Hampton Roads movie screens are set for the latest 'Star Wars'

Mike Holtzclaw
Contact Reportermholtzclaw@dailypress.com

The movie doesn't open until next week, but in many ways The Force already has awakened.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the seventh film in the legendary series, will hit cinemas across the country next Thursday. Good luck finding a seat — it broke Fandango's all-time record for online advance ticket sales more than three weeks ago and has continued to sell steadily ever since.

"This movie is going to be a monster," said David Kuzma, one of the managers at Paragon City Center 12 in Newport News. "Every time we add an auditorium, it sells out and we have to add more. I don't think we've ever sold out this many shows in advance."

Paragon City Center 12 will have three days of events related to the film, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday through Dec. 20. Costumed characters will be on hand, and there will be light saber battles on the red carpet; the cineplex also will have children's activities and giveaways.

The film picks up the saga 30 years after the events in "Return of the Jedi," with familiar faces still in play (Luke and Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca) as well as fresh new characters to take the story forward. J.J. Abrams (who did TV's "LOST" and the most recent "Star Trek" movie reboots) takes over as director, with George Lucas' watchful eye always close by.

There will be no shortage of ways to experience "The Force Awakens."

The Virginia Air and Space Center will play the film in 3-D on its 50x70-foot IMAX screen, the largest in the region. The first two shows, at 7:10 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, are sold out but the film will be at the museum at least through the end of the year.

At the historic Commodore Theatre in Portsmouth, with its 41-foot screen and its THX and Dolby technology, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be the latest "event film" to draw long lines at the ticket window.

The Commodore does not sell advance tickets, so people begin standing in line a little after dawn to secure tickets for that day's showtimes. The box office will open at 12:30 p.m. for the early part of the "Star Wars" run, and the theater will feature two screenings per day at 2 and 7 p.m.

"This film is obviously going to be a major event," said Barbara Kimmitt, who books films for the Commodore. "With our technology and our big screen, it's definitely a unique experience. People will come to see it here even after they've see it somewhere else."

No Peninsula cinemas are scheduled to host the "Star Wars" marathon Thursday, which will screen all seven films — starting at 1 a.m. with "The Phantom Menace" and running continuously leading up to the 7 p.m. premiere of "The Force Awakens."

In South Hampton Roads, the marathon will be screened at the AMC Lynnhaven cineplex in Virginia Beach, and at the Cinemark cineplexes at Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Square.

Advance tickets can be purchased at each theater's box office or through the theaters' websites, or through Fandango.com or MovieTickets.com.

Holtzclaw can be reached by phone at 757-928-6479.

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