The Force Was Here on Friday

There was no force necessary – and not even a slight bit of coercion needed – to get hundreds of Star Wars fans to report to the Revere Showcase Cinema at 3:30 a.m. last Thursday morning to sit though nearly 18 hours of movies depicting events from a world located in a galaxy far, far away.

The Showcase Cinemas were one of only a handful of theatres nationwide to show the Star Wars Marathon on the big screen – a special ticket that included an advanced screening on Thursday night of the new movie, ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,’ in 3-D. It was only one of two theatres in the entire Greater Boston area as well. And so it was, hundreds took advantage of the opportunity to watch all seven movies, and get the special sneak peek of the new movie on Thursday, a few hours prior to the official unveiling at midnight on Friday, Dec. 18.

The scene was a bit otherworldly outside the theatre and in the lobby, as people dressed as Storm Troopers, Siths, Luke Skywalkers, and Princess Leia filed out of the theatre during breaks in the marathon.

All age ranges were represented, from those in their 40s and 50s who had seen all of the originals on the big screen to those who were still in their teens and had never seen the movies on anything but their television at home. Either way, it was a special experience and a moment when the sci-fi franchise from their youth could come back to life for a day.

Eric Gallant, 19, of Revere, said it was an opportunity for him to see the highly anticipated new movie, and to also experience the old movies on the big screen for the first time.

“I’m a giant Star Wars fan,” he said. “When I was 3 years old, I got the VHS tapes of all the episodes – they had been recorded off of the TV. I watched them so much that I wore them out and had to get new ones. I’ve actually never seen the original movies on anything other than a television screen, so I’m very excited to get to experience them on the big screen.”

Gallant said Star Wars has become something that has gone from just exciting action scenes to more meaningful moral undertones as he has gotten older.

“I have to say my favorite movie is ‘Empire Strikes Back’ because it took it to a whole other level,” he said. “The cool thing about Star Wars is when I was 3, it was the images I fell in love with, at least as far as I can remember. It looked pretty then, but now I really understand it on a deeper level. It grew stronger as I grew older.”

Fred Balboni, also of Revere, said he was excited to see all seven movies together in order.

“I love the fact you have the opportunity to see all the episodes from the beginning to the new premiere,” he said. “It puts everything in good perspective and makes them cleaner. I’ve always loved sci-fi and this kind of fantasy movies. I don’t have a favorite movie, but I do have a least favorite and that’s ‘Attack of the Clones.’ I didn’t hate it, but it is my least favorite in the series.”

For some, such as Steve and Heather Fairweather of Wilmington, it was a chance to put the normal responsibilities aside and take a “mental break” for a day.

“We have a 2-year-old daughter and we had to put her in day care today and take vacation days from work in order to do this,” said Steve, while ordering a large popcorn at 11 a.m. “At 32 years old, this is the one big thing that truly came out of our generation…For me and my wife, this is our ‘mental health’ day. My mother used to take my siblings and I out of school occasionally for a ‘mental health’ day at the movies. That’s how I saw my first Star Wars movie – ‘Return of the Jedi’ – when it came out. We’re on an escape from life day here today.”

Outside in the parking lot, the normal morning workings of the Squire Road cinema in Revere are broken up by the appearance of a young man dressed in a large, hooded black robe that flowed in the breeze behind him as he walked.

It was Nate Piercey of Raymond, NH, and he was a ‘Sith’ for the day.

Piercey and his friend, Chris Lambias of Amesbury, traveled a great distance to take in the Marathon at Showcase – noting that it was one of only two in the whole area showing all the movies and the premiere.

“We have planned for this now for about six or seven months every since there were rumors about a new movie and a Marathon,” said Piercey.

“I had to spend four hours on the computer to get tickets for all of us,” added Lambias.

Tickets were only available online and went on sale earlier this fall for $60 per ticket.

“I’m excited and wouldn’t have come all the way from New Hampshire if I wasn’t excited,” said Piercey. “The new movie is another Star Wars movie. We may not love it, but we’ll like it either way. This really was a good opportunity for me to see the old movies…I was born in 1985 so I never saw the original movies in the theatre. I saw all the Episodes 1, 2 and 3 in the theatre, but everything else on a television. It will be exciting to see all of them, including the new one, as they were intended to be seen in a theatre.”

Guillermo Reynosa of Lynn said the Marathon had brought back great memories for him.

“It’s memories,” he said. “It’s part of my childhood because I was born one year after the original came out. I was very young, but I watched the original and all the others…It’s really the best piece of American cinema out there.”

And while the Marathon on Thursday at Showcase was, in all reality, a series of fantasy movies, some in the crowd said it was a very real moment for them; perhaps a little bit more powerful than just a two-hour story on film.

“At one point I was watching one of the movies and I turned around and saw all the people there and realized with was more than a movie,” said James Murray of Salem. “It was a moment. You got an idea of the influence that is Star Wars and you realize this is worldwide…The fact that it’s able to bridge everything. At some point, everybody is going to relate to something in these movies on a very deep level.”

The Thursday sneak peek of the movie nationwide brought in more than $100 million. Meanwhile, for the whole weekend premiere, the new movie took in $238 million in the U.S. and $279 million overseas.

Seth Daniel:

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