By David Finnigan
LOS ANGELES, US - Michael Jackson devotees have been camping for days in downtown Los Angeles to get tickets for the debut of a film about the fallen pop star rehearsing for a concert tour derailed by his death.
By Saturday morning about 300 people were ensconced in a queue in front of the Nokia Theatre, where commemorative tickets for debut showings of "This Is It" were to go on sale the first minute into Sunday.
"We don't sleep, we stay up all night," said Leticia Martin, who had staked out a spot near the front of the queue.
The 26-year-old medical technician spent Friday night learning dance moves to Jackson's iconic "Thriller" song from costumed zombies that entertained those waiting in line.
Some fans snuggled in sleeping bags on the concrete, while others napped in folding chairs.
"We're like one big family," Martin told AFP as she scanned the encampment.
Theatre operators expecting a crowd had used metal barriers to cordon off eight rows, three of which were empty leaving plenty of dancing room for a group reminiscent of a small tribe of pop music refugees.
Jackson fans were eager to get their hands on some of the first 500 movie tickets, which the film's promoters said will commemorate "This Is It" concerts Jackson had planned in London.
For some waiting here, getting a Jackson-designed piece of pop music history like the tickets was worth relying on public restrooms and missing work and sleep.
"I was up all night," said Andrew Wynglarz, a 26-year-old bus driver from Southern California.
Wynglarz sat with three friends and proudly recounted having had the good fortune to get inside the nearby Staples Center for a globally-watched July 7th Jackson memorial event.
Brenda Gonzalez said she joined the ticket camp at 3 o'clock Friday morning with her sister and a friend.
"I only slept like four hours, and I sleep 12 usually," said Gonzalez, a 26-year-old unemployed Los Angeles woman who was also among the fans that managed to get tickets for the Jackson memorial.
Fans in the queue expressed surprise that excitement surrounding the pending film release had thus far not matched the huge outpouring of emotion that followed Jackson's death on June 25th at the age of 50.
"It's a movie; maybe if he was still alive...," said Jimmy Lee, a 34-year-old Jackson imitator who performs for tourists on Hollywood Boulevard.
"After the memorial, it all calmed down," Wynglarz added. "This is just like a bonus."
Lee was adamant that people like him who had been camped out for tickets since Thursday afternoon were proof that "People are still reacting to his death. We're still kind of mourning."
About 3,000 tickets go on sale starting early Sunday for the behind-the-scenes concert film's Oct. 27th debut in Los Angeles.
Martin said that the long wait for prime tickets was only the first hurdle and that Jackson lovers would be again queuing for preferred seats inside theaters on opening day.
"We're going to have to get here early," Martin intoned.