Colorful droids and armor-clad stormtroopers rubbed shoulders with Hollywood VIPs on Monday at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the ninth and final movie episode in the sci-fi fable of a celebrated Jedi master.
Walt Disney Co closed off an entire city block in the center of Hollywood to host the celebrity-studded debut screening of the highly anticipated film, which opens for the general public in theaters around the world on Thursday.
Staff waving glowing light sabers guided premiere attendees, among them "Star Wars" royalty Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill, to the event's ceremonial blue carpet under a large tent, outfitted to resemble a spaceship hangar beneath a star-lit sky. Replicas of three X-wing Starfighters dangled overhead.
Actor Harrison Ford, whose Hans Solo character died in the 2015 installment "The Force Awakens," joined the celebration. Adam Driver, returning in "Rise of Skywalker" as Solo's progeny turned knight of the Dark Side, Kylo Ren, also appeared. Other iA-listers in the crowd included directors Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee and actress Frances McDormand.
"Well this is terrifying," director J.J. Abrams said inside the Dolby Theatre as he prepared to show the film to a large audience for the first time. But he said he was glad to unveil the movie at a time when "it's rare to find something that brings people together."
"Nothing brings people together quite like ' Star Wars'," he said.
"Rise of Skywalker" caps a blockbuster film series that ranks as the second-highest-grossing movie franchise of all time, with more than $9.2 billion in ticket sales.
It concludes a story that began 42 years ago, in 1977, when filmmaker George Lucas introduced a young hero named Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and delighted audiences with a galaxy of metallic robots called droids, a race of tall, furry warriors known as Wookiees and a host of other eclectic characters.
The "Rise of Skywalker" premiere audience, including superfans dressed as favorite characters, gave a standing ovation to Hamill and composer John Williams during an introduction before the film.
The crowd cheered, gasped and applauded throughout the movie. . "Yeah, J.J.!" one person yelled after a surprising plot turn.
Princess Leia returned in the new movie - despite the 2016 death of Carrie Fisher, the actress who played her - by way of a storyline crafted by filmmakers from unused footage of the performer from "The Force Awakens".
While the latest film brings the saga of the Skywalker family to an end, Disney plans future "Star Wars" movies with new characters starting in December 2022. The company also is running a "Star Wars" television series on its streaming service, Disney+, and is developing at least two more.
With the movie series, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said in an interview: "We're going to make sure we take our time until we know that it's right."
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