“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”

As soon as those words start scrolling on the screen, and the powerful score starts up, Larry Zore can feel the excitement coursing through his body.

Suddenly, the Indianapolis resident is swinging his lightsaber, riding a speeder bike and dogfighting in an X-wing.

“These movies are iconic,” Zore said. “Every time I hear that or see that, it brings back memories.”

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The day that hardcore Star Wars fans have been waiting on for years arrives today. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the seventh and most recent chapter in the science-fiction saga, opens tonight in theaters around the country.

“With most movies, I’m OK with waiting a few days until the rush dies down,” said Bryan Neely, a southside resident. “But this feels like a part of history. It’s a part of something you can only do once.”

Theaters all over the country have been given the opportunity to screen the film this evening and will continue with midnight showings and putting the film on multiple screens throughout the weekend.

Disney has reported the film will be shown in more than 4,100 theaters throughout the U.S. and could top the highest-grossing opening weekend of $208.8 million set by “Jurassic World” in June.

The 7:30 p.m. showing today at Regal Greenwood Stadium 14 is sold out, though more than 40 showings are available at the theater Friday and Saturday.

More than 200 people have tickets to see the film at Franklin’s Canary Creek Cinema today; and though tickets are available throughout the weekend, it is getting close to selling out on both 2D and 3D screens, owner Mike Rembusch said.

“These kind of pictures don’t come along very often, so we want to take advantage of it,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-generation kind of deal.”

Canary Creek Cinema in Franklin has partnered with Indy PopCon to feature a special pre-screening at 7 p.m. today. The film will be shown on at least three screens throughout the week, with the option to open up additional theaters if the demand is there.

‘Seeing the excitement’

Employees will be allowed to dress up if they want, to match the enthusiasm that the theatergoers will be bringing.“We know that our competitors are going to be doing it, and we want to cash in on the excitement,” Rembusch said. “One of the fun things of the business that is left is seeing the excitement of our patrons when they come out.”

For many “Star Wars” fans, the release of “The Force Awakens” will be another chapter in a lifelong love of the series. The seeds of their super-fandom were planted when they were kids.

Jeff Herrmann saw the original “Star Wars” when he was 5, a viewing that remains one of his first memories. His love for it has grown throughout his lifetime, mostly as he’s grown to appreciate the quality of the craft.

“I love movies as a whole — the making of movies, directing, cinematography. ‘Star Wars’ is really a turning point in the movie industry in the late ’70s,” he said. “It marked a sci-fi revolution in the movie industry.”

In his southside home, he has 35 framed posters of the film, all autographed by actors such as Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.

Herrmann estimates that he has more than 100 other posters in storage, as well. His collection encompasses every “Star Wars” poster ever produced, including the original created while George Lucas was still shopping the film to movie studios.

The centerpiece of his collection are two original teaser posters for the film that hang in the entryway to his house.

“Those are the ‘Holy Grail’ of posters,” he said.

He has X-wings, TIE fighters, AT-AT walkers and other vehicles that were actually used in the filming of the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Herrmann already has tickets to see three screenings today and Friday. For him, it’s a chance to return the saga to the original vision that made so many people fall in love with it.

“It’s bringing it around to the people who saw it back in the ’70s,” he said. “From what I’m hearing in thoughts and predictions is this is exactly what the fans want.”

‘Feel like a kid again’

Dave Windisch was 2 when the first film came out. He doesn’t remember seeing it the first time, but he remembers the toys. His parents bought him all of the action figures — Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader and the other iconic characters.One of his favorite items was a landspeeder — the hovering spacecraft used by Skywalker. Windisch received it as a birthday gift as a boy, and nearly 40 years later, he still has it in his collection.“Like most other people from that generation, if you didn’t blow them up, you kept them. And I was lucky enough to keep mine and have passed down a lot of my extra ones to my kids,” he said.

Some of his best are still in good enough condition to display in his home.

“I don’t know what it is that’s so appealing. Maybe it’s the idea that the galaxy really can go on, and its infiniteness can make up any story any where,” Windisch said. “You don’t ever have to really grow up, because there’s always ‘Star Wars’ to make you feel like a kid again.”

He will not be at one of the pre-screenings today. Rather, Windisch plans to travel to downtown Indianapolis to watch the film on the IMAX theater at the Indiana State Museum, one of only 15 theaters in the country to show it in 70 mm IMAX format for optimal viewing.

The fandom that will be on display today at theaters is a far cry from what Windisch remembers growing up.

“In the late ’80s and early ’90s, people didn’t come out and say they liked these kind of sci-fi movies,” Windisch said. “But all of the sudden, it became OK to be a fan and not feel like you were getting judged for watching space movies and reading space comic books.”

Windisch remembers as a kid growing up seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” on the big screen at the Artcraft Theatre. When the tauntaun snow creature runs across the icy planet of Hoth, he couldn’t wait until the first snowfall when he could use his imagination to re-create it.

“I could create my own Hoth,” he said. “Me and my friends could all be the rebels getting away from Darth Vader. I can still remember that, even 35 years later.”

Another generation

Neely was living in Arkansas in 1977 when the original “Star Wars” film came out. It was his first exposure to science fiction, and even though he recognized aliens and space travel as being far-fetched, 8-year-old Neely could relate to it.He became immersed in the rich world that Lucas had created on screen.

“It didn’t seem impossible when I was a kid,” he said.

“I realize now that it is, but that world seemed so plausible and realistic.”

Neely plans to attend today’s pre-screening at Canary Creek. Though he will not be donning a Boba Fett or Luke Skywalker costume, he’s looking forward to being part of the community of fans finally satiating their “Star Wars” craving.

“I want to be part of something that everybody is seeing for the first time. Everyone in the audience will be seeing this for the first time,” he said.

Zore saw “Star Wars” over and over again when it was in the theater, estimating he made his parents take him seven or eight times.

He was a big science fiction enthusiast, and the film seemed to take the genre to a new, unparalleled place. Even as he grew older, he has remained in awe at the way Lucas was able to tell this classic story of good versus evil in a thrilling way.

Zore has children of his own now and has reveled in the chance to introduce the series to them all together. He and his family will attend the screening at Canary Creek tonight with 12 of their friends.

“I love that it’s something I’ve enjoyed and now I can share it with the kids,” he said.

At a glance

Already sold out

Dozens of local showings of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are available to people through Sunday. Here are the local showtimes where it’s already sold out

Regal Greenwood Stadium 14, 461 Greenwood Park Drive South

  • 7:30 p.m. today
  • 7:10 p.m. Friday
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.