Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already gearing up for its official theatrical release in December 2015, with pre-order ticket sales rumored to go on sale as early as October 2015. Anticipation for the latest title in the franchise has already seen a spike after the recent commercial events of Force Friday, with even more incentivized merchandise on the way for those planning on seeing the new film in 3D.
The force is decidedly with J.J. Abrams and Walt Disney Studios, with millions of theater goers likely planning on purchasing advance tickets in a bid to be among the first to see the new film. While many will attend midnight screenings of the film around the world, the latest rumor has it that at least a few locations may be showing the film even earlier.
After reporting on the status of ticket pre-orders for the latest film, /Film now believes that a select theater may be showing the film at 7pm on December 17th, five hours ahead of the film's confirmed premiere. According to a single submitted confirmation, Episode VII will be showing early at Sacramento's Esquire IMAX theater, leaving room to speculate that IMAX establishments elsewhere may follow suit.
It's uncertain whether or not many viewers will have the opportunity to see the film five hours ahead of the already planned midnight screening events, but with only one confirmed theater listing the rumored showtime it's unlikely that there will be very many establishments showing the film ahead of time. Then again, there is a growing precedent among film studios to feature 7pm screenings the night before for certain event movies, leaving room to hope for an early sighting of that familiar crawl, accompanied by the standard John Williams score.
A lot of the fun of seeing a movie as big as an entry in the Star Wars franchise comes in being one of the first, and in the company of likeminded geeks, freaks, and super-fans. Looking back on the premiere of The Phantom Menace in 1999, it's easy to find fault in the actual motion picture, but the fan excitement and buzz surrounding the build-up to the film's release is still memorably infectious and vital to the longevity and cultural relevance of the franchise. And the promise that fans may be able to see Episode VII early can only bring more of the same sense of nostalgia and communal anticipation to a well attended and long awaited party.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens may be released in theaters as early as 7pm, December 17th, 2015, with the official premiere set for December 18th, 2015. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will follow on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode XI is expected to see theatrical release in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.