If it wasn't an unprecedented crowd, a theater employee said, it was pretty close.
Maybe a movie at the Carmike Royal Palm 20 had been such a fan magnet once before. Maybe.
It was Thursday night, and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was about to make its Bradenton premiere. Fans started showing up hours before the first 7 p.m. screening.
Even if they already had tickets, they lined up early to get the best seats.
As of 6 p.m., the Royal Palm 20 had 18 screenings scheduled Thursday night, and were ready to show it on all 20 screens if needed. Late screenings of all other movies had been canceled just in case.
"Look at where I am!" said Jonathan Colon of Bradenton.
He was at the front of the line for the 7:15 p.m. show. He wouldn't be one of the first group of people to see the movie -- the people at the 7 p.m. show had a head start -- but he'd have whatever seat he wanted.
Colon said he had seen all six previous movies and loved them all: even the "prequels" many people hated. He's especially excited about this one.
"I think 'Star Wars' is built on nostalgia," he said. "When George Lucas made the first 'Star Wars,' it was built on a lot of Flash Gordon references."
He expected the new "Star Wars" movie to build on the plot and legend of the original trilogy, he said.
A few feet away, at the front of the line for the first 7 p.m. showing, John Davenport of Manatee County said being at the first show is important. He wanted to make sure he saw "The Force Awakens" without knowing anything about it.
"We live in a digital age," he said. "People take delight in telling you what they saw."
Even if you wait one day, he said, you might overhear something or inadvertently see a post on some social media site that could adulterate the experience of seeing the film.
As show time approached, the growing crowd consisted mostly of young adults who weren't even born when the original "Star Wars' film premiered.
Arlen Leiner and Lisa DaCosta looked to be toward the high end of the age demographic. Leiner was a young man when the first movie in the series came out, and he remembers seeing all of the original trilogy in theaters. He loved the first three, hated the second three. But he liked the first three so much he held out hope for "The Force Awakens."
DaCosta had never seen any of the first six "Star Wars" films. She came, she said, because she likes Harrison Ford. And, because she came with Leiner to "The Force Awakens," Leiner's going to have to see a movie she likes later this week.
Most of the crowd was normally attired. "Star Wars" T-shirts were the most common nods to the film.
A few people did come in costume.
Selena Rowe came more than an hour early for an 8:30 p.m. show. She was dressed as a Sith, but not one from the films.
"I'm just my own character that I came up with," she said. "I am Darth Raven."
She was there with her father, Glen Rowe. She bought the tickets for him as an early Christmas present. The Darth Raven character is sort of a tribute to her dad, she said, because his favorite "Star Wars" character is Darth Vader.
Brandy Roe of Bradenton dressed in a costume not easily recognizable: a female version of Chewbacca.
She created the costume for a "Star Wars" party she attended recently, she said, and figured the opening night of the film was a chance to wear it again.
She had never seen any of the films until recently when her boyfriend, Russell Henry of Parrish, made her watch all six with him over a few days in order of release. She loved them all, even the prequels.
"What a perfect way to see the new movie," she said. "I just saw them all and I remember everything about them."
The much-maligned sequels dampened the enthusiasm for a lot of the people in the crowd, including Davenport, who was at the front of the line for the first show.
"The prequels made me gunshy about seeing this one," he said. "The prequels just weren't good."
Why, then, was he first in line to see "The Force Awakens?"
"It's 'Star Wars,'" he said.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear