The “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens” release date of Dec. 18 is causing an old, but still popular trend to come around, grabbing new fans in its futuristic grasp. Toy stores are filling up with light sabers, star destroyers and toy versions of Luke Skywalker [Mark Hamill], Hans Solo [Harrison Ford] and of course Luke’s sister Leia [Carrie Fisher]. They’re also bringing new characters into play, though, such as Finn [John Boyega] and Rey [Daisy Ridley]. Children and teenagers are a big market for toys and action figures, but the adult fans are the ones who remember these movies from their childhood and are usually first in line for new releases. Adults have been pre- ordering their tickets since they came out in October and have been attending all of the new releases and fan screenings.
The first of the series, “A New Hope,” was originally released May 25, 1977 in the U.S. and instantly won the hearts of many. Soon following, “Empire Strikes Back” was released on May 21, 1980; Lastly, “Return of the Jedi” was released on May 25, 1983. That makes the generation of those who grew up in the 70s and 80s the original main fan base for these movies.
That is until “The Phantom Menace” was released on May 19, 1999; along with “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.” These movies opened up a new generation of child fans during the early 2000s, to teens and adult alike, to become reintegrated with the Star Wars movies.
Now with the release of “The Force Awakens”, many fans are re-watching the series, buying merchandise and introducing the movies to their children or siblings. Disney has already expected this will be the biggest movie event of the year. Tickets went on pre-sale almost two months before the actual showing and are selling out all over the country. “There is so much buzz for this movie; it’s crazy, I have not seen this level of excitement for a movie or for a franchise in a long time. People were so excited when the prequels came out and they were just so terrible. You would think that it would put a damper on the excitement but it really hasn’t,” Matt Bresnahan, graduate student at Edinboro, said.
Also with all the growing hype, Cinemark and AMC both banned masks and toy blasters from theaters for safety reasons; seeing as there will be thousands of people going to see the movie opening weekend and beyond. Fans can still rejoice because costumes and possibly light- sabers [as long as there not distracting] are still allowed. “I am going to wear a Star Wars shirt and have my light-saber with me in my belt buckle,” Joshua Kaufer, Edinboro student, said about opening night.
Bresnahan talked about how he is going to see the showing back home in Pittsburgh. “I am going on the 19th to the AMC Lowe’s Waterfront at 7:30. I am pretty excited.” Nikki Mioduszewski talked about her plans for seeing the new Star Wars film. “I am planning to see the new one when it comes out in the theater, but probably not during opening weekend. I will not be dressing up, although I have in the past.” Mioduszewski also mentioned that most of her friends, who are fans as well as she, are in there late 30s and early 40s.
Many current Star Wars fans are young adults who are 18 and up. “The Phantom Menace” is 16 years old and anyone 18 or younger would have been 2 years old or younger when it first came out. A big chunk of fans are also 30-40 year olds and 40-50 year olds who grew up during the 70s or right after the first movie aired.
Kaufer talked about his friend base and how most of them aren’t fans, “My friend base is a lot more athletes than it would be people who are familiar with the films, because they didn’t grow up with it as a kid. They are between 18 and 20 and were at a young age when Episode I came out. They are a little to young to appreciate the first one and get the second sweep."
Bresnahan talked about how a movie reboot can drastically alter a franchise’s future and an audience’s perception on the films as a whole. “It’s funny because a lot of the 18 to 25 year olds grew up being shown the original trilogy. They were actually there for the prequels and it’s sad because that’s what you have to remember it by. If you look, that’s what is happening now. If you look at say, ‘Transformers,’ that’s what Transformers is now, Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers.’ It takes on a different meaning and connotation of the franchise and it changes things a little bit.”
“The Force Awakens” is set to be so popular that Disney World has already announced they are building a Star Wars themed area of the park. “Disney World is building a Star Wars land similar to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universial Studios. It's going to be massive; I believe it will be a 14-acre area in the northern part of Frontierland," Bresnahan said.
“What they’re doing is merchandising. We get a whole new line of merchandise, a whole new experience. That’s what it all comes down to is experience; a new experience for a new generation and that’s what they’re going to remember, the good, bad or indifferent,” Bresnahan said.
The Star Wars trend is becoming as popular now as it once was, but the more important, big picture trend is the one of community that comes with being a fan. No matter where your interest’s lie, or what you’re a fan of, the one thing that is common is the community surrounding you.
Movie buffs and super fans alike, grab your costumes and lightsabers because “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens” is coming to theaters in one month.
Anna Ashcraft is The Arts Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at email@example.com