said.
Resigned to her son's refusal to see the movie, 38-year-old Cherie Shefton of Newhall shrugged and led her children elsewhere along CityWalk, even though she had rousted her brood from bed early Friday to see the film and had even kept two children out of school for it.
"There'll be other days, I guess," she said.