It looked like trouble at the front of the Kentucky Theatre, where a group of black-clad devotees of the dark side stood with their red lightsabers.
But help was on the way as Greg Capillo, wielding a blue lightsaber favored by Jedi Knights, marched down the aisle. A battle ensued.
It was all in good fun as Capillo and his friends in black were among 800 people crowded into the Kentucky Theatre for the first showing of Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens. The movie is the first entry in the blockbuster Star Wars franchise since 2005, and the first film in 32 years to feature the main characters from the original Star Wars trilogy, which rolled out from 1977 to 1983.
Hopes are high among fans that the seventh Star Wars movie will relaunch the series with a renewed sense of wonder for a new generation.
“I’m hoping for a return to that feeling of escape I had, when my sister showed me the movies for the first time,” Capillo, 28, said.
Hope spread across the Lexington area as The Force Awakens opened in nine theaters, including the Cinemark Fayette Mall where Leigh Ann Scalf, wrapped in a Jedi robe, brought one Princess Leia and three stormtroopers — her children and their friend.
"I have an older brother, so I like all the boy stuff," Jedi mom Scalf said.
She said her children love the originals, which she saw at their age.
Ken Donnelly, 49, was 10 when the original Star Wars movie, now known as Episode IV — A New Hope, came out.
Donnelly said he could vividly remember the opening sequence where Darth Vader invades Princess Leia's ship.
"The special effects and everything, you just sat in awe," Donnelly said.
Donnelly said his Darth Vader TIE fighter model was his favorite toy, one that passed down to his 13-year-old son Matthew.
There was a lot of cross-generational moviegoing Thursday night, with many younger fans saying they first saw the movies when their parents showed them.
Gus Glasscock, a 14-year-old Providence Montissori School student, said he first saw the films through his parents and an uncle who still has most of his original Star Wars action figures and space ships.
“I’m hoping for satisfying villains, and not stupid, whiny Anakin,” said Glasscock — which brings us to the controversial prequels.
The original trilogy was succeeded by a series of prequels directed by Star Wars creator George Lucas, which were released between 1999 and 2005. They told how a precocious boy, Anakin Skywalker, became Darth Vader, the iconic villain of the original trilogy. The prequels were generally derided by original fans for being messy and too technologically focused. But they had their defenders in the Kentucky crowd, particularly younger fans whose first experiences seeing a Star Wars movie in a theater were the prequels.
“I went to see Revenge of the Sith dressed as Queen Amidala,” said Sara Escobedo, 27, referring to the final prequel, released in 2005. “I thought the prequels were really good. That was Star Wars for our generation, and this is for a new generation.”
Cross-generational cheers went up at 7:25 p.m. Thursday as the lights went down in the Kentucky. After a trailer for The Hateful Eight, the familiar phrase appeared on the screen in blue: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ...” The audience erupted in cheers as the traditional crawl appeared, updating viewers as to where the story stood.
“Luke Skywalker has vanished,” the first line read, referring to the hero of the original trilogy.
Disney, which now owns the rights to Star Wars, has promised a new trilogy and more.
“They’re going to make so much money from us,” said Adam Klier, a 26-year-old engineering major at the University of Kentucky, who was one of the first people in line at the Kentucky. “I’m looking forward to having a lot more Star Wars movies.”
“I’m excited to see new life breathed into the series,” said Robert King, 42, a Lexington Fire Department major whose iPhone case is an image of original trilogy hero Han Solo encased in carbonite. “If the story is good, that’s what matters.”