New Star Wars awakens with huge economic impact

Businesses and moviegoers expect great things from ‘The Force Awakens’

Five things to know about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Associated Press

1. “The Force Awakens” marks the third beloved series that director J.J. Abrams has inherited. He previously helmed the third “Mission: Impossible” film and the first two “Star Trek” reboots. Purists of the latter may disagree, but in each case Abrams took measures to honor the sagas’ legacies. His choice of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” co-writer Lawrence Kasdan to help pen “The Force Awakens” suggests a similar respect for “Star Wars.”

2. Besides a credit for creating the series’ surviving characters, George Lucas’ involvement with “The Force Awakens” is limited to being a creative consultant. That’s music to the ears of fans who aren’t fond of Lucas’ “Special Edition” tinkering with episodes IV-VI and like to believe that I-III never happened.

3. “The Force Awakens” is the first “Star Wars” film to open in December. All prior installments went wide in May, except “The Empire Strikes Back,” which was released in June 1980. Will the awards season date increase its Oscar chances?

4. The film’s plot remains unclear. A few images, moving and still, and many new character names have been revealed, but not much else — so job well done to the cast and crew for a truly successful secrecy campaign.

The time last we saw Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2D2, they were having a dance party with Ewoks on Endor after destroying the second Death Star. All six return 30 years later in “The Force Awakens” and join “nobody” junk collector Rey (Daisy Ridley), stormtrooper-turned-good guy Finn (John Boyega) and the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) — he of the red three-pronged lightsaber — who vows to finish what Darth Vader started.

5. Act now if you want to see it opening day — or opening weekend … and possibly opening week. “The Force Awakens” is predicted to unseat “Jurassic World” as the box office champ of 2015, and many shows of have already sold out, so purchasing advance tickets online or in person at your favorite local theater is strongly recommended. Dec. 18 is the official release date, but evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 17.

“The Force Awakens” this week and with it comes an economic impact expected to generate billions in ticket sales and merchandising worldwide from the seventh film in the storied Star Wars series.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens Thursday night at local theaters and the film — started in 1977 with “Star Wars” (or a “A New Hope,” to die-hard fans) — has been marketed with merchandise that goes well beyond childhood figurines and toys.

If you haven’t bought your Chewbacca coffee creamer, there’s still time to add it to your purchase of a Millennium Falcon bed at Pottery Barn or CoverGirl nail polish, mascara and lipstick in such shades as Droid, Jedi and Dark Apprentice.

The new movie has it all.

“The level of excitement surrounding the upcoming Star Wars movie hasn’t been seen since Titanic or Avatar, maybe as far back as the last Star Wars movie,” Bryan Jeffries, a spokesman for Cinemark USA, told the Dayton Daily News.

Cinemark will open Thursday night with the movie at its theaters in Beavercreek, West Carrollton and Huber Heights.

“This is one of those rare movies that appeals to everyone from ages 5 through 65,” Jeffries said.

The Walt Disney film is expected to bring in $650 million in the United States and $2 billion worldwide, according to Fortune Magazine.

And those are just ticket sales. Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen told CNN that merchandise tied to “The Force Awakens” could generate an annual $5 billion and Disney could see about $500 million in licensing and retail revenue.

When new Star Wars toys — action figures, light sabers and more — tied to the movie were released in midnight store openings in September, thousands of fans showed up.

Initial demand was so strong that toymaker Hasbro — which owned what was once Cincinnati-based toymaker Kenner — was caught short of product. But Brian Goldner, Hasbro chief executive, recently told Yahoo Finance the company will have plenty of toys for Christmas sales.

Cultural touchstone

Dave Filipi, director of film and video at Ohio State University’s Center for the Arts, said Star Wars is such a cultural touchstone that it’s hard to know what to compare it to.

“It’s beyond a popular movie,” Filipi said. “It has achieved the level of one of those familiar stories and sets of characters that kind of transcend a particular moment. It becomes cross-generational.”

The has already broken box-office records by amassing over $50 million in pre-ticket sales. The previous record holder was “The Dark Knight Rises” with $25 million, according to the Associated Press.

Peter Bell, owner of Bell Books & Comics in Dayton’s Patterson Park neighborhood, said he’s seeing more foot traffic and more new faces in his Patterson Road shop. Marvel began re-publishing a monthly Star Wars comic earlier this year, but there’s interest in toys and other Star Wars-themed merchandise too, he said.

“It’s definitely affecting everything,” Bell said.

Local fans ready

Karen Maner, a downtown Dayton resident, was only 10 when the “special editions” of the original Star Wars movies were released in 1997. She wasn’t a science-fiction fan, and her mom “tricked” her into seeing “A New Hope,” she said.

Two minutes in, she said, “I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat, and I stayed that way for the rest of the film.”

A communication and project manager at CultureWorks, Maner expects great things from the new movie.

“These people understand where the magic of the original story is,” she said. “I think they’re going to do it right.”

Duante Beddingfield, a Dayton resident, said he is not one of those ” live-it-breathe-it-dress-up-at-the-movie” Star Wars fans. He’ll be at the movie, the 31-year-old said, just not in costume.

Beddingfield fully expects to have a ticket to see “The Force Awakens” in the first few days after its release.

“I’m definitely a Star Wars fan,” he said. “”I’ve been into it since I was in high school.”

Disney bought Lucasfilm — the company behind Star Wars — in 2012 for $4 billion.

“For Disney to take on this property, they knows how much this means to people,” Beddingfield said. “They know how much money is in it if they don’t lose the fans.”

Beddingfield, a public relations professional, has attended midnight premieres of Star Wars movies in the past. “It’s cold and it’s chaos,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to do that now.”

Jono Daijou, 23, of Xenia, said he has tickets to see the movie at the Regal Theaters in Beavercreek on opening night.

“I have been a Star Wars fan as long as I can remember,” said Daijou, who works at a comics store, JB Comics and Games. “I think I was shown Episode IV when I was like two or three years old.”

When Daijou learned that a new film was being released — Episode VII — he was excited.

“I liked Disney a lot, growing up with them as well,” he said. “I was excited to see what they were going to do with the franchise.”

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