Star Wars in San Diego: The cross-promotion awakens

SAN DIEGO, CA-DECEMBER 15, 2015: Savanna Rakofsky (left, cq) and Morgan Jensen from FLUXX Nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter place and arrange Star Wars light sabers next to a large Darth Vader. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune) (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Malls, retailers and bars plan to be fully operational before and after crowds line up Thursday for the first showings of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Although some theaters will have assigned seating, the majority of tickets are general admission, meaning lines will likely begin covering area malls and theaters by at least mid-Thursday.

And in the outer rim of the Mallsphere, bars and nightclubs are offering more tie-ins than Mos Eisley Cantina.

There will be eight lines Thursday night at San Diego’s AMC Fashion Valley 18 - four on the second floor, four on the first - for the film, theater senior manager Doug McNeese said.

The seventh film in the lucrative franchise doesn’t start until 7 p.m. Thursday, but McNeese said they will set up lines Wednesday for fans who get there early.

Around the corner from the theater, “Star Wars” owner Disney is benefiting from its prized franchise at the Disney Store at San Diego’s most upscale mall, Fashion Valley.

Its two biggest sellers in the entire store (sorry, “Frozen” fans) are the lightsaber from “The Force Awakens” villain Kylo Ren and die-cast action figures of movie characters, store manager Jennifer Ogilvie said.

Open until 10 p.m. the day the movie opens - and possibly anticipating a shipment of new product - Ogilvie said she was not worried about huge crowds.

“No, I think we’re all excited,” she said Monday. “We are just as excited as they are.”

She said her 4-year-old daughter wore her Kylo Ren jacket to school that day.

The proliferation of “Star Wars” merchandise at Fashion Valley seems as unstoppable as a clone army.

Build-A-Bear Workshop had stuffed animal versions of Chewbacca and others; the Lego Store is jammed full of “Star Wars” sets; Sun Diego skate and surf shop has a full window display for the Darth Vader Nixon 51-30 Automatic LTD watch; Brookstone has a large display for a smartphone-controlled droid introduced in the film, BB-8; and J.C. Penney has a sign on a door advertising it as a “Star Wars Galactic Outpost.”

Westfield Mission Valley is courting even more customers around the event. Outside the AMC Mission Valley 20, the mall is hosting a movie release event Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. featuring live music, costumed characters, a photo station and “Star Wars"-themed hair and makeup stations.

Spokesman Brandon Matzek said the mall and theater have come up with a plan for lines that will not disturb surrounding businesses. He said they expect the movie to boost mall sales in addition to the already busy last shopping weekend before Christmas.

Plenty of bars are cashing in on the film, too.

The downtown San Diego Fluxx nightclub is hosting a 21-and-older “Star Wars” party Saturday night with cocktail waitresses dressed as Princess Leia, a DJ dressed as Darth Vader, plenty of lightsabers and all staff members in costume.

Participants who show up in a “Star Wars” costume get in free and receive a welcome shot. Tickets are $20 for those who elect to leave Jedi robes at home. The party runs from 9 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday.

Spokeswoman Savanna Rakofsky said the staff has creative meetings every few weeks to come up with fun ideas for the popular spot.

“All of our management team is male, besides me, so someone said ‘Star Wars’ and they were all like, ‘Yes! Absolutely,’” she said.

The party coincides with a lightsaber battle tour put on by Newmindspace, an arts collective that holds free, goofy events, like pillow fights. At least 1,500 people are expected to battle it out at Waterfront Park on Saturday from 9 to 11 p.m. It costs $10 to reserve a plastic lightsaber.

Other San Diego promotions are getting started earlier.

True North Tavern at 3815 30th St. is having a “Star Wars” trivia night Thursday starting at 8 p.m. that also promises local art. Border X Brewing at 2181 Logan Ave. in Sherman Heights is also having a trivia night Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Nearby, La Bodega Gallery already had a “Star Wars” group art show Saturday, featuring dozens of original pieces depicting scenes and characters from all seven films.

Getting tickets to the movie on Thursday will be difficult unless you have your own Death Star. Friday and Saturday aren’t much better.

Almost all 3-D showings are sold out Thursday throughout the county, with the exception of first row or handicap seats or a handful of theaters that have general admission tickets. For example, the 7 p.m. IMAX showing of the film at the Regal Parkway Plaza stadium has two seats left - one in the front row, the other in the second.

Regular tickets are just as hard because, without assigned seating, patrons will need to show up hours in advance. Still, the majority of shows are sold out.

At AMC Fashion Valley, where there will be eight lines, all 15 Thursday shows are sold out. There are still tickets for the next day after midnight at 12:15, 12:30 and 12:45 a.m.

“Star Wars” fandom began in San Diego in 1976 when Lucasfilm debuted photos from the first movie at Comic-Con almost a year before it debuted.

“The Force Awakens” could earn Disney more than $9 billion in revenue in its first year of release, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. Merchandise is expected to bring in the most, $5 billion, followed by ticket sales, video games, TV licensing, DVDs and downloads.

Source: DiscoverSD