December 17, 2003 07:55 AM

Die-hard “Lord of the Rings” fans made it through “Trilogy Tuesday,” a 10 1/2-hour marathon of director Peter Jackson’s three films in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy — including the first public screenings of the third and final movie, “The Return of the King.”

The trilogy was greeted with wild enthusiasm at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore, where every character was cheered upon his or her entrance — especially Orlando Bloom, whose Elf warrior Legolas got the lion’s share of piercing screams, the Associated Press reports.

“If I could just stop the fan girls in the back from acting like high school fan girls, then it would be great,” Chris Baryliek, a 26-year-old graduate student at George Washington University, told the news service.

Most of the tickets at the 99 theaters showing the marathon were sold within hours after going on sale in October, with some admirers shelling out $250 a ticket on eBay.

As seats were not reserved, fans lined up (and in some cases, camped out) outside the theaters as early as Monday morning. During the marathon, some theaters set up buffets to feed fans between screenings, though many moviegoers reportedly came armed with their own PowerBars.

“I scheduled this a year ago,” said Nancy Pierson, a toxicologist from Boston who paid $120 on eBay for a ticket and drove to Albany, N.Y., to see the trilogy. “I couldn’t get anything closer.”

At a Tampa, Fla., theater Tony Straquadine, a 29-year-old engineer who happened to have Tuesday off, said he planned to indulge in a lot of chocolate so he could keep his system up to speed during the marathon. He also thought the theater might be a good pick-up spot.

“I want the kind of women who are going to be attracted to a geek,” he joked.

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