‘Force Awakens’ Aspen | AspenTimes.com

‘Force Awakens’ Aspen

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times

There were a smattering of Stormtrooper masks, a few Obi-Wan Kenobis and Darth Vaders and enough glowing plastic lightsabers for a small Jedi versus Sith battle. Yes, Aspen, like most every town large and small in America, gave “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a festive welcome at the Isis Theater downtown Thursday night.

The Isis sold out all four of its cinemas for the first showings of seventh entry in the intergalactic saga. With all four sellouts starting at 7 p.m. and playing within a half hour of one another, the crowded Isis lobby was abuzz with anticipation and nostalgia as lines for concessions snaked down the stairs to the basement level and out onto the sidewalk (in the Hoth-like, single-digit cold). Grown-ups and man-children far outnumbered kids on opening night.

Hotel Jerome bartender Pierce Ray arrived in a classic Han Solo get-up. His date, of course, dressed as vintage Princess Leia with the attendant double-bun updo.

“I’ve been a fan since before I can remember,” Ray said before the movie. “It’s always been a part of my life.”

Like most of us at that first showing in the main upstairs theater, Ray bought his tickets shortly after advance sales began a month ago. The Isis had initially scheduled two opening-night screenings but then added two more after those sold out, allowing “Star Wars” mania to take over the whole theater for the night (two additional late shows also were added).

When showtime arrived, loud cheers greeted the “Star Wars” logo and the first flourish of John Williams’ score rattling the theater. As the opening text roll began, a handful of lightsabers waved in the audience. Huge applause erupted throughout the film — at the entrance of Han Solo and Chewbacca, at Princess (now General) Leia’s return, at the first glimpse of the Millennium Falcon and C-3PO. You could sort of tell who the most hard-core fanboys were from the cheers for the appearances of slightly less iconic parts of the “Star Wars” universe: Admiral Ackbar and the first shot of an X-wing fighter got a few enthusiastic whoops from the faithful.

Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch sat in the center of the front row with his 10-year-old son (in a Darth Vader costume) and 8-year-old daughter at the first screening. He and his son — a devotee of “The Clone Wars” animated series — went back after school Friday for a second viewing, with plans to check out the 3-D version next week.

Frisch recalled seeing the original “Star Wars” himself in 1977 at a single-theater cinema in Minneapolis when he was 10 and then going back to see it again a year later as the phenomenon bloomed and the blockbuster continued its run.

“I liked it a lot,” Frisch said of the new entry. “I think they did a really good job.”