‘The Force’ returns

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fans ready for record-setting premiere

Today is the day.

Ending months of mounting excitement and speculation, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” finally hits movie screens around the country on Thursday.

The film — the seventh in the epic Star Wars series — is already packing theaters with generations of devoted fans, thanks to advance online ticket sales.

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The first showings at some local theaters, including Cinemark at Chesapeake Square, are sold out, according to the theater’s website. Local Cinemark employees declined to comment.

A local spokesman from Regal Harbour View Grande 16, in North Suffolk, also declined to discuss the Star Wars premiere. Chris Newman, a spokesman in Regal’s corporate office, said Tuesday that seats were still available at Suffolk’s first showings on Thursday.

Cinemark, at Chesapeake Square, will have 12 showings of the movie on Thursday, starting about every half hour from 7 p.m. until 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Harbour View has 10 showings on its schedule, with new showings every half hour between 7 and 11:30 p.m.

Star Wars fans Jennifer and Brett England, who live in Western Branch area of Chesapeake, will be among the crowd at Chesapeake Square.

“We’re excited,” Jennifer England said. “We bought our tickets in October.”

The Englands made local headlines last year after someone stole light sabers from their Star Wars-themed Christmas light display.

This will be the third installment in the Star Wars saga that the couple has seen on opening night. During previous openings, they typically showed up four hours before the movie started to score good seats.

In the past, people would show up at midnight openings dressed in character, England said.

Many theaters are discouraging costumes this time out of an abundance of caution in the wake of terrorist attacks.

For England, the appeal is the classic tale of good versus evil — with light sabers. And for the story to be told properly, it should be in sequence, she said.

“You have to see it in the order,” said England. She and her husband rewatched the last three episodes during the past week.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” picks up the legendary story created by George Lucas in the 1970s. It is set 30 years after “Star Wars: Episode VI” and includes actors from the original films, including Harrison Ford as Han Solo.