Darth Vader and Stormtrooper cosplayers pose with Star Wars photographs by Jodi Renshaw at the 2015 Bangor Comic & Toy Con, held in April. Credit: Jodi Renshaw

For anyone who even casually loves the Star Wars franchise — be they folks who saw the first movie in the theater back in 1977, or who grew up playing lightsabers in the backyard in the 1980s, or were of age the prequels came out — Dec. 18 is a really big day. It’s the day that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” officially comes out in theaters.

Bangor artist and photographer Jodi Renshaw, along with Bangor Mall Cinemas and a cast of local characters as colorful as the denizens of the Mos Eisley Cantina, has planned a party in order to celebrate this once-in-a-generation pop culture event. Starting the night of Thursday, Dec. 17, when there’s early premiere screenings of the movie, and running through Sunday, Dec. 20, Bangor Mall Cinemas will host a “Galactic Gathering” themed to Star Wars, featuring area book, clothing and toy stores, gaming clubs, conventions and local artists.

“I’ve been a huge fan [of Star Wars] my whole life, and now it even shows up in my art,” said Renshaw, who is known in Maine for her creative, funny photographs of action figures, dolls and other toys staged in dramatic scenes. “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, because we’ve been waiting to see what happens to these characters — Luke and Leia and Han, not the prequel characters — for more than 30 years.”

Scott Warren, general manager of Bangor Mall Cinemas, has hosted lots of premiere parties, including big ones for the Harry Potter and Twilight films, but says “The Force Awakens” is special among them all.

“It’s just on a different level,” said Warren. “People have been talking about it for over a year. You’ve got people from multiple generations that have loved these movies for decades. My seven year old son knows more about it than I do. It just grabs everyone.”

Tickets for premiere weekend screenings are selling briskly; Warren said that the 7 and 7:10 screenings on Thursday are already sold out and he expects many others to do so as well. Advance tickets are available in person at Bangor Mall Cinemas, by calling or online on websites such as movietickets.com.

Renshaw said for Bangor movie-goers, the convention will be as much of a show as the actual movie.

“The theater has really stepped up and made this a great community event,” she said. “I think anyone that loves Star Wars and just pop culture in general will find something to enjoy.”

Vendors and presenters at the Galactic Gathering include:

Bull Moose Music: Selling Star Wars books, music, video games and gear, as well as a trivia wheel for giveaways.

Josh Alves Illustration: Selling Unofficial Star Wars-ish Finger Puppets, and his latest book, “Lilly Bristol: Dinosaur Wrangler.” Thursday and Saturday only.

Wampa Clan: The Maine-based chapter of the Mandalorian Mercs Costuming Club. This all volunteer organization specializes in custom-made Mandalorian costumes, wearing them to charity events, comic conventions and more. Available for pictures for Thursday only.

SnowCon Gaming Convention: This tabletop gaming convention is set for Jan. 15-17, 2016 at the Cross Insurance Center. SnowCon will be at the theater all opening weekend to demo the latest in Star Wars tabletop games, share info and host giveaways for SnowCon passes and t-shirts.

Top Shelf Comics Bangor: Bangor’s premiere comic book store will be available all weekend, selling vintage and modern comic books, hosting a giveaway and chatting with fans about all things comics.

Tattoo-Ine by Einstein Arts: Einstein Arts will be offering Star Wars-themed temporary tattoos all weekend, by donation only.

Bangor Comic and Toy Con: The biggest comic and pop culture convention in Maine happens April 8-10, 2016 at the Cross Insurance Center. All weekend long there will be giveaways for convention passes, and autographed pictures of Billy Dee Williams, Deep Roy, Peter Mayhew, and Mark Dodson.

The Thing of the Moment with Jeff Kirlin: Jeff Kirlin, Bangor’s premiere social photographer, will photograph theater-goers all weekend, with Mandalorians and other cosplayers, for a donation to Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance.

Hot Topic: Drop by this table to shop for the latest in Star Wars apparel and funky gear, as well as giveaways from the biggest alternative and pop culture chain the the country.

BAM: Books A Million: Offering Star Wars toys, comics and apparel and store coupons.

Studio 36: Jodi Renshaw’s photography studio will offer her Star Wars toy photographs, as well as giveaways.

Potato League Podcast: Dan Fleming and Tom Crossman will be live podcasting all weekend, talking about TV, movies, comics and games.

Paul Bussiere’s R2-D2: Bangor resident Paul Bussiere has created a replica of the famed R2-D2 character that is as close as one can get to the real thing. He beeps, boops, and lights up to the delight of the thousands of children that Paul visits in hospitals and schools every year. Come get your picture taken with this special robot at The Thing of the Moment booth.

Northeast Collectibles: These Brewer guys sell their new and gently used collectible pop-culture toys throughout New England. Only available Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.