Ross Johnson photo The latest installment of the Star Wars movie has crowds lining up at the Central Theater.

Ross Johnson photo
The latest installment of the Star Wars movie has crowds lining up at the Central Theater.

On Thursday, Dec. 17, Ely’s Central Theater screened “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to a nearly sold out crowd a day earlier than the film’s nationwide release. Episode VII is the latest installment in a planned series of nine. It followed a screening of Episode VI, “Return of the Jedi,” originally released in 1983.

Owner Donald Purinton and his son-in-law and manager, Chris Lani, quickly served popcorn and drinks while Chris’ wife Amber sold tickets to an ever increasing line of customers.

Robert Harrison, an Ely local, brought his eight-year old son, Aidan, to see “Return of the Jedi” first. They both agreed that it was the best of the original three films.

“Everything comes together at the end,” Robert said.

“Luke’s father becomes good and saves him,” Aidan added.

Josef Drain and Samantha Poltera came to the screening on a date. They both agreed that the very first film, Episode IV, “A New Hope” was the best one.

“We used to watch Star Wars when we were young,” Poltera said.

“It’s the introduction,” Drain said. “The boom catches your attention.”

Anthony Searle, 27, sat almost exactly dead center in the theater.

“I like what they’ve done here,” Searle said. “They changed it. It’s not too often you see it get this busy.”

Searle explained the owners effectively use the theater’s Facebook page to ask customers for feedback.

“It’s nice that they communicate with people,” he said. “They ask for our opinions.”

Viewers enjoyed a Bob Marley interlude between the screenings and had only to endure one preview, for Star Trek Beyond, which elicited some excitement from the crowd.

Almost every returning “Star Wars” character earned cheers and applause when they appeared onscreen, except for Luke Skywalker; the weight of the scene seemed to neutralize any  outbursts.

The film has received generally positive reviews worldwide, with both franchise devotees and casual fans agreeing that “The Force Awakens” is a step up in quality from the prequels of the 2000s.

As of Dec. 20, the film has earned almost $530 million worldwide.

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