They flew in from Winnipeg, Canada, on Sunday, stashed their stuff at a downtown hotel and headed for Nokia Plaza to meet other friends. There was a little confusion about where to stand but in the end there was a lot of luck: Puneet Chawla and Jennifer Romanoff were among the first people to be admitted into the plaza to camp out for a coveted spot along the red carpet to watch the arrivals for the invitation-only premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."
The third installment of the popular movie franchise about a young girl's romance with a handsome vampire is set to debut Thursday night at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival sponsored by The Times. But by Tuesday morning, the space outside the theater had been transformed into a tent city of colorful nylon domes, portable lawn furniture and shade umbrellas belonging to roughly 500 fans prepared to wait 90 hours for a possible glimpse of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and the rest of the "Twilight" cast.
"Bucket list; cross it off," said Chawla, 27, invoking the virtual roster of things to do before you die. She wore a Team Edward T-shirt to show her allegiance to Pattinson's character and perfectly applied eye makeup despite the fact that she had been living outside for two days. "I can go home, put it in my scrapbook, read it, and say, 'That was really cool.' "
The settlement is such a striking sight that Lakers players on Monday snapped pictures of the "Twilight" camp as they passed in the parade. But the self-described "Twi-hards" out on the plaza are more than just fervent fans — they are a hardy band of adventurers. Some were pelted with water balloons when they camped out in Westwood for the premiere of "New Moon" last November.
"People didn't want us there," said Romanoff.
On a sunny Tuesday it's like the beach without the water. Inside tents people have pillows, water, chips — the essentials. Others have discovered nearby outlets for electric kettles to boil dinners of Ramen noodles.
"We are actually campers," said Dina Rose, 47 — "I'm an old Twi-tard" she laughed, using the more negative term to describe fans — as she sat on a lawn chair in shorts, tank top and aviators near her daughter, Amber, 13. "This is easy camping. There's no dirt."
It's also fairly civilized. Every resident of the tent city gets a wristband and signs in with his or her name and cellphone number at a desk near the entrance to the encampment, now encircled with low gates. Eventually, when the red carpet is unfurled — through the middle of this plaza —people will be given places along its borders in order of their wristband numbers.
Some fans are taking turns leaving in shifts for food, bathrooms, even work. Some go home for a while. Some out-of-towners opted to rent local hotel rooms where they could park belongings and take showers.
"We just tell them don't be gone for a day," said Tony Russo, a supervisor for Special Event Management who watches solicitously over the comings and goings of the fans. "It brings me back to the ' Harry Potter' thing," he said.
Rose was re-reading "Eclipse" while her daughter sat cross-legged on a comforter eating a peach. "Honestly I talked her into this," said Rose, who is off work from her job in an elementary school health office. "We're spending a lot of time together. I have a captive audience. She's away from the TV," Rose glanced up at the jumbo screen endlessly playing commercials in the plaza. "Sort of."
In the middle of the plaza, four friends sat trading stories of their exploits at other "Twilight" premieres. Kelly Orr, 24, a Cal State Fullerton student and a manager at the Jamba Juice in El Monte, brought out the copy of "New Moon" that she got Pattinson to sign at a previous event. The scrawl of his initials looks like a giant "N."
"I know, it's kind of lame," Orr said. "I kind of want to forgive him because I don't want him to get carpal tunnel."
They say they're hoping to see the actors, maybe get an autograph or a photo taken in an instant.
"Ideally, they'll be like, 'Hey, you want to go to the party, because you look like fun. You don't look crazy — even though you stayed out here for four days,' " Orr said laughing. "It's not realistic."
That didn't stop another friend from hoping for more from Pattinson. "If he could just know that I stayed out here," said Natalie Escalante, 20, who works with Orr, holding a plaid umbrella over her shoulder as shade.
But in the end, the waiting is the party.
"Everyone's online, on the phone, you don't have much human contact," said Tasha Ferrell, 25, who also works at the Jamba Juice. "Even if we had done something else — like gone to Vegas — it's nice to be young and with your comrades."
"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" opens in general release June 30.