Will ‘The Force’ awaken on Saipan?

No official date yet on Hollywood Theater reopening; renovations ongoing
It’s December and Star Wars fans all over the world are in a frenzy to see the next installment of the epic space opera franchise, which comes after 10 long years.

The movie Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which will premiere on Dec. 18, is nearly a Christmas present for all fans after Walt Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and announced the creation of three new movies.

However, with only two weeks left until opening day, fans in the CNMI are on tenterhooks as the fate of the local cinema is still unclear.

Saipan’s only theater, Hollywood Theaters, has been closed since the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor in August. After sustaining major damage to its cinemas, renovations and repair are still ongoing at the theater.

Saipan Tribune made several calls and sent numerous emails to the theater’s owner, Regal Entertainment Group’s main office in Knoxville, Tennessee, but the company has yet to respond as to when the theater would open.

Because of the uncertainty, a few Star Wars fans on island are already making plans on how to watch the much awaited movie.

For Brad Ruszala and his family, they are eyeing Guam, which is the nearest option, and where America’s premiere of the new movie begins.

“If the theater is still closed, we’ll probably fly to Guam for that purpose,” he said.

Ruzala said he and his friends were joking about their movie plans way back in August when it still wasn’t clear when the power would be restored to the island after Soudelor.

“It started with a joke but with two weeks away, it started to become a reality,” he said.

Ruszala, who once had his whole family wear Star Wars costumes for Halloween, said he wouldn’t do this just for any other movie.

“Star Wars has been around since I was a kid,” Ruszala said.

And Ruszala isn’t the only one.

According to Glenn Keaton, also a Star Wars fan and owner of Green Flash Comics, the only comic book store on island, he has some customers who also talked about going to Guam just to see the seventh episode of the franchise.

“He’s already booked his flight a month ago because he didn’t want to take any chances,” Keaton said of one customer.

He said there has been a buzz in his store for Star Wars in the past months.

“The fans are really looking forward to it,” Keaton said.

However, Keaton himself won’t be flying to Guam for the movie.

Another fan, George Hasselback, will not also be going to another island, but instead hopes that the theater will open.

“Just keeping my fingers crossed for the theaters to open on time,” Hasselback said.

While there is still hope for Star Wars to actually be shown on Saipan, there are several big films that movie lovers have already missed this year during the four months that the theater has been closed. Just some of these are The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Attack on Titan, The Martian, and the latest iteration of the James Bond franchise, Spectre.

Star Wars fans on Saipan may have to collectively “awaken The Force” for the theater to open by Dec. 18.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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