At Village East, Waiting for the Doctor

Doctor WhoGrace Maalouf Village East Cinema manager Steve Albistur sets up the theater’s marquee for Monday night’s premiere screening of Doctor Who, for which fans (below) have been camped out nearly 24 hours.
Doctor Who

Saturday night, Jessica Whitton and several of her friends heard about a screening for the BBC cult favorite “Doctor Who.” Showing at the Village East Cinema tonight, the screening of the sci-fi series opener will bring together cast members and producers, and allow several hundred fans an exclusive first glimpse at the season premiere. So Ms. Whitton and several friends drove six hours from Youngstown, New York, to Yonkers, then took a 90-minute train ride into Grand Central.

They got to Village East last night around 9 p.m., and have been camped out in front ever since. The screening will begin at 7 p.m.

“I haven’t eaten today,” says Ms. Whitton, 19. Through last night’s mist, she and her friends slept on the sidewalk. “But it was worth it.”

At 10 this morning, actors from the show surprised waiting fans with some breakfast and took pictures.

“I woke up to Karen Gillan offering me a donut,” said Marjory Collado, referring to one cast member. Ms. Collado, 24, has been waiting near the beginning of the line with the first fans, who arrived at 4 p.m. yesterday. They’ve come from Maine, Connecticut, Tennessee. Others have flown in from Florida and Texas. One of them, Tristan Shippen, 19, has been blogging the campout since it began.

Village East manager Steve Albistur called the crowds “much bigger than anticipated.”

He had set aside two theaters for the screening, he said, “and now we opened up a third one.” He estimated that the theaters could now accommodate about 650 fans, but some at the end of the line will not make it in. He said that at 9 this morning the crowds numbered about 700. The line stretched around the theater on 12th Street, down Third Avenue and wrapped around 11th Street. Mr. Albistur said he’s never seen a response like this for an event at the theater.

Doctor WhoGrace Maalouf Fans waiting for the Doctor Who screening sit on Third Avenue by a chalk drawing they’ve made of a Tardis, the time machine used by characters in the show.

Hindi Kornbluth, 20, has been waiting since 9 p.m. yesterday, and done “mostly just a lot of studying,” she said. Though she and friend Marla Laub were playing cards, her organic chemistry textbook sat nearby. As Ms. Laub explained the show’s appeal, a maintenance worker walking by asked the fans to lower their voices. Some neighbors from across the street have made noise complaints, Albistur said.

Fans left the line to get food from East Village eateries, and many who didn’t know each other before yesterday have now become friends.

“Somebody brought us Starbucks,” Ms. Whitton said.

T.J. Maries, a friend of Ms. Whitton, called the crowd “understanding” of holding other’s spots in the line.

“We’re all out here in this together,” said Mr. Maries, 18.

Rebecca Wright, 26, explained that this is the first time the show will premiere simultaneously in the United States and England. So those in line will be the first fans to see the show from either side of the Atlantic, minus the 100 or so press members and cast members who have already gotten a peek. “Doctor Who,” which has been running since 1963, is set to air April 23 on BBC America. This season marks the first time any episodes have filmed in the U.S.

A spokeswoman for BBC America, Amy Mulcair, said in an e-mail message that the network was “thrilled at the great fan reaction. We know that ‘Doctor Who’ fans are incredibly loyal and supportive and we’re delighted to have the ‘Doctor Who’ cast in NYC to thank them personally for that.”

Earlier this afternoon, while Ms. Whitton counted down the final few hours until the premiere, she talked about the spirit of camaderie those standing on line felt.

“Doctor Who brings people together,” she said.

Even it means they have to camp out on the sidewalk all night to see it.

Doctor WhoGrace Maalouf Iko Coscolleula, 35, waits for the Doctor Who screening on 12th Street next to the figurine collection owned by a friend and fellow fan.

This post has been changed to correct an error; an earlier version misidentified the actress Karen Gillan.