Movie fans have cheered the Hollywood premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with standing ovations, applause and screams of delight as the seventh movie in the space epic was screened last night.
Police cordoned off the area around the famed Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard which was hosting the premiere along with other nearby theaters.
As the stars of the latest installment of the epic walked the red carpet, fans -- some who had camped out for days in their Star Wars costumes - went into a frenzy seeking autographs and pictures of the beloved movie characters.
"This is like the Academy Awards or something," said Harrison Ford, who plays Han Solo..
Jeff Bock, an analyst at box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, said “this is probably the biggest opening in decades".
Disney CEO Bob Iger hailed what "could be the biggest premiere we have ever done."
Ever since 1977, when Star Wars introduced the world to the Force, Jedi knights, Darth Vader, Wookiees and clever droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, the sci-fi saga has built a devoted global fan base that spans generations.
"I've been here since 3 am because I wanted to get a good spot," said James Salazar, 19, outside the Chinese Theatre. "I've been a fan all my life, it's my favourite movie and my dad’s also.”
Director J.J. Abrams had the daunting task of taking the intergalactic tale created by George Lucas forward while trying to meet the high expectations of fans.
The last Star Wars film came out a decade ago - the final chapter in a prequel trilogy that was less well-received than the original three films from 1977 to 1983.
The plot of The Force Awakens - Episode VII in the franchise - was kept a fiercely guarded mystery and those eager to read reviews had to wait until today when a media embargo is lifted.
"Everyone knows we keep it secret for the right reasons," Ridley said.