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Latest Star Wars awakens new and old fans

Christopher Dornblaser

The Force is very strong with the new "Star Wars" film.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga, opens Friday with some early showings Thursday.This film will be the first new Star Wars movie since "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" in 2005.

Unlike the last movie, this is the first film to take place after the original trilogy, bringing fan favorites such as Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Han Solo back to the silver screen for the first time in more than 30 years.

The return is causing quite the buzz among fans and businesses alike.

Fandom: Aaron Chernak, 39, of York City, was casually browsing at The York Emporium with his friend Saturday evening while wearing a green shirt saying "Trust me, a Jedi I am" shirt with the popular character Yoda on it.

Needless to say, Chernak is fairly excited for the new film.

Chernak is such a fan that for the previous films he dressed up as a Jedi for the premieres. This time, he's just going in a T-shirt and jeans.

"I'm on vacation," he said, laughing, adding that this time he just wants to be a "fan" at the theater.

Chernak said he bought the tickets as soon as they became available online.

"I stayed on the computer and hit refresh," he said. He said he will be seeing the film in IMAX at the Frank Theaters.

Chernak said the last trailer he saw for the movie had him saying, "Oh my God" and prompting him to pump his fist in the air.

The series is special to Chernak, who was able to watch the original and the prequel films when they were originally released.

"For me, they're an escape of adventure and helping mankind overcome tyranny," he said, adding that they are the "basic hero's journey."

Chernak enjoys all the Star Wars films and is excited younger viewers will get to experience more Star Wars.

"I'm excited that a new generation gets to grow with these movies," he said.

Aaron Chernak poses with a toy of the Millennium Falcon in York Emporium Saturday afternoon.

Pre-release buildup: The pre-release buildup for the new movie is unprecedented. The Associated Press reports the movie is on track for the biggest December opening ever, a record currently held by the first Hobbit film, which earn $85 million when it was released in 2012.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has already sold $50 million in advance tickets. Ticket seller Fandango told the Associated Press the new movie has already topped every other movie for advance ticket sales.

"The Force Awakens" has garnered 405 million trailer views between Facebook and YouTube, approximately 87 percent more than the summer's smash hit "Jurassic World," which made $1.7 billion worldwide.

In York, the popularity is apparent.

Matthew Kesten, manager of Frank Theaters at 2071 Springwood Road, said Star Wars will have the biggest opening night for them. The movie will be shown 15 times a day between 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D showings. Normally, new movies are shown five times a day.

The theater will be fully staffed for the weekend.

"Everyone will be full hands on deck," he said.

The IMAX showings for Thursday night are already sold out.

"No movie ever sells down to the front row," Kesten added.

He said once the tickets were available to purchase, they started selling immediately.

"When I came in the next day hundreds of tickets were sold," he said.

The theater will start showing the movie at 7 p.m. Thursday night until midnight, and it will pick up showing the movie again at 10 a.m. Friday.

Merchandise: One of the biggest aspects of Star Wars is the merchandise.

Brian Waltersdorff, owner of Comic Store West at 2111 Industrial Highway, said the Star Wars items have been some of his highest selling items. "X-wing," a tabletop game featuring ships from the iconic franchise, has been a popular item in the store.

"It's bonkers right now," he said. "I can't keep it in stock."

Aside from the X-wing tabletop game, he said the recent Star Wars comics from Marvel have been high-sellers in his store. He said a "ton" of people have subscribed to the upcoming C-3P0 comic based on the famous Star Wars droid.

Waltersdorff said Star Wars and its merchandise have always been around in the store, but recently there has been an "explosion" of interest.

"Everybody is talking about Star Wars," he said. "It hasn't been quite like this."

Other than comics, the store had Star Wars trading cards, piggy banks, statues and even a new selection of T-shirts that Waltersdorff said have taken over the spot where superhero shirts used to be.

Waltersdorff, a fan of Star Wars, has high expectations for the movie.

"I think the movie is going to be even bigger than they're saying," he said.

Events: Kesten, the Frank Theaters manager, said on Saturday the theater will host the "Capital City Jedi Knights," a costume group based in Harrisburg who dress as Jedi's. They will be in the lobby of the theater greeting patrons as they enter.

Also on that day, there will be a Star Wars "Game Day" at the Comics West, where fans can come out and play Star Wars tabletop games. Waltersdorff urged all interested in attending to see the movie before coming, as they will undoubtedly be discussing it.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at

— The Associated Press contributed to this report