During halftime at the Eagles-Giants game Oct. 19, Phil Carrington didn't rush to join the beer line. Instead, he and his friends - along with thousands of other football fans around the stadium - huddled over smartphones, watching the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It was, many agreed, the most excitement had at Lincoln Financial Field that evening.
Carrington, 26, of Manayunk, is counting down the days to opening day, Dec. 18. He plans to see it "three times that weekend, and probably a lot more than that."
He'll fly to Los Angeles to watch it with a college roommate at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, "where the original premiered in 1977." Then, he'll fly back to Philly to see it with his parents, who took him to midnight showings of the prequels, and again with his brothers.
Carrington's glee was typical of superfans, who began snapping up tickets and planning tailgates, costume parties, marathon screenings, and even transcontinental travel in the name of the Jedi order.
Many, kids themselves nearly 40 years ago when the first film came out, now share the obsession with their own children.
One reason for the frenzy: The hype for The Force Awakens is high even by Star Wars standards. Many expect a rebound from the disappointing prequel trilogy, with original stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and an aesthetic that unites the best of old-school Star Wars with the power of computer-generated imagery. And they're excited to see how one of the most durable movie franchises ever will fare in the hands of director J.J. Abrams and Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm in 2012.
All of that is tantalizing to Danny Quimby, 43, of Fallsington, Bucks County. He's planning an opening-night tailgate at AMC Philadelphia Mills with about a dozen fellow fans, including his 14-year-old son.
"You won't find a bigger Star Wars geek than me," said Quimby, who's been hooked ever since his own father took him to see the first film in the theater.
He offered the following evidence of said geekdom. Exhibit One: A Star Wars tattoo that says "Han shot first." (It's a purist's stand against postproduction editing. "I'm always sticking to that," he said. "Even my son swears by it.") Exhibit Two: When he married in October, he and his wife exchanged Star Wars rings. His has the Jedi insignia.
Quimby closely monitors a fan site, makingstarwars.net, for news and photos from the set. A glimpse of "the full-blown Millennium Falcon" raised his expectations for high production value.
But mostly, he's excited to share the experience with his son, who's watched the six earlier films at home. For the tailgate Dec. 17 (the film opens a day early at many theaters), he'll bring lightsabers, Jedi robes, and Stormtrooper masks.
Star Wars is, of course, deeply embedded in popular culture.
It ranges from casual fans to communities of costume enthusiasts, bloggers, fan-filmmakers, and memorabilia collectors, including the Pennsylvania Star Wars Collecting Society, of which Carrington is a member. Some even celebrate Star Wars Day each May (tagline: May the Fourth be with you).
That passion adds up to big business - an estimated $37 billion in revenue from films, TV, comic books, video games, and other merchandise over the last four decades.
But The Force Awakens is expected to perform at a different level.
One Wall Street analyst predicted merchandise sales would exceed $5 billion in the first year alone.
And that doesn't count ticket sales.
The film has drawn 10 times more advance ticket purchases for AMC than the previous record (a tie between the franchise films The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and The Dark Knight Rises). Every screen of the company's area theaters will be devoted to it Dec. 17. That's more than 120 local showings that day alone.
Meanwhile, the Franklin Institute will be running round-the-clock IMAX screenings starting Dec. 17 and continuing through opening weekend; (4 a.m. tickets were still available as of last week).
The Star Wars Effect also is rippling through places like Atomic City Comics on South Street. It's been hosting screenings of the first six films in weekly installments, inviting costumed fans in to watch, play trivia games, and, it hopes, buy lots of comics and action figures.
"I'm not going to lie and say we're not going to do well because of it," said owner Joe Turner. "The Star Wars stuff is going to give us another group of people who might not have known they need to be connected to a comic-book store."
Also benefiting from the Star Wars economy is Jonathan Rossi, 28, of Fishtown. In the run-up to the film's opening, he launched a custom lightsaber business, installing light and sound boards in sabers that are "fully duelable" and loaded with effects. He's customized about 40 sabers in the last six months, each for a few hundred dollars or more.
It helps his business that he's a fan first. (He'll take a break Dec. 17 to attend The Force Awakens with friends, in costume.)
"I've loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember," he said. "I always joke that I probably know more about the Star Wars universe and politics than I do about real-world stuff."
For many, Star Wars is just a way of life.
Take George Metz, of Newtown Square. At 74, he is the oldest member of Garrison Carida, the local chapter of an international organization of Star Wars costume enthusiasts, the 501st Legion.
A fan since 1977, he bought a Stormtrooper costume in 1997, and has since worn it to scores of charity walks, hospital visits, comic conventions, and Phillies games. He goes to Mardi Gras most years.
"I get hugs and kisses," he said. "At my age, I've got to get my hugs and kisses where I can."
A retired programmer who's never been married, Metz said: "I'm a big kid who never grew up. I never had to worry about hearing: 'You're going where? You spent a thousand dollars on that?' "
Costumes run from $300 to $5,000 or more, according to Rebecca Chen, 38, of Havertown. She dresses as a Biker Scout with the same organization.
She was pulled into the group by her husband, but she's been a fan of the franchise since her childhood.
"I almost cried watching the trailer," she said. "I was really upset with George Lucas' prequels. . . . When I saw the trailer for this one, I see Han Solo, I see Princess Leia, and the music and the look and feel of it reminds me of the original movies I watched as a kid. So it's very nostalgic."
She plans to see the film twice Thursday, Dec. 17, again Friday, then appear in costume at a theater Saturday.
For fans like that, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Jason Darnell, 40, an English teacher from Blue Bell, said Star Wars was just part of growing up in the 1980s.
"It was such a pervasive part of our culture and conversations and imaginative play," he said. Now, it holds the same place in the imagination of his son, Brett, 11. They'll watch it together opening night.
"It's extraordinarily special to be able to share this with Brett, not just because he loves it like I do, but because it brings me back to my own childhood," Darnell said. "There's nothing like it, for a dad to be able to share a moment like that with his son."
As for his wife and daughter? The force just isn't strong with them, he said. "My wife can't stand this stuff."