New Moon's Premiere: A Familiar Scene of Lunacy

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Fred Prouser / Reuters

Robert Pattinson signs autographs at the Los Angeles premiere of The Twilight Saga: New Moon

If there was ever a question of whether New Moon could sustain the energy and audience passion of its Twilight original, the film's studio was not afraid to find the answer through a straightforward comparison.

A year after the original film's premiere, Summit Entertainment unleashed its much anticipated sequel at the very same venue in a tony Los Angeles suburb of Westwood. Monday's red-carpet replay proved the franchise hasn't lost any of its giddy momentum. Judging by the electricity and sustained ear-piercing volume of thousands of Twi-hards, New Moon seems to have successfully replicated its predecessor's insanity. And then some.

"You can't really prepare for something like this," an overwhelmed Robert Pattinson, who co-stars in the films, told TIME, straining to be heard above the screams from fans barricaded only feet away. "I don't know how the Beatles felt, but this is kind of ..." he trailed off as rows and rows of mostly teenage girls maintained their high-pitched din, one noticeably bursting into tears at his presence. "I think very few human beings can ever get this same feeling."

Of course, Pattinson can hardly be considered a mere human. As millions of the Twilight fans around the world know, his Edward Cullen embodies a secret world filled with vampires, archrival werewolves and really, really complicated mixed relationships.

But while undead love triangles can be messy things, Twilight's particular brand of angst (and the troupe of young hotties bringing the popular book series' characters to life) has proved powerful enough to keep the girls coming. Of the estimated 3,000 exceedingly vocal fans at the Monday-night premiere, some had been camping in the square for five days to ensure that they would have a prime square foot of concrete once the stars began to arrive. Stephanie Clark, 29, was part of a group of fans taking up the best real estate, earned through nights of sleeping bags, tents and improvised bathroom facilities. "You quickly find out that the In-and-Out burger bathroom is open till 2 a.m. and the Starbucks opens at 6 a.m.," says Clark. "There was a four-hour window of panic."

For their pains, fans like Clark had a front-row seat as übercrushes like Pattinson all but dived into the crowd. With two sweating security guards keeping very close tabs, the British heartthrob went to work signing everything in sight with a furiously wielded black Sharpie. (Many happy fans walked away with what appeared to be a rolling R.) As the evening headliner and top scream inducer, Pattinson worked the red carpet for 90 minutes before one last audience thrust at the theater door, which sparked one final frenzy.

Fans hoping to see extracelluloid sparks between Pattinson and his onscreen leading lady, Kristen Stewart, were disappointed. Perhaps because of persistent rumors of a real-life romance, the two kept a strategic distance on the red carpet and never came close to intersecting. Stewart instead played around with the other member of her onscreen love triangle, Taylor Lautner, patting him on the shoulder as the two beamed at each other. "We both had to do talk shows today, and we both kind of nailed it," she told TIME, referring to her red-carpet moments with Lautner. "I was like, 'Congratulations.' "

Most of the Twilight characters had supportive fans with poster shout-outs: there was Team Edward, Team Jacob, Team Bella, Team Wolf Pack, Team Volturi and one sign that called for Team Anything I Can Get. Even the lesser known Cullen vampire Jasper had team posters and a significant following. "I guess it's a blessing," actor Jackson Rathbone said slyly when asked about his character's fan club. "And maybe Twilight has something to do with it." Twilight rookie Alex Meraz admitted to trying pre-event relaxation techniques before showing up. "I meditated before I came," he told TIME. "Then I pulled up, and I was still scared. It didn't work. Everyone was screaming."

Veteran character actor Michael Sheen, who plays a vampire leader in the films, worked the red carpet with his starstruck daughter. He clearly enjoyed being a Twilight hero to his own fan. "It's all downhill for me in terms of my daughter," Sheen admitted as the beaming girl met author Stephenie Meyer on the carpet. "I asked my daughter in priority terms who she wanted to meet the most, and she said Ashley Greene." Clinching Father of the Year, Sheen moments later made a beeline for Greene with his daughter in tow. "She's going to remember this for the rest of her life," he said. She won't be the only one.