'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' sets pre-sales records

LOS ANGELES -- After months of secrecy and anticipation, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is thrilling fans and theatre owners alike.

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The most anticipated film of the year opened globally Thursday, setting international and pre-sale box-office records and delighting moviegoers who've had opening-night tickets in hand for months.

Kelly Andrews, who wears her love of "Star Wars" on her skin in the form of Yoda and R2-D2 tattoos, bought tickets in October for the first showing at Hollywood's classic TCL Chinese Theatre, where the original "Star Wars" premiered in 1977.

"It was outstanding," she said as she left the screening Thursday night clutching a shiny keepsake popcorn bin. "I cried happy tears. I cried sad tears. It was beautiful."

For Danielle Charles, seeing "Star Wars" at the Chinese Theatre on opening night is a family tradition. Her mother brought her to the historic venue for the original film in 1977; Charles watched the prequels there while pregnant with her son; and all three generations came to the first showing of "The Force Awakens" Thursday night.

Charles wore her hair in Princess Leia-style buns and a dress patterned with multicolour R2-D2s for the occasion. Her son, Linus Hunter, wore a Chewbacca onesie.

"It was wonderful," Charles said of the new film. "I'm going to see it again and again."

All over the world fans toted lightsabers and wore character costumes to packed showings of the seventh installment of the space epic. They even illuminated their sabers in the theatre during key scenes.

While domestic box-office returns won't be available until later Friday, the Walt Disney Co. said Thursday the film debuted with $14.1 million from its first screenings in 12 international markets. The largest was France, where the film earned $5.2 million. It set a one-day record in Norway and Sweden.

More than $100 million in tickets have been presold in North America. The movie ticket service Fandango said it has already sold more tickets for "The Force Awakens" than any movie over its entire theatrical run.

Not every fan who saw the film opening night was dazzled. Michael Danke of Los Angeles, who said his friend waited in line for 52 hours for their tickets, was disappointed.

"I was kind of looking forward to a futuristic, bitchin' movie, but it was an old 'Star Wars' movie," he said. "They did it old style."

That nostalgia worked for Tony Brennan, who said he "can't get off of that high that I'm on" after seeing the film with the opening-night crowd.

"It's definitely worth all the hype," he said. "I like how they bring back the old quotes and old scenery and old people... It passed all of our expectations. I'm watching it five, six, seven more times."



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