The Force Awakens: Upstate fans use 'Star Wars' to give back
Early Thursday morning, Robert Young was a busy man. Before his store, Borderlands Comics and Games in Greenville, had opened, multiple TV news crews had already interviewed him.
“I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning, and I won’t go to bed until after midnight,” he said, smiling. “You know what? It’s worth it. I’m so stoked for this movie.”
Young isn’t the only Star Wars fan willing to skip sleep, stand in line and share his theories with reporters about Luke Skywalker.
The force has finally awakened, and Star Wars mania is in full swing in the Upstate.
Although “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” officially opens in theaters nationwide Friday, Dec. 18, special advanced showings begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the three Regal Cinemas theaters in Greenville and Simpsonville and at Camelot Cinemas in Greenville.
According to Fandango, Regal Cherrydale Stadium 16 in Greenville planned 22 showings of the movie before midnight while Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX in Greenville was selling tickets to 30 shows before midnight. Many screens are already sold out.
Fandango announced Thursday that pre-sale tickets for the movie had already “obliterated records” by surpassing $100 million in advance tickets sales in the United States alone.
Some Greenville business owners like Young are using the excitement around the seventh Star Wars movie as a way to give back to the community.
Young purchased an entire theater’s worth of tickets to the 8 p.m. screening Thursday at Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX, and then resold the passes to his customers for a good cause.
“My customers are stoked,” Young said. “Folks are really excited about this movie. We bought out a screen and sold the tickets for $3 above face value, and the $3 is going to Helping Hands, which is a home in Clemson that helps abused and neglected children.”
Two weeks ago, Borderlands’ screening sold out, but that’s not the end of the store’s generosity.
Borderlands will also host a blood drive 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Anyone who donates blood will get two tickets to the 1:15 p.m. Sunday show at Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX. Appointments are limited and can be scheduled through the Borderlands Comics and Games Facebook page.
“When you can get a bunch of people together to enjoy something they all love, like Star Wars, and at the same time, everybody knows they are helping out kids, I don’t see any way it’s a losing situation,” Young said.
Across town, Joshua Githens, co-owner of Boardwalk, a game store located behind Haywood Mall, also had the idea to use Star Wars mania to give back to his community.
Githens waited in line when tickets first went on sale and bought 280 tickets — an entire theater’s worth of seats — for the 12:30 p.m. Saturday showing at Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX.
A lifelong fan of Star Wars, Githens then gave away many of the tickets to his most loyal customers, who have been expressing excitement for the movie since it was announced. Others he sold at a discount to customers who heard about the screening.
He also donated a block of seats to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville.
“I’m trying to get them some tickets so they can bring some of the kids and families who might want something to do to get their mind off things and come watch ‘Star Wars’ with us Saturday,” Githens said.
He said the last time a Star Wars movie hit theater screens was in 2005 with “Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.” He thinks people are more excited for the newest film because it features some of the original cast members and is being made by a studio and filmmaker who seem to care about the franchise.
“The nature of what we sell in board games is about a shared social experience of playing games, so the shared experience of watching this movie together stood out to me,” he said. “I thought it would be a great thing to do.”
He said his store serves people of all ages, and the screening will be made up of couples, teenagers, older folks and families with children.
Borderlands Comics and Games and Boardwalk aren’t the only places where Star Wars fans can celebrate the new release. The Greenville Swamp Rabbits are hosting an annual Star Wars Night Saturday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. All fans are encouraged to dress up as their favorite hero or villain and meet some of the most popular characters from the Star Wars series on the concourse, courtesy of the 501st Legion.
Young said “Star Wars” appeals to all ages and has for decades because of its epic mythology and engaging characters. The Star Wars comic is the best-selling book in his store and has been for the past year, he said.
“People my age grew up with it, and now, kids whose dads or moms love it have watched it, and they love it, too,” Young said. “Whatever it is, Star Wars offers a great bonding experience for families. It’s uniting generations.”
He said he’s never seen his employees and customers as excited for a movie as they have been for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“The excitement for ‘The Avengers’ was close, but it wasn’t anything else like this,” Young said. “This is something special.”
“It’s great that we can use a movie like ‘Star Wars’ to bring the community together,” he said.
You can go
Fans excited to dress up for a showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” might be tempted to dress in costume and show up at the theater with their lightsaber ready. Not so fast.
Regal Entertainment Group has posted signs at its theaters with the following statement: “Guests of all ages with masks, props, face paint or weapons are not allowed into Regal Entertainment Group locations. This includes Lightsabers and face-obscuring hoods.”