WATERLOO | "Star Wars" fans who wanted to see the new film in its first screening had to buy their tickets long, long ago.

Tickets for the first screening Thursday of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Marcus Crossroads Cinema were sold out by Thanksgiving Day. The first screening will be the debut of the theater's three-story tall, 70-feet wide Ultra DLX screen. That auditorium is also equipped with leather Dream Lounger recliners and Dolby Atmos sound. The film there will be shown in 3-D.

"It's one of the best movie-going experiences you'll ever have regardless of the movie," said Kyle Weisenstein, Marcus Crossroads Cinema general manager.

For those who haven't bought their tickets in advance, there will be plenty of chances to catch a screening. After the first showing starts at 7 p.m., the cinema will start a screening every 20 minutes until 4 a.m. Friday. Although it's common for theaters to devote multiple screens for an anticipated release, the new "Star Wars" film — the first in a decade — is a special occasion.

"It's an event-level picture," Weisenstein said. "It's the very definition of an event picture."

"Star Wars" fans have been anticipating the picture for years. For Rob Rodgers, owner of Limited Edition Comics in Cedar Falls, the upcoming film will offer what the previous three "Star Wars" films didn't have.

"When I saw the Millennium Falcon on the screen, I got goosebumps," Rodgers said. "It took me back to being 2 years old again."

The ship and characters -- Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) -- haven't been on the big screen in a "Star Wars" movie since "Return of the Jedi" in 1983. The film also relies heavily on models and sets instead of CGI effects, he added.

Rodgers dons a Darth Vader costume for multiple events, including the annual Free Comic Book Day and May 4, the unofficial "Star Wars" day. The costume was initially a fun promotional tool for the store, but he said something comes over him when he wears it.

"I've seen other people wear it, but when Rob puts it on, it's Vader," said Charleen Rodgers, Rob's mother. 

Rodgers won't be in costume Thursday. Theater policy doesn't permit costumes with masks, and Rodgers wants to take in the film as a fan and not in character.

"It takes me back to a time before the world was complicated," Rodgers said. "There are just good guys and awesome villains."

Fan Benny Peet said he saw more in the hero Luke Skywalker that he could relate to.

"When you think about it, here's Luke Skywalker growing up a farm boy and he becomes a hero," Peet said.

Rodgers said he finds any lack of faith the movie will be good disturbing. He notes the film will be the first since the Walt Disney Co. purchased the rights to the franchise.

"Disney protects its franchise," he said. "I think this was ("Star Wars" creator) George Lucas' best chance to protect it long term."

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General assignment reporter for the Courier

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