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‘Star Wars’ fans flock to theaters to see franchise’s first movie in 10 years

The Force was strong with "Star Wars" fans in the Grand Forks area, who started trickling into theaters as early as noon Thursday to see the franchise's first movie in 10 years.

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Nolan Sogge, 7, dresses up like a jedi for the Star Wars The Force Awakens Premiere at River Cinema 15 and poses with John Doehler outside the theater. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

The Force was strong with “Star Wars” fans in the Grand Forks area, who started trickling into theaters as early as noon Thursday to see the franchise’s first movie in 10 years.

David Steward Jr. and his wife, Leah, showed up at River Cinema seven hours early to catch the first showing of “The Force Awakens” wearing matching sweaters plastered with still photos from the iconic movie series.

“It was my first love of science fiction, so when this movie came out, I couldn’t hardly wait,” Leah Steward said. “I got the tickets a month and a half, two months ago. It’s been a long time waiting.”

The husband and wife were first in a line of just two as of 2 p.m. on Thursday, but theater employees expected more to come.

Theater managers braced for large crowds as hundreds of fans prepared to join the Stewards in line. Randy Van Camp, manager of the Carmike 10 in Grand Forks, said he wasn’t allowed to say how many advance tickets were sold but said staff have been prepping heavily for the big night -- getting concessions in order, lining up staff and holding meetings to make sure everything is ready.

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“I can’t even say,” he said of expected attendance. “It’s going to be a lot, though.”

The Stewards weren’t sure how much of a line they would be contending with, and they decided they’d rather be safe than sorry.

Besides, the franchise is an important part of their lives, they said.

“The first thing we were able to bond was over ‘Star Wars,’” David Steward said. “I’ve been into science fiction my entire life.”

“The Force Awakens” is the seventh installment in the “Star Wars” series, coming 10 years after the release of “Revenge of the Sith,” the final installment of the original trilogy’s prequels. Fans and critics alike were disappointed with the prequels’ quality, and many hoped Thursday’s release would bring a redeemable chapter to the franchise.

“I know a lot of people are very nervous,” said Stephen Tice, who dropped by River Cinema just before the show dressed as Han Solo with his wife, Kayla. “JJ Abrams is (directing) instead of George Lucas. Disney now owns ‘Star Wars.’ There’s a lot of question marks and a lot of fears that go along with that. But I think, as a fan, it’s exciting to see the universe expand.”

It wasn’t just Tice who came dressed in character. Multiple moviegoers streamed through in “Star Wars” gear, from a child dressed as a galactic princess to Grand Forks resident John Doehler, who came dressed in his very own bounty hunter costume made from aluminum, steel and fiberglass.

A member of the Mandalorian Mercs, a global costume-centric club of “Star Wars” fans who dress like some of the series’ famous bounty hunters, Doehler said he was invited by River Cinema to greet guests.

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“This has been a three-year process to get it the way it looks now,” he said of his costume.

Collin Young, 5, was dressed as Darth Vader as he sat in the theater waiting for the movie to begin. He was seated next to his friend longtime friend James Bernstrom, 6, whose mother explained that the two have wanted to see the movie together for at least a year.

“I love ‘Star Wars,’” Collin said. “It’ll be the coolest movie ever.”

Related Topics: MOVIES
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