‘The Force Awakens’ local economy
‘Star Wars’ movie’s highly anticipated release just a few weeks away

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Dec. 1, 2015

A line of Star Wars figures at Neptune Comics in Waukesha.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Would-be Jedis young and old are anxiously awaiting the release of the latest “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens” by buying advance movie tickets and stocking up on merchandise from comic books to toy light sabers.

As a result, these movie-related sales are making the holiday season even jollier for area businesses.

Due to be released Dec. 18 nationwide, “The Force Awakens” has fans hopeful the franchise will regain the high quality of the original trilogy under director J.J. Abrams’ guidance. As hype and expectations build, so has related merchandise sales.

Neptune Comics owner Craig Lopacinski said sales really started to pick up in January after Marvel released a new “Star Wars” comic book that “has really has caught fire for Star Wars here and in the comic book industry.”

“People we have never seen before have come in looking for ‘Star Wars’ comics,” Lopacinski said. “They are excited for the movie.”

The poster for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' sits in a prime spot in the lobby of the Marcus Hillside Cinema.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

As the year has progressed, so have sales.

“Right now it’s a hot sell and people are looking for it,” Lopacinski said.

Located at 2120 E. Moreland Blvd. in Waukesha, Neptune Comics doesn’t carry every “Star Wars” item available, but does carry a range of action figures and merchandise.

Although the eagerness of fans for “The Force Awakens” is a driving force for sales prior to the movie’s release, Lopacinski said he is concerned there is going to be a drop off in sales after the movie is released as fans wait for the next installment.

“We have really seen through this year that ‘Star Wars’ has kept the boat afloat for us and the comic book industry because so many people are looking for it,” Lopacinski said, adding that the rest of the comic book industry has struggled a bit.

“Star Wars” merchandise buyers have been young and old, although Lopacinski said it’s often a dad who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s watching the original trilogy that comes to Neptune Comics with his son to buy “Star Wars” items.

The same is true at Half Price Books in Brookfield, which got a new shipment of “Star Wars” merchandise Monday.

A promotional R2D2 droid sits over the ticket counter at the Marcus Hillside Cinema in Delafield.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Helen Ward, store inventory merchandiser for the Brookfield location, said Half Price Books is stocking everything from new and used “Star Wars” books to mugs, T-shirts, coloring books and toys like lightsabers.

“There has always been a big demand for ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” she said. “It seems to be across the board; everyone seems really pumped for the new movie.”

At Silly Willyz in downtown Pewaukee, shoppers will find only a few “Star Wars” related items because owner Jackie Schoenholtz focuses on more unique items, such as Calico Critters and games like Bugs in the Kitchen. She said those unique, not-mass-produced items are what set Silly Willyz apart from other toy stores. However, she said she still feels pressured to carry “Star Wars” merchandise. Shoppers can find some “Star Wars” books and unique items at Schoenholtz’ store.

For “Star Wars” fans who cannot wait until the Dec. 18 movie release, Marcus Cinema will start a marathon on Dec. 17. Beginning at 2 a.m., fans can watch episodes one through six in order, followed by the new episode seven, said Lindsey Weix, communications and media specialist for Marcus Theatres.

“Additionally, Marcus Theatres is holding around-the-clock showtimes of ‘The Force Awakens’ during opening weekend so moviegoers are able to see the film at any time of day or night that fits best with their schedule,” Weix said via email Monday. “Because this is the most anticipated movie of the year, we are expecting heavy attendance during opening weekend. To accommodate the demand, we’ve added more showtimes. As such, we’ve adjusted staffing needs as appropriate. It will be an exciting time filled with lots of energy at our theaters.”

And if simply attending the movie showing is not enough, Marcus Theatres is allowing customers to dress up as their favorite “Star Wars” characters during the release of the film - however, masks that cover the face are not allowed. “Star Wars” props like light sabers are welcome, but toy versions of real weapons will not be permitted.





Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com