Christmas will be arriving early this year, at least for sci-fi fans, as a much-anticipated movie lands on the big screen Thursday, a week before old St. Nick makes his yearly trek.
"The Force Awakens," the latest chapter in the "Star Wars" saga, will makes its debut on the Coast at 7 p.m. It will be screened at the Cinemark 16 in Gulfport and at the Grand 18 in D'Iberville.
"This is the most-anticipated movie in a long time," said Danny DiGiacomo of Southern Theatres, the Grand's parent company. "We are really excited with the amount of box office revenue we could do."
Both theaters will be showing the film on multiple screens at various times.
If you are just now deciding to see it
the moment it opens on the Coast, you may be out of luck. The 7 p.m. showings are sold out at both theaters.
Tickets for the show went on sale in October.
"We've sold a lot of tickets online," DiGiacomo said. "We are delighted with the excitement surrounding this film."
DiGiacomo said those wishing to don their best Chewbacca outfit or Jedi robes will feel right at home.
"People can wear their costumes inside the theater, but they will have to follow some guidelines that can be found online," he said.
This is the film you are looking for
The path to "The Force Awakens" was a lengthy one. It is the first film in the franchise since 2005's "Revenge of the Sith," which was met with lukewarm reviews among the series' diehard fans.
In 2012, the franchise's creator and curator, George Lucas, sold it to Disney. It was announced in January 2013 that "Lost" creator JJ Abrams would be at the helm of the seventh installment in the series.
Set 30 years after the events of "Return of the Jedi," it stars newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega alongside original cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
"It's been a long wait for us fans," Anthony Hightower of Moss Point said. "But hopefully, the payoff will be worth it."
Hightower is one of many Coast residents who bought his tickets for the first show on opening night as soon as they were available.
"I stood in line for about an hour to get them," he said.
With the big day less than a week away, he said you can feel the excitement as the fans eagerly await the movie's debut.
"It's palpable," he said. "We even have a countdown going on Facebook; it's pretty intense."
'Glorious time to be a geek'
Although "The Force Awakens" is still days from its official release, its marketing blitz is in full swing. Take a walk through any big-box store and you will be quick to stumble upon any- and everything "Star Wars." There's Millennium Falcon makeup, Yoda cereal, a Darth Vader Christmas inflatable, R2D2 ornaments and even Chewbacca slippers.
"It's a glorious time to be a geek," said Eris Walsh, a guest at Geekonomicon, a sci-fi convention going on this weekend at the Coast Convention Center. She admitted to owning C3PO measuring cups among her "Star Wars" memorabilia. "Instead of everything being hard to find like it was once, you can find everything nowadays."
Walsh was discussing the upcoming movie in a local coffee shop with Scott Carroll, also a guest at Geekonomicon.
Pressure's on JJ Abrams
Carroll said he was "cautiously optimistic" about "The Force Awakens."
I think JJ Abrams can make a good movie," he said. "He's a 'Star Wars' fan, so I have more hope for this one. It has the potential to be really, really good."
The movie's first trailer hit the Internet in November 2014. Since then, Abrams and Disney have released new material at a rapid clip.
One thing noticeably absent from promos is anything about Luke Skywalker, the original trilogy's protagonist.
"I think (Abrams) wants to build the suspense," Carroll said. "There are a lot of theories circulating about his role in the new movie."
Walsh agreed regarding the absence of Skywalker.
"I think it's deliberate," she said. "(Luke's) not in any of the trailers, but you know he's in the movie. Nerds love speculating -- it's what we do."
And the speculation surrounding the movie has been great since it was announced in October 2012.
"The Force Awakens" is the first "Star Wars" film to be released in the social media age. And with potential spoilers surfacing rapidly on the web, Walsh said a technology blackout may be needed for those who don't see the movie on its first night in theaters.
"I think you are going to have to go off the grid," she said. "Just pretend Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do not exist. Maybe even don't even open a newspaper or watch TV until you've seen the film."
Even stars want 'Star Wars'
Richard Hatch is one of many actors whose career was influenced by the success of the original "Star Wars." He played Apollo on the ABC series "Battlestar Galactica," which debuted in 1978 at the height of "Star Wars" mania.
Hatch, who was appearing at Geekonomicon, said he was also eagerly awaiting "The Force Awakens."
"We all got assimilated with 'Star Wars at a young age," he said. "Regardless of the last three episodes, I think we all can't wait to see wait happens, especially since the original actors are coming back. It's going to be the biggest opening in history."