GULFPORT -- After months of planning and waiting, Thursday night finally arrived for Jason Bolstad. When asked if he was excited about the Coast premiere of "The Force Awakens," Bolstad said, "Well, my nickname is 'Wookiee.'"
He was one of many who showed up early to see the latest in the "Star Wars" franchise on one of many screens at the Cinemark 16 in Gulfport.
"I have tickets to the 8 p.m. show, but I had to get my seat ready," Bolstad said shortly after 6 p.m.
And while staggered showings of the film prevented long lines, it was easy to see the fans' excitement.
Shawn Fowles made the drive from Saucier for the premiere. He said it had been a long wait from when he bought his tickets in October when they went on sale online.
"I bought my tickets when they advertised them on 'Monday Night Football,'" he said.
Fowles said he has been a fan of the franchise for years.
"I saw the original movies when I was young and then the prequels when I was a teenager," he said. "Now, I'm seeing this as an adult."
"Star Wars" fans of all ages were watching the movie at various times throughout the night.
They represented every phase of the franchise -- from 1977, when the blockbuster burst on the scene in Dolby sound, to the ensuing prequels.
"I saw the original "Star Wars" when I was 9," said Gulfport attorney Michael Hewes. "I'm going to the midnight showing with two of my sons."
Hewes said his love for the franchise reached a fever pitch during a recent trip to New York.
"I got to watch a taping of 'Good Morning America' and it happened to be the day the cast from "The Force Awakens" was on the show. I got to meet Carrie Fisher and take a photo with R2D2. It was awesome."
For many, the film represents the opportunity to wax nostalgic about the original trilogy. For others, it's simply another chapter in the story.
"My favorite character is Jar Jar," said Alyssa Foster, 12, of Pass Christian. "I love 'The Phantom Menace.' It's my favorite 'Star Wars' movie."
The Force is strong with this one.