ROLLING STONE – It is a bleak time for the Republic. It is a period of great struggle for the entire planet, and not only is the dark side winning, it’s no longer clear any other side even exists. Seriously, you guys – Earth is messed up. Just ask a polar bear, or an almond farmer, or a GOP debate moderator. Or maybe check in with Luke Skywalker.

“The world is so horrible,” says Mark Hamill, Luke’s closest earthly representative, sitting in the shadow of swaying trees in his rather pleasant Malibu yard. At 64, Hamill is older than Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars, and is in the process of regrowing a distinctly Obi-Wan-ish beard. “Between the Middle East and gun violence and global warming and racism, it’s just horrible. And people need this. It’s therapeutic.”

The “this” in question is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out on December 18th and directed by geek hero J.J. Abrams, fresh from rebooting the Star Trek franchise. It is the seventh Star Wars movie, and the first not under the control of the saga’s gnomic creator, George Lucas, who let it all go in 2012, selling Lucasfilm and its franchise to Disney for $4 billion. The Force Awakens will return to the Star Wars galaxy three decades after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, launching what Disney intends to be an endless series of movies.

Jedi ended with what appeared to be a total defeat for the evil Empire, capped with what Harrison Ford called a “teddy-bear picnic” of dancing Ewoks, complete with smiley Jedi ghosts at the sidelines. The Rebel Alliance might as well have pinned a “Mission Accomplished” banner to a tree on the forest moon of Endor.

“With any movie that ends with going off in the sunset and a celebratory moment, you can ask, ‘Well, what happened the day after?'” says Abrams. “Then decades go past. We were literally asking, ‘Well, what happened to the disbanded Empire? What happened to the Republic?'”

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SCREENDAILY – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is set be released in China on Jan 9, 2016, the Walt Disney Company has announced.

The JJ Abrams-directed entry in the blockbuster franchise will have its North American premiere on Dec 14 and its London premiere on December 15.

It will then open in several smaller European, MENA and Asian territories on Dec 16 and 17, before opening in North America and the UK on Dec 18, and India and Pakistan on Dec 25.

John Hsu, general manager of Disney’s Chinese studio, said: “We’re excited to be rolling out our marketing campaign and to connect with new fans in China through Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

This week, Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi The Martian landed a strong $50m five-day opening in the China market, taking its international total to $326.9m to date, making it Ridley Scott’s biggest international release.

Disney will be hoping that The Force Awakens can repeat the success of 2015’s biggest international releases in China, which saw Jurassic World, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Fast and Furious 7 all make it into the territory’s top ten highest grossing films of all time, with the latter grossing over $390m on its way to grossing $1.5bn worldwide.

The film’s Chinese poster has also been revealed.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Organizers of the Dubai International Film Festival, set to take place Dec. 9-17, may well be hoping there isn’t a mass exodus of film fans on the penultimate day of the Middle East event.

In an announcement made Tuesday, Abu Dhabi, just an hour’s drive away, was revealed as the host for the regional premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Dec. 16.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, had indeed been expected to claim hosting rights for the title, having providing its second major shooting location after the U.K.’s Pinewood Studios. A vast film set in the sand dunes was created for a 10-day shoot on the “frontier desert planet” of Jakku that took place in May of last year.

But with the region’s biggest film festival taking place just up the road, there had been some talk that Dubai might have been able to entice The Force Awakens into its screening schedule.