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Star Wars fans out in force for movie debut

The Force Awakens opens in movie theaters nationwide

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The record-breaking latest addition to the Star Wars saga opened in theaters nationwide Thursday night to the delight of die-hard fans.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" broke movie-ticketing website Fandango's record for most tickets sold in site history before the film even opened in 4,100 theaters across the country.

The film takes place 30 years after the last Star Wars movie, "Return of the Jedi." In it, a group of rebels called The Resistance rises up against The First Order as a new generation is drawn into the fight, inspired by the previous generation, both good and evil.

The first showings were at 7 p.m., but before the movie, Sun-Ray Cinema treated fans to an experience straight out of the 1977 original Star Wars film: the iconic cantina scene.

“I didn't know what to expect, and I think they did a great job putting it together,” Tammy Terry said. “You've got music. You've got drinks, and there's a lot of cool people.”

Many theaters are encouraging fans to dress for the occasion during the opening weekend.

“I am incredibly excited. I took off work tomorrow in preparation for the aftermath of all of it,” said one fan dressed as C-3PO. “I've been watching it since I was a kid, and I'm just really excited to be here tonight.”

But some theaters have imposed security guidelines on costumes and toy weapons.

With movie theater shootings, like the one in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 during "The Dark Knight Rises," safety is top of mind.

Sun-Ray has no dress code policy, as long as fans don't do anything to distract other guests. But other theaters in town, including AMC, ask fans not to wear masks or bring props that look like weapons into the theater.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith offered some advice for moviegoers.

“If you see something that looks really suspicious, let someone know, a manager or someone at the movie theater, so they can come and check the person out, because you just never know what somebody is trying to do,” Smith said.

Smith also advised not wearing masks before arriving at the theater, particularly inside convenience stores. Box office analysts predict the movie could make at least $200 million in its opening weekend.

It also has a shot of setting a U.S. record for biggest opening weekend ever.