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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opens up big in Pittsburgh, across U.S.

| Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, 9:33 p.m.
People line up at the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead for the first showings of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
People line up at the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead for the first showings of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Eric Hess, 46, of West Mifflin, dressed as Han Solo gets his photo taken near a sign for the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Eric Hess, 46, of West Mifflin, dressed as Han Solo gets his photo taken near a sign for the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Spenser Tejada, 19, of Oakland holds his lightsaber as he waits for the first showing of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Spenser Tejada, 19, of Oakland holds his lightsaber as he waits for the first showing of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
David Schweissing of Pitcairn asks his son, Carter, 4, what he wants from the concession stand before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
David Schweissing of Pitcairn asks his son, Carter, 4, what he wants from the concession stand before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Kayza Donahue, 28, of Brookline gets some soda before seeing the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Kayza Donahue, 28, of Brookline gets some soda before seeing the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
David Milliern, 45, of Elizabeth, holds his lightsaber as he plays with other fans at the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
David Milliern, 45, of Elizabeth, holds his lightsaber as he plays with other fans at the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Johnathan Seiler, 29, of Bon Air, stands dressed as  Chewbacca before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Johnathan Seiler, 29, of Bon Air, stands dressed as Chewbacca before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Owen Eckert, 9, of the North Side, plays with his lightsaber before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Owen Eckert, 9, of the North Side, plays with his lightsaber before seeing the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' movie on the films opening night at AMC Loews Waterfront 22 theaters in Homestead on Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015.

LOS ANGELES — After months of secrecy and anticipation, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is thrilling fans and theater owners alike.

The most buzzed-about film of the year opened globally Thursday, setting international and pre-sale box-office records and delighting moviegoers who have had opening-night tickets in hand for months.

Kelly Andrews, who wears her love of “Star Wars” on her skin in the form of Yoda and R2-D2 tattoos, bought tickets in October for the first showing at Hollywood's classic TCL Chinese Theatre, where the original “Star Wars” premiered in 1977.

“It was outstanding,” she said as she left the screening Thursday night clutching a shiny keepsake popcorn bin. “I cried happy tears. I cried sad tears. It was beautiful.”

She was among thousands of devotees who praised the space saga's latest installment. The film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and fans internationally.

All over the world, “Star Wars” enthusiasts toted lightsabers and wore character costumes to packed opening-night showings of “The Force Awakens.” They laughed and cheered and gasped together, illuminating their sabers in the theater during key scenes.

They pushed the film to a record debut, with an estimated $57 million from Thursday night shows.

The Walt Disney Co.'s estimate on Friday easily surpassed the previous Thursday night record of $43.5 million by 2011's “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

The movie's international rollout, which began Wednesday, has brought in a total of $72.7 million. That includes the biggest single day ever in the United Kingdom, where it made an estimated $14.4 million.

More than $100 million in tickets have been presold in North America. The movie ticket service Fandango said it has already sold more tickets for “The Force Awakens” than any movie over its entire theatrical run.

Not everyone in the opening-night audience was dazzled, though. Michael Danke of Los Angeles, who said his friend waited in line for 52 hours for their tickets, was disappointed.

“I was kind of looking forward to a futuristic, bitchin' movie, but it was an old ‘Star Wars' movie,” he said. “They did it old style.”

That nostalgia worked for Tony Brennan, who said he “can't get off of that high that I'm on” after seeing the film with the opening-night crowd in Hollywood.

“It's definitely worth all the hype,” he said. “I like how they bring back the old quotes and old scenery and old people... It passed all of our expectations. I'm watching it five, six, seven more times.”

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