The Force seemed to be strong with Vermonters as excitement was building Thursday for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the hotly-anticipated blockbuster opening Thursday night.
"The force is very strong with my crochet needle right now," joked Deb Noel, who was shopping in downtown Burlington Thursday in a crocheted hat that mimicked the cinnamon bun-like hairdo of Princess Leia. "It keeps my ears warm!"
Noel was checking out the Star Wars display at Phoenix Books, where manager Tod Gross estimated the number of Star Wars products at about 300, including light sabers and all sorts of book titles for children to adults.
"Sales are very strong," Gross told necn. "With the hype for the new movie, we've seen a lot of people coming in looking for Star Wars items."
Gross noted that independent book stores are seeing a resurgence nationally, and that Star Wars purchases at Christmas could only help fuel the growth of the retailer, which also has locations in Essex and Rutland.
The University of Vermont Book Store could barely keep licensed Darth Vader and Yoda t-shirts available for shoppers on-campus or online, said manager Jay Menninger.
"We'll probably re-order," he said. "We're almost out of stock on them at this point!"
On one of the shirts, Jedi master Yoda shows his support for the UVM hockey team, warning opposing teams, "Defeat you, we will."
Scout & Company, a downtown Winooski destination for coffee and lattes, had a Storm Trooper on its outside chalkboard, urging customers to "join the dark side," as in, to take their coffee black.
Roaster Ian Bradley suggested maybe not all of those customers will do so.
"I think Darth Vader probably drinks a smoked maple latte," Bradley said. "He's got a sweet tooth under that dark mask of his!"
Even the American Heart Association is sweet on Vader, suggesting his distinctive Imperial March could set a good pace which people could remember as they perform hands-only CPR, while someone else calls 911 for a heart attack patient.
"If you've got the beat in your head, for a lot of people, I know myself included, using music for rhythm helps me keep a rhythm going," said Andy Holman of the American Heart Association.
Estimates for U.S. ticket sales for the debut weekend of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" have ranged from $170-240-million, according to CNBC. The all-time box office champion is "Avatar," at $2.8-billion in worldwide sales.
Disney and its partners are expected to rake in billions more from sales of merchandise and other media, like video games and DVDs.
Movie-related merchandise will be top on Christmas shopping lists, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The survey found Star Wars items ranked second on boys' wish lists this year, and tenth on girls'.