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LOS ANGELES (Hollywoood Reporter) - Angry "Star Wars" fans, aggrieved about editing changes to an upcoming Weinstein Co. comedy inspired by the sci-fi franchise, picketed theaters playing the studio's latest film, with both sides claiming some sort of victory.
Protesters, organized by a fan group calling itself the 501st, showed up in "Star Wars" gear on Friday at AMC Theatres in New York and Los Angeles that were playing "Superhero Movie."
They want to draw attention to the fate of "Fanboys," about four diehard "Star Wars" fans who break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in order to see "The Phantom Menace" on the eve of its release. The film was originally set for the release last August, but a cancer storyline worried Weinstein, which shot a second version of the film. Fans were outraged.
Weinstein said last week that it will release the two versions on DVD, and a studio source later said that is exploring two theatrical versions. The announcement did nothing to satisfy the fans, who vowed to proceed with their picket of "Superhero Movie."
But the exact number of fans who donned "Star Wars" gear differs depending on which side is talking.
The 501st claims 14 members showed up in New York, but an AMC spokesperson said there was no protest, and a Weinstein source cited a YouTube video posted Friday night showing one protester saying no one else was there. The video has since been removed by the user.
The group also claimed more than 20 showed up at AMC's theaters in L.A.'s Century City district, but an AMC rep said this was limited to one person in a Darth Vader costume on the street outside the theater. A Weinstein source said eight protesters did appear, and were taken out for pizza by one of the filmmakers.
"We've been working on this movie for many years and if someone is going to take time out of their personal life and support our film, whatever that support may be, at the very least what we can do is say thank you and buy them a couple of slices of pizza for caring about this project as much as we do," "Fanboys" producer Matthew Perniciaro said.
"They seemed to take the term 'phantom menace' to a whole different level. I guess they weren't that organized. Apparently getting Star Wars fans to give up their Friday night isn't as easy as it looks," one source said.
Organizers learned quickly that it's all about location, location, location. For Los Angeles, the group chose a mall in Century City rather than a public area. Malls are private property and AMC and Weinstein Co. personnel were able to shut down protesters, visibly identifiable in "Star Wars" costumes or geekwear such as a Green Lantern T-shirt, almost as soon as they stepped foot into the outdoor mall.
"Guards were everywhere," said one protester, who declined to be identified. "At one point, I counted nine, no joke. They hired a whole force and whenever someone showed up looking around for the protest, they were surrounded by guards and told to leave instantly or be arrested. I guess you can't really hold a protest on private property."
The 501st claimed victory by pointing to "Superhero Movie's" dismal performance at the boxoffice.
"We're really not too concerned with how many people did or didn't show up at the protests," said the group. "'Star Wars' fans showed their support for 'Fanboys' by not showing up at theaters all over the country. Our primary goal was to make sure that that 'Superhero Movie' tanked on its opening weekend."
The movie mustered up a gross of only $9.5 million despite several predictions of a $14-milion-$19 million bow.