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Star Wars: Northern Ireland prepares for Episode VII The Force Awakens

Cinemas in Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for what is expected to be the biggest film in history, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Movie goers in their droves have booked to be among the first to see the film open on Thursday.

Midnight screenings of the film, the seventh in the blockbusting series, are being hosted across the country.

Movie House Cinemas has 11 screening of the film from midnight, with more likely to be added to meet demand.

Read more: Star Wars: The Force Awakens to premiere in Hollywood

"It will be something the like of which we have never before seen," said Movie House managing director Michael McAdam.

"There have been others that have been massive - but nothing on this scale.

“I would anticipate this movie will run for weeks as many will opt to see it more than one time. We know it will continue to be popular throughout the Christmas and New Year period."

He added: "This is going to be a real experience movie and fans will want to see it on the big screen.

"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,” he added.

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.

Read more: Star Wars 'old guard' made it like a school reunion, says Carrie Fisher

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

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