Force of fans welcome new ‘Star Wars’

In space no one can here you scream — but cheering is another matter altogether.

On Thursday evening, “Star Wars” fans across Centre County flocked to local theaters for the opening of “The Force Awakens,” but for all intents of purposes, they might as well have been going home.

Alicia Klees, a graduate student at Penn State, was in charge of purchasing tickets for her group of 12, most of whom were already sitting in their seats at UEC Theatres 12 in State College more than hour before there was anything worth watching on screen.

She first discovered “Star Wars” as a freshman in college and was particularly fond of the saga’s rousing score, the reprisal of which she was very much looking forward to in “The Force Awakens.”

“I just love John Williams. More John Williams, yay!” Klees said.

She and her friends passed the time by playing games on their iPhones and debating whether or not Leia had used the force or just blunt force to kill Jabba the Hut in “Return of the Jedi.”

It was amazing!

Gavin Walk

The row of seats that they occupied was just one of many packed to capacity. There were parents with children, adults with inner children, and not nearly as many costumes as one would expect for such an occasion.

Brian Dick remembers waiting in line with his brother and father for the original “Star Wars” back in 1977.

It was a simpler time. “Star Wars” was an unknown entity and there was no Internet around to inflate expectations or drive speculation.

“When it was over, everybody stood up and applauded,” Dick said.

He believed that kind of reaction was still possible, even with a more jaded audience

“I hope that people still have stars in their eyes. That would be nice,” Dick said

At the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, the audience was dead silent as “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” crossed the screen, but then burst into cheers and applause the moment the “Star Wars” logo burst out accompanied by the thundering first notes.

The Koptchak clan from Osceola Mills came in full intergalactic glory, from dad Tom in his vintage Star Wars T-shirt to son Talon representing the dark side in his Sith regalia, while nephew Dylan picked up the lightsaber for the rebels.

Dylan, however, was new to the Star Wars world. When asked who they were dressed as, Talon piped up “Kylo Renn,” referencing the new big-bad from the seventh installment of the series, but Dylan, his cousin, looked at him and whispered “Who am I?”

“You’re Obi Wan Kenobi!” Talon hissed back.

“He knows nothing,” Koptchak said, shaking his head. “We are trying to indoctrinate him.”

The theater rocked with oohs and ahs in all the right spots. When each original character was reintroduced, the crowd went wild for minutes, guaranteeing return viewings to see what you might have missed when you couldn’t hear. The space battles were epic. The duels were thrilling. The fans were all in, right up to the final credits.

“It was amazing!” said Gavin Walk, breathless and happy with dad, Perry, at the Rowland.