Fans started lining up early Thursday for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
The first screenings began at 7 p.m. at theaters across the state.
A star-studded premiere celebration was held earlier this week in Los Angeles, and so far, reviews for this latest installment have been very positive.
Fans are known to dress up for the franchise’s premieres, but recent events prompted major theaters to issue new restrictions this go around.
As we previously reported, both Consolidated Theatres and Regal Cinemas are banning anything that covers the face. Masks, face paint, lightsabers and blasters are prohibited.
Behind the cult following
The original Star Wars movie became a phenomenon when it first came out in 1977, nearly four decades ago.
Now in its seventh installment, Star Wars is still a phenomenon, but the theaters have changed drastically.
Dan Ben is among the franchise’s many fans. He is an avid collector of costumes and paraphernalia from the movie series, including several lightsabers.
He says he was hooked as soon as he saw the first few minutes of the first movie.
“I didn’t even know what I was seeing. I just knew that there was this really cool movie that everybody wanted to see called ‘Star Wars’ and I had no clue what to expect and when you’re sitting there in the theater and all the words going by,” Ben said.
Ben saw it three times at Cinerama Theater and waited in line two to three hours each time.
He saw the second one, “The Empire Strikes Back,” in Waikiki and stood in line even longer.
“I miss Waikiki Number 3. They should have made that a historical site as far as I’m concerned,” Ben said. “When you go in there, you got the palm trees, then you look up, you got the clouds going across the ceiling. Nobody does that anymore.”
The era of standalone theaters
The movie theaters that launched the Star Wars phenomenon are long gone. Waikiki 1 and 2 on Seaside Avenue now make up Ross Dress for Less. Waikiki 3 on Kalakaua Avenue is now a bunch of shops and restaurants. Cinerama is now O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.
Those big standalone movie theaters were just not as profitable as multiplex theaters.
“It was economically better and that was also basically the same reason why a lot of these theaters were demolished, because it just got too expensive to own and operate them,” said historian Lowell Angell. “The land that they were on was too valuable. That’s the main reason why the Waikiki theater was torn down.”
Angell wrote a book on the subject called “Theatres of Hawaii.” He’s saddened that the theater experience is not what it used to be.
Of all the theaters, he was most fond of Waikiki 3, which is actually the first of the Waikiki theaters built in 1936.
“It was beautiful. It had a garden courtyard with a fountain and inside, it had artificial plants along the walls and a rainbow-shaped proscenium. It was really beautiful,” Angell said.