The day has come at last, my fellow movie geeks and fanatics. After more than a year of speculating about newly-established partner studios Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm’s plans with Star Wars: Episode VII – with the discussion recently shifting to the potential release date in either 2015 or 2016 – the Mouse House has settled on the exact day to launch our return trip to a galaxy far, far away.

A Disney retail executive recently let slip on Twitter that the studio has been targeting a late 2015 premiere date for Episode VII in recent months, before they deleted the incriminating Tweets (but not before the Internet picked them up and ran wild). Disney has decided to go ahead and let the cat fully out of bag, with regard to when J.J. Abrams’ space adventure will be released in theaters.

Here is the official press release from the Mouse House:

With pre-production in full-swing, a confirmed release date of December 18, 2015, has been set for Lucasfilm’s highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII.

“We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII, where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” said Alan Horn, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios.

Star Wars: Episode VII will be directed by J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek)and is being scripted by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi). Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, with Tommy Harper (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Ryan, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Jason McGatlin (Tintin, War of the Worlds) serving as executive producers. John Williams is returning to score Star Wars: Episode VII.

Shooting is scheduled to begin spring 2014 at Pinewood Studios.

Interestingly, the Mouse House also bumped director Brad Bird’s sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland back from December 2014 to May 22nd, 2015. That indicates that May 2015 was the original target date that Disney has in mind for releasing Episode VII – three weeks after it premieres The Avengers: Age of Ultron – which would have been in keeping with the tradition (as every previous Star Wars movie has opened theatrically in May).

As was mentioned in a previous article, the December 2015 date seems like an effective way to satisfy the concerns of executive producer Kathleen Kennedy – who reportedly wanted the film delayed to 2016 in order to allow for more development time – and Disney CEO Robert Iger, who was adamant on maintaing a 2015 date (something that Abrams was also interested in making). If nothing else, this means Kennedy and Abrams now have an additional seven months to get Episode VII right, given the previous deadline they were working on.

Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) – who have taken over the screenwriting process on Episode VII from Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) – will also now have more time to fine-tune the script, before Abrams begins the demanding task of shooting and editing the highly-anticipated, visual effects-heavy blockbuster.

In a Deadline article that was published earlier today, Abrams confirmed that he and Kasdan took over writing Episode VII in order to get the film rolling along at a faster pace; though, without sacrificing quality at the same time. Here is what he said, on that issue:

“It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry [Kasdan] in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be… Working with Michael [Arndt] was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of his or adore him more, He’s a wonderful guy and was incredibly helpful in the process.”

It’s also worth noting that Abrams didn’t rule out the possibility of Arndt working on another Star Wars film, which makes sense given that he’s rumored to have also drafted story treatments for Episodes VIII & IX. As for Episode VII, it now faces direct competition during its opening weekend, in the form of director Duncan Jones’ Warcraft movie. Small potatoes, though, compared to the heavyweights that are going to duke it out for supremacy in Summer 2015 (see: Avengers 2, Batman vs. Superman, Jurassic World, etc., etc.).

Star Wars: Episode VII will open in theaters on December 18th, 2015.