The Force awakened in South Florida Thursday night.
Despite the presence of costumed Sith Lords, things were calm at the Cobb Theater in Dolphin Mall Thursday evening moments before the first showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a film that already broke box office records by Friday morning.
Variety magazine reported the movie set a U.S. record with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” taking in $50 million to $55 million in Thursday-night shows, easily breaking the previous Thursday-night record of $43.5 million by Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in July 2011.
The movie was released internationally on Wednesday and will debut in more than 4,000 theaters on Friday. “The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, is the seventh installment in the saga and the first Star Wars movie in almost ten years. Fans of the series said they expect the movie to perform better than the last three episodes.
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Larry White, 29, a filmmaker who was one of the first in line at the theater, said things were unusually slow for a movie with so much hype.
White had been in line since 10 a.m. on Thursday. “But I probably would have been safe coming around 3 p.m.,” he said.
In fact, theater workers said there were still tickets left just minutes before the 7 p.m. showing.
The early showing brought fans old and young — some dressed as Jedis — who said part of the Star Wars magic was discussing fan theories and expectations during the wait.
“I think that Princess Leia is going to die, Luke is going to end up evil and Jar Jar is going to be the Sith Lord,” said Marco Luna, 12, waiting in line with friends and parents from Doral Academy Preparatory School. “I started watching when I was 8 years old, but I know it’s going to be great.”
Lines were long (even for the 1:30 a.m. showings) and crowds clapped, cheered and even cried at the Regal South Beach 18 when the “Star Wars” theme song and recognizeable logo appeared on the screen.
Adam Aschinger of Miami Beach took his dad, Larry, to see the movie, as they had done for the previous six installments of the “Star Wars” saga.
“I am already excited to see the next one (Episode 8) and where they go with it,” Aschinger said.
In Coconut Grove, the Cinepolis movie plex was packed with Star Wars fans who had purchased their tickets over a month ago. The theaters were full, but the longest lines were at the concession stands. Families came decked out in Star Wars themed costumes, like a daddy Han Solo, a mommy Jedi and kids dressed as Stormtroopers or Rey, the lead in this latest installment. By the time midnight showings were getting started, there were fewer costumes as most young fans were dressed in their favorite Star Wars t-shirts.
As the 7 p.m. shows exited and those crowds ran into fans waiting for the 10 p.m. shows to begin, many avoided each other on purpose, as to not overhear any spoilers or surprising moments.
Tony Albelo, a die-hard Star Wars fan who also runs S.W.A.R.M. events in Miami, bought out an entire 58-seat Cinepolis theater when tickets first went on sale and then invited his family and friends at no charge. “I planned on doing this for about a year,” Albelo said as guests approached him and he checked them off his list and gave them tickets to their assigned seats. “I have always wanted to do this. When people would ask me how much they owe, I just told them it was on me.”
Like most, Tony thought the movie was great, “fresh”, and a lot of fun. Younger fans were impressed with Rey’s character played by Daisy Ridley. “Rey rocks” said one fan. “Maybe she is Luke’s daughter.”
Many fans expressed they would see the movie a second time, but don’t count on Ina Artzt from Coral Gables to be one of those. She wasn’t a fan of the “Force Awakens”ending (don’t worry, we won’t spoil it here) and felt that making Rey the next Jedi didn’t feel genuine enough. But above all else, when former cast members Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (General Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) made their screen debut, Artzt said it made her “feel old.”
The movie has grossed over $14.1 million internationally and is expected to open to over $200 million in the U.S., having already sold $100 million in advance ticket sales.