Odeon braced for Star Wars rush as The Force Awakens movie fans
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made box office history days before its release, selling more than half a million tickets for its opening week at one cinema chain alone.
The latest instalment of the sci-fi epic doubled Odeon's previous record of pre-booked tickets set by Spectre, prompting the cinema group to launch its biggest ever logistical operation to cope with the huge crowds.
Demand for tickets was forecast to be so great that handling the surge has required months of planning akin to that seen for the World Cup or Queen's Jubilee, the cinema claimed.
The chain plans to hold nearly 5,000 screenings of the blockbuster during its opening weekend, with the first sell-out shows scheduled to start simultaneously in 113 Odeon cinemas nationwide at 12.01am on Thursday.
Die-hard fans hoping to see the film on the first night can still get tickets for screenings between 3am and 6am and tickets are still available for the following days.
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 of guests" to fill seats across the country when screenings begin just hours after the stars attend the UK premiere in Leicester Square.
However it emerged earlier this week that fans who wear Darth Vader or Storm Trooper-style helmets may be barred entry at some cinemas.
An Odeon spokesman said guests were being "encouraged to dress up", but added that "the usual rules apply on decency".
That means no full-face helmets, switching lightsabres off when the film begins and not carrying props that resemble offensive weapons.
Odeon's Star Wars opening weekend by numbers:
:: 600,000 cartons of popcorn
:: 550,000 carbonated drinks
:: 500,000 cups of coffee
:: 300,000 Star Wars souvenirs (including cups, popcorn tins, posters, mugs, keyrings and stickers)
:: 180,000 portions of nacho cheese
:: 170,000 bottles of water
:: 100,000 cakes and pastries