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Yorkers share fan stories at 'Star Wars' premiere

The sign was clear as people walked through the doors of Frank Theatres in York Township for the Thursday night premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“No masks or toy weapons allowed.”

But that didn’t stop local fans from dressing up.

About 1,300 fans of all ages attended five sold-out showings at the theater Thursday night, general manager Matthew Kesten said, including a couple dozen guests in Darth Vader, Jedi and other “Star Wars”-related costumes.

Many of those wearing costumes or other merchandise said they considered themselves “superfans.”

When you have two “Star Wars” tattoos (Chewbacca and a lightsaber) and wake up at 3 a.m. to order tickets to the 7 p.m. premiere showing the day they went on sale, you know you’re a big fan, Chip Beck, of Conewago Township, said.

That 7 p.m. showing sold out in about two hours two months ago, Kesten said, adding that he’s never seen a movie as hyped up as this one.

“This is going to blow everything away,” he said. “People have been waiting a long time for this.”

Frank Theatres will have 15 showings Friday, most of which Kesten said were still available as of 7 p.m. Thursday.

As fans filed into the theater Thursday, we asked them to share their best “Star Wars” memories. Here are their stories.

Three generations of fans

Janene Beck, of West Manchester Township, still remembers taking her son, Chip, and daughter, Chloe, to see their first “Star Wars” movie in 1977 at the Lincoln Drive-In in West Manchester Township. They were 2 years old and 2 months old, respectively, at the time, Janene said.

She remembers Amanda sleeping in the car bed while she and Chip watched the movie. He was so excited that he wet his pants three times, she said.

“It’s a ridiculous fantasy I grew up loving as a kid,” Chip, now 40, said. “I never grew up enough to stop liking it.”

On Thursday, he and Amanda, 38, continued their sibling tradition of watching every “Star Wars” film together in theaters. But this time, they also brought Chip’s 18-year-old daughter, Chloe.

Watching the movie with another generation of “Star Wars” fans shows how timeless the movies really are, Amanda said.

“They love it as much as I did as a kid,” Chip said. “My little ones are already asking when they get to see it.”

A “Star Wars” childhood

Watching the new “Star Wars” movie made Kristen Hartman, 20, and Samantha Hartman, 22, feel like kids again.

The sisters, of West Manchester Township, said “Star Wars” was always a big part of their childhood.

Ever since they were introduced to the films at about age 12, they incorporated the movie into everything they did. They played “Star Wars” video games, drew the characters in their sketchbooks, collected figurines and had lightsaber battles in the backyard.

“Even if we were playing Barbies, we made them ‘Star Wars’ characters and wrote stories about them,” Kristen said.

On Thursday, Kristen said she was so excited to see how the original characters interact with the new characters, she was jumping around the house in her homemade Jedi costume.

“We never knew there was going to be another one,” Samantha said. “We’re excited to see it together.”

A “Star Wars” dinner

Excitement for the new movie went beyond dressing up for Cassie Durham’s family.

Their day-long celebration at their Windsor Township home started with a “Star Wars” breakfast Thursday morning.

Durham’s 8-year-old son Regan Koons said he ate Princess Leia cinnamon buns for breakfast and Chewie’s cheesy macaroni and Luke’s fruit sabers for dinner.

The celebration continued when they dressed up as Yoda for the premiere.

“I’m happy because I’m a really big ‘Star Wars’ fan,” Koons said.

“And because he’s seeing the movie before his friends,” Durham added.

Counting down the hours

Wednesday night was a special night in the Hutton household.

Carol Hutton, 43, of West York, let her children stay up past their bedtime until 11 p.m. to watch “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” in preparation for “The Force Awakens” premiere.

Since then, 11-year-old Alexander Hutton, who dressed in a Darth Vader costume for the showing, said he’d been counting down the hours until he could watch the new film. He said he was most excited to see the lightsabers.

Carol said she remembers seeing the first “Star Wars” with her family in theaters 38 years ago.

“In the '70s, people weren’t going out to the movies that often,” she said. “So it was a big deal to get the whole family and go out.”

And now, being able to share a similar moment with her son is priceless.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “It feels really special.”