Cinemas swamped as Star Wars fever grips Northern Ireland
Tickets for premiere sell in their thousands
Star Wars fanatics across Northern Ireland are desperately counting down the hours until midnight to see what's expected to become the highest-grossing film in cinema history.
Tens of thousands of tickets have already been bought and local cinemas have had to add extra midnight screenings after selling out. It's expected that thousands of Star Wars geeks will flood pavements dressed in character to see the new instalment of the beloved franchise. Managing director of Movie House Cinemas, Michael McAdam, said ticket sales were "unprecedented".
"This is going to be a real experience and movie fans will want to see it on the big screen and they want to see it as soon as it's out," he said.
Six midnight showings are planned for the Dublin Road Movie House cinema alone, along with three at the Cityside complex and two in Coleraine.
Mr McAdam said: "We are using our biggest screens to give the best experience to customers and to try to keep up with demand, we will continually programme in additional screenings. All of the showings will take place just minutes after midnight ensuring people who want to see the movie get the opportunity."
Omniplex cinemas have also had to add extra midnight screenings at six of their cinemas after selling out.
The chain is holding 106 screenings in Northern Ireland on Thursday alone and said that 30,000 tickets had already been sold across Ireland.
"It's going bonkers," spokesman Simon Palmer said. "We're showing it in 200 screens across Ireland. It's gonna be a busy night. It started off crazy, but the press screenings and premieres have given it an extra buzz."
Odeon said it is planning to hold 5,000 screenings of the blockbuster across the UK and Ireland during its opening weekend. The first sell-out shows are to start simultaneously in 113 Odeon cinemas nationwide at 12.01am on Thursday.
Duncan Reynolds, managing director of Odeon UK & Ireland, said it is poised for a "24-hour operation" and has recruited 500 extra staff.
"We expect it to become the biggest film of all time, and (it) promises to be a landmark cinematic event," he said. The chain expects "tens of thousands" to fill seats across the country when screenings begin just hours after the stars attend the UK premiere in Leicester Square, London tonight.
Excitement is likely to grow after glowing early reviews from critics.
Adam B Vary, a reporter for Buzzfeed, tweeted: "Rest easy: The Force Awakens is 100% Star Wars, and something new. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac: welcome."
Rebecca Keegan, a film writer for the Los Angeles Times, wrote: "Story, characters, design, humour - Star Wars fans, this is the movie you're looking for."
She also reported that women were well represented in the film, which stars British actresses Daisy Ridley and Gwendoline Christie, as well as Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o. Documentary director Brett Morgen, best known for Montage of Heck about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, wrote: "Force Awakens might be the best blockbuster since the original."
Ronan O'Donnell (39) and Loretta (2) 'Mum gave my toys to a jumble sale'
I've been a fan ever since I saw Return of the Jedi in the cinema in 1983. I made my poor father go back with me three times. Even now I've got a picture of me at seven years old in my room and it's just Star Wars posters and every toy that my pocket money could afford. It's a sore subject now in our house because my mum took all of them away and gave them away to a jumble sale. My daughter Loretta (2) has watched the original trilogy with me in the last couple of weeks. She must have watched them all about twice now and in the evenings she just shouts out for Chewbacca.
Colin Craig (47) 'My dad took me... I'll be thinking of him when I see the new one'
I'm going to see it at one minute past 12. For a 47-year-old man, I'm really excited. I was brought up in a Presbyterian background in the '70s - it was quite strict. My dad checked the paper and saw Star Wars was on in the Iveagh cinema. He got the three kids into the car and away we went to see Star Wars. He wouldn't have done that sort of thing usually. My dad is dead now, so with the new film there's a reconnection in my head. That was different - it was really special. I think I'll be thinking of my dad tomorrow night. I'll always have that connection, that this is something my dad did for me.
Chris Fawcett (30) 'I feel a mixture of excitement and dread in case it's no good'
I remember watching Star Wars for the first time when I was about three or four years old. I have a lot of the old toys and ships up in the attic. The Millennium Falcon was always the talking point. I'm really excited but at the same time apprehensive, considering the last few weren't brilliant. I'm going to the midnight screening in Enniskillen with friends. One of them hasn't seen any of them and doesn't really care, but when I get to the cinema I'm either going to be excited or filled with dread, I don't know which. It won't be quite as good as the old films, but if it's just very good I'll be happy enough.