LOS ANGELES: Fans cheered the highly anticipated Hollywood premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with standing ovations, applause and screams of delight as the space epic resumes under tight security.
Police cordoned off the area around the famed Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard hosting the premiere along with other nearby theaters hosting some 5,000 guests, setting up metal detectors and deploying scores of officers and sniffer dogs.
As the stars of the latest installment of the epic walked the red carpet, fans — some who had camped out for days in their “Star Wars” costumes — went into a frenzy seeking autographs and pictures of the beloved movie characters.
“This is like the Academy Awards or something,” Harrison Ford, who plays Han Solo, told AFP.
Jeff Bock, an analyst at box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, said “this is probably the biggest opening in decades.”
Disney CEO Bob Iger hailed what “could be the biggest premiere we have ever done.”
Ever since 1977, when “Star Wars” introduced the world to the Force, Jedi knights, Darth Vader, Wookiees and clever droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, the sci-fi saga has built a devoted global fan base that spans generations.
“I´ve been here since 3:00 am because I wanted to get a good spot,” said James Salazar, 19, outside the Chinese Theatre. “I´ve been a fan all my life, it´s my favorite movie and my dad´s also.”
The premiere on Monday will be followed by a global rollout taking in a dozen countries beginning Wednesday before the film officially reaches US theaters Friday.
The intergalactic tale of good versus evil, friendship, loyalty and love created a defining moment in the history of popular culture and launched one of the biggest movie franchises ever.
The original blockbuster turned Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill — who play its heroes Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker — into stars overnight.
Much to the delight of legions of fans, the beloved veterans return in the new installment — which picks up 30 years after the events of 1983´s “Return of the Jedi.”
But “The Force Awakens” also brings a host of fresh faces, among them British actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, who could be the breakout stars of the new film.
“You could say it´s the themes, it´s the Force, it´s the lightsaber — there´s just something in this that touches people, and I don´t think you can summarize that,” said 23-year-old Ridley, who plays a scavenger called Rey.
Boyega plays a character called Finn, portrayed in the trailer as a renegade Stormtrooper.
Other franchise newcomers include Oscar winner Lupita Nyong´o, who plays Maz Kanata, a motion-captured pirate character whose castle is packed with smugglers from across the galaxy.