The force has awakened…in China. Almost four decades after the original Star Wars film, written and directed by George Lucas debuted, our friends in the East are finally screening all six franchise intallments for the public in theaters.

According to MSN’s 9News, today was the first day of this historic moment, and it’s all thanks to the Shanghai International Film Festival, which is making a weeklong event out of it. Tickets were sold out as moviegoers showed up wearing Stormtrooper and C-3PO-themed t-shirts. Many had already seen the films through bootleg and illegal copies and downloads, but, as one fan told 9News, these films are meant for the big screen.

Back in 1977, China was only just coming out of the Cultural Revolution, which was launched by Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1966 in an effort to reestablish his control over the Chinese government. He called for the youth of the nation to purge all those "impure" elements of Chinese society and to return to core values and ideologies that initially led to the People’s Republic of China. Mao died in 1976, and as the country slowly began to free itself from the movement’s hold, Star Wars remained out of public theaters. It marks a new hope for the country and, appropriately, these screenings kicked off with Episode IV - A New Hope.

9News notes that the Chinese website Douban gave the film a rating of 8.3 out of 10. It drew more than 35,000 comments, with some citing weak characters in the film. Commenter Xiaosi Buxiang called "the leading actress," Carrie Fisher "not beautiful," and "the leading actor," Mark Hamill, "not handsome," but praised the visual effects.

As Kerwin Lo, the vice president and general manager for Walt Disney Studios China, remarked, the buzz surrounding this event will do well for the Mouse House in drumming up excitement for the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens. The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and picks up with the galaxy far, far away years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The cast includes a number of returning characters — including Fisher as Princess Leia, Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca — as well as a crop of new faces. While there’s still much we don’t know about The Force Awakens, Finn (John Boyega) is said to be a Stormtrooper on the run who encounters a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) on the desert planet Jakku. Elsewhere, an X-Wing pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), embarks on a mission that entangles him in the lives of the other two characters. Then there’s Adam Driver as the new Sith, Kylo Ren, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma (dubbed a Chrometrooper by the Internet), Lupita Nyong’o as the pirate Maz Kanata, and Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke to look forward to.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.

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