MIAMI – There's a local fan frenzy for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' the latest movie in the epic adventures of memorable characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in a “galaxy far, far away.”
The story of darkness overcome by the resistance of good has drawn crowds to each movie in the series.
This most recent Star Wars episode by director J.J. Abrams has seen record online ticket sales and lines at box offices proving the Star Wars fan phenomena is still ongoing and strong. Miami fans of all ages were excited about seeing the seventh movie in the line of science-fiction films that have thrilled fans for decades now.
Commerce Police Lt. Ernie Shelby said he first saw the Star Wars movie when he was 4-years-old.
“I have seen everyone of them in the theater and I am going tonight to take my son just like my Dad did me when the original came out,” Shelby said. “We watched it at a drive-in theater.”
Shelby said the movie has stayed with him all these years and he continues to be a huge Star Wars fan.
“The first time I saw the Millennium Falcon on that huge screen flying up in the air I was hooked,” he said. “I remember it vividly. When it first flew across the screen I was like, 'Whoa!' It just got me. My Dad, he kept it up, he took me to see 'The Empire Strikes Back.' We went to the Coleman, it was when they were still showing movies there and we saw 'Return of the Jedi.'”
Shelby said he continued the father-and-son tradition and took his oldest son to see the movies, and will now be taking his 8-year-old son, Kayden, to see this newest film.
“My youngest son is a huge Star Wars fan,” Shelby said. “I ordered tickets online early and we're going to the theater in Miami. We're still going down early so we can get in line.”
Shelby is enjoying sharing his love of the saga of movies with his son.
“Kayden and I have watched all of them together. We've watched the cartoon Clone Wars, the current Star Wars Rebels. In fact we watched 'The Return of the Jedi' last night to get ready for tonight,” Shelby said Thursday. “It's Christmas time and it's easier to pick toys for him because it's the same stuff I liked when I was his age. He's got the big Storm Troopers and I ordered more toys for him that came out with this movie. I'm excited about making new memories with my little boy just like I remember it.”
The Shelbys are going to see the movie together as a family, Ernie, his wife and son. He said his favorite character is Han Solo.
“He was always just kind of the rebel and different from everybody else,” Shelby said.
The very first film in the series, "Star Wars," was released in 1977 by 20th Century Fox followed by sequels in 1980 "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi" in 1983. A prequel trilogy was released from 1999 to 2015 "Episode I:The Phantom Menace," "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" in 2005 and "Episode III:Revenge of the Sith" of 2015.
Star Wars fans still come in all ages as the movies continue to appeal to a wide audience. Seven-year-old Ryder Oakley, a student at Washington Elementary School in Miami, is beyond excited to see the new movie.
“I have seen all the movies,” Ryder said. “I watched them all in one week. My favorite episode is 'Episode III' because of all the battles. I love Star Wars because there are so many battles I like. I just like all the battles.”
Ryder's mother, Mackenzie Oakley, said they rented the first three movies and bought the last three movies. Mackenzie says she has only seen part of one of the movies and she isn't sure if her husband has seen them.
“What got Ryder into them was the new Disney Infinity 3.0 based around Star Wars. Once they said it was about Star Wars he had to know everything about Star Wars,” she said.
Ryder's three favorite characters are Darth Maul, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. He loves the characters so much he even dressed in a Darth Vader costume for Halloween this year.
“I want to watch the movie because I like to watch the trailers for it,” he said. “I am going Saturday to watch the movie with my Poppy Steve (Boyd) and maybe my buddy Hayden (Smith). ”
Ryder has a big collection of Star Wars items.
“I have a lot of Star Wars stuff. I even have a special edition Star Wars, Time magazine,” he said.
Mackenzie said she believes Ryder is a lifelong Star Wars fan.
The epic series of Star Wars films broke box office records, garnered numerous Academy Award nominations, and sparked a merchandising explosion and collecting craze.
Charlotte Pulley, of Miami, is also a big time fan and collector of Star Wars memorabilia.
“My best friend Dee (Thomas) and I are going tonight,” Pulley said Thursday. “Grove is showing it tonight. She is getting in line for tickets and I will buy the popcorn. When the first movie came out we went every weekend it was showing. We were hooked! We won't dress up even though Dee has a Vader cape and we both have light sabers and I have Han's blaster.”
Pulley said she has been caught up by Star Wars frenzy ever since seeing the first movie.
“It's different, it puts good against evil and its fun,” Pulley says of her love of the movies. “Han Solo of course we fell in love with Harrison (Ford), but we had CB radios back then. My handle was R2-D2 and Dee, my best friend, was C-3P0.”
Pulley has been collecting Star Wars items for 10 years and has gathered a substantial collection of about 125 collectibles.
“A lot of my collection is R2-D2 but I also have Legos. I really like the Falcon and New Hope has always been my favorite,” she said.
Tonight as moviegoers make there way to theaters, load up on buttered popcorn and take their seats, longtime Star Wars enthusiasts are hoping to experience that same thrill they received from the first movie, and new fans will be made,
“Kayden's never got to see one of the Star Wars movies on the big screen yet and he's excited about seeing it on the big screen,” Shelby said. “I'm excited about making new memories with my little boy just like I remember it. I hope it sticks with him just like it did me.”