Click photo to enlarge
Brianna Tarpey, 16, from Lafayette, catches a few winks as she waits in the 12:01 a.m. line for the premiere of the vampire movie "Twilight" at Century 16 Theaters on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in Pleasant Hill, Calif. Tarpey arrived at 8:30 p.m. and was halfway in the line for the 400-seat theater. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

They started lining up at noon, a full 12 hours before the first showing of "Twilight" at Century 16 Downtown Pleasant Hill.

In a scene played at screenings throughout the Bay Area, hundreds of fans came wearing "Twilight" T-shirts and carrying books from the best-selling vampire series. By 10:30 p.m., they were let into the screening theater and nearly all the seats were packed by 10:45.

Then they waited. There was a bachelorette party inside one of the four theaters scheduled to show the film; the bride-to-be's only wish was to see the opening midnight screening of "Twilight" with her cadre of friends. After that was announced and a round of applause erupted, a group of five girls stood up and had their pictures taken in front of a blank movie screen.

Excitement filled the room.

Erika Jasmin, a 25-year-old from Concord, bought her tickets for opening night of the film a month in advance. She left her young son in the care of her husband to be with the girls, watching vampire Edward romance beautiful Bella, late into the night.

"It's kind of like you want to believe there's an Edward out there," she says, dreamily, before the show.

This was not a mixed crowd. The audience was 98 percent female and mostly younger than 30. High-school-age and younger girls took their seats along side young women in college.

Though many of the moms who brought their daughters to the movie Thursday night said their kids would suffer through a sleepy Friday school day, Priscilla Echols, 16, said she'd call in sick. It's too important to be with Bella and Edward Thursday night.

"I am a pretty big freak for Harry Potter but I love `Twilight' a lot more," she says with a grin.

"We're 23-year-old losers," Amanda Davenport of Pittsburg joked as she waited with two friends, Kelli French and Heather Silva. "I don't even like this fantasy stuff and I am halfway though the third book."

Davenport, French and Silva agreed that the "Twilight" series is the best set of contemporary fiction novels books out there and French admits, further, that she doesn't like to read much. She finished the first "Twilight" book in two days.

Edward, the 17-year-old vampire who falls in love with Bella the mortal, is the type of man many ladies wants, French says. He opens car doors, pays for dinner, gives unyielding attention. So what if he sucks a little blood?

"I am looking for my own vampire," she adds.

The lights dimmed. This was, apparently, a Harry Potter-friendly crowd, as the first shrieks of the evening followed a preview of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," opening next July. But that's a millennium away. Tonight was all about "Twilight" and, particularly, Edward. A bizarre, hormonal squeal erupts once Robert Pattinson, who plays the sultry hero, first appears on screen.

Yes, the movie is decidedly more shallow than the book. Yes, the film has been panned by many critics. But the audience for the first showing of the film ate up every joke, every one of Bella's stumbles and every tender kiss.

And, when it was over, talk about a sequel flowed easily through excited lips.

Reach writer Laura Casey at 925-952-2697 or e-mail lcasey@bayareanewsgroup.com.