‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Has World Premiere, No Expense Spared


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R2-D2, left, and C-3PO at the world premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Monday in Los Angeles.

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Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A veritable army of security guards, publicists and event staffers. Quadruple the typical number of invited guests. A lavish after-party, replete with Stormtroopers and a roaming Chewbacca, stretching for four city blocks.

Even by the razzmatazz standards of the Walt Disney Company, the high-security, spare-no-expense world premiere for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Monday was something to behold. “Sincere apologies to the neighborhood,” the film’s director, J. J. Abrams, said in his introductory remarks, dryly calling the event “incredibly low key.”

For fans, and there were plenty among the A-listers in attendance (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is not in the film, turned up in green face paint and Yoda ears), the premiere was a chance to revel in the restart of the “Star Wars” franchise after a decade of theatrical absence. “The Force Awakens” focuses on a young woman, Rey, as she becomes entwined with efforts — led by General Leia, no longer a princess — to locate a vanished Luke Skywalker and generally save the galaxy from evil combatants called the First Order.

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‘Star Wars’ Cast Members on the Red Carpet

Both old and new faces from the “Star Wars” movies shared their thoughts on the new film in the series at its premiere on Monday.


By REUTERS on Publish Date December 15, 2015.


Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

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(The clear consensus among attendees: “The Force Awakens,” the seventh “Star Wars” movie and the first made without the involvement of George Lucas, is dramatically better than the last three “prequels.” Disney placed a Wednesday embargo on reviews.)

For Disney, the premiere, which overflowed from the Dolby to two adjacent theaters, the TCL Chinese and the El Capitan, was an overt celebration of its 2012 decision to get into the “Star Wars” business. Disney, which paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm, will collect an estimated $2.5 billion in global ticket sales for “The Force Awakens,” with related merchandise generating $5 billion over the next year.

Four more “Star Wars”-themed movies are on the way by 2020.

Costing roughly $350 million to make and market worldwide, “The Force Awakens” will begin playing in previews on Thursday night in the United States and Canada, with more than 4,100 American theaters lined up to show the movie over the weekend. About 3,300 of those theaters will offer 3-D screenings.

“The Force Awakens,” which received a PG-13 rating, will begin its international run on Wednesday in France, Italy and nine other countries. Cinemas in Britain, Germany, Russia, Brazil and 14 additional territories, including Hong Kong, will begin playing the film on Thursday, with all other major markets — except mainland China, where “The Force Awakens” opens on Jan. 9 — following over the weekend.

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“Star Wars” fans at Monday’s premiere of the latest film in the franchise.

Credit
Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Associated Press

Since the collapse of the DVD market in 2007, movie premieres have become more austere affairs. But there was a time when premieres as ostentatious as “The Force Awakens” event were relatively common. Universal Pictures took over 38 theaters in the Times Square area in 2005 for its “King Kong” premiere; Disney unveiled “Pearl Harbor” in 2001 on an aircraft carrier in Hawaii, erecting grandstand seating on the flight deck.

Disney worked hard to keep Monday’s premiere festive (invitations noted that “parking for your Landspeeder, Sandcrawler or other transportation vehicle” would be provided), but unusually heightened security undercut the lightheartedness. With the Dec. 2 massacre of 14 people in nearby San Bernardino, Calif., still fresh in people’s minds, Disney sent invited guests through metal detectors and frisking checkpoints.

“I literally had to walk through five metal detectors to get to my spot on the red carpet,” Cameron Mathison, a correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight,” said during a live interview before the premiere began. It is extremely unusual for a studio to use metal detectors at all.

The Los Angeles Police Department deployed more than 70 officers to the event, according to Sgt. Robert Ward. There was at least one bomb-sniffing dog. Confirmation letters emailed by Disney to attendees on Friday advised, “For your safety and security, we ask you leave masks, face shields, or other facial feature obstructing headgear or make-up, as well as light sabers, blasters, or other weaponry (real or simulated) at home.”

Disney declined to comment on its reasoning for the intense security.

The weather created an extra challenge for Disney. It was not quite the ice planet Hoth, but the Los Angeles weather was unusually cold and blustery, even for December, with a midday temperature in the 50s and wind gusts of up to 45 m.p.h., according to local television stations. As a result, women in evening gowns with bare arms nearly turned into icicles, and the elements rivaled the movie as a topic of conversation.

“Did we get it cold enough for you?” Alan F. Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said to a guest on the red carpet, offering him a warm handshake.

Correction: December 15, 2015
An earlier version of a capsule summary with this article, and earlier versions of picture captions with the article, misstated the day of the world premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It was Monday, not Tuesday.



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