The next generation of "Star Wars" films kicked off with an elaborate debut for "The Force Awakens" Monday that served as a proverbial passing of the lightsaber to new groups of fighters dueling in a cinematic galaxy far, far away.
Stormtroopers marched and droids rolled down "The Force Awakens" red carpet Monday, heralding the return of "Star Wars" after a decade-long absence from the big screen.
A giant opaque tent shrouded the red carpet that was lined with Stormtrooper mannequins and neon lights that resembled giant lightsabers.
Before some of the film's human stars arrived, the droid BB-8 rolled by the cameras. The soccerball-esque droid has been a popular fixture in trailers for the seventh "Star Wars" film, and it was soon joined by series mainstays C-3PO and R2-D2.
Early arrivals mixed stars from the original trilogy, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), who play with newcomers Gwendolyn Christie and Daisy Ridley. The women portray the evil Captain Phasma and Rey, two new characters who will be expected to carry the "Star Wars" film franchise as it is introduced to a new generation.
Disney took over a half-mile section of Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," complete with fan bleachers and spotlights everywhere. The film will screen at three theaters, allowing more than 5,000 invited guests the chance to see the characters Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo reunite for the first time on the big screen since 1983's "Return of the Jedi."
John Williams' soaring score played as stars walked the red carpet and did interviews.
Harrison Ford reflected on the impact of the film and the role that catapulted him to superstardom.
"Well, in the '70s nobody knew what to anticipate," Ford said in an interview with Starwars.com. "Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Now we have to live up to what the first films delivered."
In bleachers set up on the boulevard, some fans dressed as X-Wing pilots while others held up helmets resembling those worn by bounty hunters in the film.
Security around the site was high, with metal detectors screening pedestrians and police dogs checking the area.
For those without tickets to the premiere, the most they could see was the outside of the tent.
"We're really disappointed because we are big Star Wars fans, and we were hoping to at least see a little of the celebrities," said Natalie Arnet, a tourist from Paris.
"I understand the need for security," Arnet said.
But for a lifelong "Star Wars" fan, it was tough being that close to the premiere and not getting a better look. "I wanted to see the old cast members because I grew up with these films," she said.
Actors Chadwick Boseman and Sarah Hyland and director Steven Spielberg were among the Hollywood stars who attended what could be the largest Hollywood premiere ever. One of the participating theaters – the iconic TCL Chinese – hosted the premiere of the original "Star Wars" in 1977.
Spielberg praised the franchise, saying he knew when the first film was released that it would be an enduring hit. "It was a slow burn, but I knew it would never go away," Spielberg told Starwars.com.
"The Force Awakens" opens to the public Friday and some expect the film to break box office records, as it has already with presale tickets.
The last live-action "Star Wars" film was 2005's "Revenge of the Sith," which capped a prequel trilogy focusing on the story of how Skywalker's father became villain Darth Vader.