BAR HARBOR — The long-awaited film “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” premieres this week on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. and is accompanied by a full schedule of fan events on Friday.
The full film will be shown in a “sneak peak” premiere Thursday. Many fans of the franchise also are preparing elaborate character costumes for a march and parade Friday afternoon ahead of the 6 p.m. showing. Another showing is set for 9:30 p.m. that day.
The theater plans to run the film for several weeks.
“It’s a way of showing your fan level,” Chris Schwartz, the theater’s graphic designer and one of the costume contest judges, said when asked where the tradition of dressing up to see Star Wars came from. “It’s not like just wearing the T-shirt when you go see your favorite band.”
The tradition of “cosplay,” costumed role-playing in venues other than stage or screen (or on Halloween), has for years been associated with comics and science fiction in general and Star Wars in particular. The term was coined in 1984 at a World Science Fiction Convention.
Many attendees at comic and science fiction conventions arrive in costume.
Schwartz, who has gone to many comic book conventions (as well as area parades) dressed as Batman, said there’s a strong do-it-yourself tradition.
“It’s a badge of honor, the creativity and hours of work involved. That’s why I’ve been modifying my stormtrooper costume,” he said. He plans to go as a combination of Bar Harbor Batman and a stormtrooper including the batman cape. He painted a bat symbol on his white stormtrooper armor and plans to modify the “bat boombox” as well.
The costume march begins on Cottage Street at 4 p.m. Friday and the contest is set for 5 p.m. Judges will decide on winners in adult, kids, group and homemade costume categories, and an audience choice award is planned as well. Judges will consider creativity, originality, stage presence and participation.
Area businesses are joining in the fun Friday with a “galactic passport” program where fans collect stickers at each of a number of businesses. Many nonprofits also plan to join the event.
Creative types of all ages have been dropping off entries for the Star Wars fan art contest, which will be displayed in the theater from Dec. 17-23. An artists’ reception is set for Saturday, Dec. 19, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“It’s been pretty cool that people have been bringing in these things that Star Wars has inspired them to do,” Schwartz said. Reception guests will vote on winners for each grade level, for student art and an adult winner.
One sculpture is a foot-tall AT-AT Walker four-legged transport vehicle from “The Empire Strikes Back” made of sticks and acorns found here on Mount Desert Island.
Schwartz himself contributed another piece with Maine connections, a velvet painting called “Darth Vader goes fishing.”
“I have a thing for black velvet paintings,” he said. “I bought this one at a yard sale in Presque Isle a few years ago. It’s been in storage waiting for the right moment.” He added an image of Vader with a new kind of lightsaber featured in “The Force Awakens.”
On Dec. 26 and 27, the Criterion will host two Star Wars Trivia contests. There will be a $5 entry fee, and contestants will have the option to team up or go it alone. There will be three rounds and one grand prize, winner takes all. Questions will vary in difficulty from novice Star Wars fanfare to Padawan, Jedi, Sith, and Jedi master level knowledge of the force.
Later in the run of the movie, a “Lightsaber Academy” taught by local fencing instructors is planned. On Monday, Dec. 28, Jedi masters will visit the Criterion. The instructors will train Padawans to become skilled Jedi knights.
The Lightsaber Academy is free and open to the public. Participants will earn a Jedi certificate after completing their training. This is free and open to recruits of all ages. Training lightsabers will be provided. Jedi attire encouraged.
Reserved seat tickets for Thursday’s sneak peak and Friday night’s showings can be purchased online at www.criteriontheatre.org or by calling 288-0829.