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SIOUX CITY | A birthday party with friends and a movie can be a pretty special day for a lot of tweens.

When a "Star Wars" super fan gets to see the latest film release in its opening weekend as part of a birthday, well, that's about as momentous as it gets.

"It is awesome to have a 'Star Wars' movie come out around my birthday, because it is a fun way to celebrate," said Edie Oliver, who is pumped to see "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," about 24 hours after it premieres Thursday evening nationwide.

Up in rural Paullina, Iowa, sixth-grader Oliver is a big "Star Wars" fan. She will be going to the film on Friday, just after her 12th birthday on Wednesday, which she shares with twin brother, Ian. The Oliver kids will be taking four friends to the show as part of a birthday party.

"A lot of my friends are "Star Wars" fans, so it's something cool we can do for my birthday," Oliver said.

She most likes the character Princess (and later General) Leia, portrayed by the late Carrie Fisher. When a new trilogy was started in 2015 with "The Force Awakens," Oliver really enjoyed the lead female character of Rey, who went from a plucky scavenger to a Force-sensitive valued member of The Resistance.

"I really like Rey. Rae's my middle name, R-A-E. I liked how a girl could make a life on her own," Oliver said.

Mother Mariah Oliver added, "We are a "Star Wars"family. We joked that we were going to name them Luke and Leia. For their second Halloween, when they were 1, they were (dressed as) Luke and Leia."

After years when fans had no solid hope more films would be released, a third trilogy launched with"The Force Awakens" in 2015, as the first new "Star Wars" film since 2005. As is the custom with "Star Wars" films, superfans in Siouxland flocked to theaters on opening night. That's widely expected to happen again with "The Last Jedi," managers of Sioux City's two movie theaters said.

"It is going to be a fun weekend. We will be ready," AMC Classic Southern Hills 12 Manager Brent Monckton said.

The previous "Star War" films were released in two trilogies from 1977 to 1983 and then 1999 to 2005 in prequels that weren't as beloved as the first crop.

"The Last Jedi" continues the story in which Luke Skywalker is back, but changed, plus with a newer generation of intergalactic rebels and their foes, such as Rey and Kylo Ren. The film, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is said to have a dark edge over the 2.5-hour run time.

While the movie for months has been scheduled to premiere on Friday, it will land in theaters a few hours before that. Promenade Cinema 14 in Sioux City has a first show at 7 p.m. Thursday, with at least five airings (one in 3D) prior to midnight, then a slew of showings on Friday. Tickets have been on pre-sale since October, Promenade Cinema 14 General Manager Scott Rhoads said.

Rhoads said he expects fans coming to the theater will dress up in "Star Wars" character garb. He said people are primed to buy "Star Wars" merchandise, so Promenade has three specialty styles of popcorn tins, Stormtrooper and BB-8 mini cups and a BB-8 popcorn tub.

Rhoads said he has heard enthusiasm for "The Last Jedi," and pointed to an elaborate film premiere in Los Angeles on Dec. 9.

"There is a lot of hype for this," Rhoads said.

At AMC Classic Southern Hills 12, "The Last Jedi" shows also will premiere at  7 p.m. Thursday, with at least four more before Friday, when it will show on multiple screens.

"It will be a huge weekend. We will play it every hour. If a show is sold out, you won't have to wait long (for another)," Monckton said.

Monckton has long enjoyed the big buzz that comes with the arrival of a new Star Wars movie.

"I have been here for 30 years. It is fun to see all the dads that used to work with me are bringing in their kids now," Mockton said.

Personally, Monckton and Rhodes haven't repeatedly viewed trailers for the film.  

"I like to see if fresh," Mockton said.

That doesn't mean Rhoads hasn't thought about what the seventh film in the series could include, after "The Force Awakens" ended with the sole scene that involved the self-exiled Luke Skwalker on a remote island. Mockton agreed that was a great cliffhanger.

"The way they left us with Episode VII, I want to know about Luke. I want to know how they are moving on without Han Solo," Rhoads said.


County and education reporter

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