40 YEARS ago in a county not far away, residents got caught up in Star Wars fever.

After the news of a groundbreaking science fiction film swept across the Atlantic, hundreds of eager film fans queued up outside Hampshire cinemas in 1977 to get their first glimpse of the movie set in space.

In April 1997, Star Wars-mad Justin Liskutin of Midanbury was hoping to sell off parts of his sizeable collection of memorabilia in hope of raising money for his band Careless.

James was in his loft searching for things to sell so he could buy a guitar, when he came across his treasure trove of toys.

He was obsessed with Star Wars as a child and insisted the figurines stay in their original boxes – a move that paid off when he only needed to sell 12 in order to make the purchase.

James said “it’s amazing to think that my childhood hobby has turned into a money-spinner.”

In July of the same year, Hampshire residents hopped across the Solent to see The Empire hijack Medina Theatre on the Isle of Wight.

Visitors to the convention got to see thousands of artifacts, costumes, masks and memorabilia – including Darth Vader’s original costume. Fans even got to meet Michael Sheard who played Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

The force was strong in Hampshire when Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

Thousands of fans pre-booked at the Odeon cinema in Leisure World, where staff dressed up as characters from the much-loved series.

General manager Steve Christie said: “I am confident that The Phantom Menace will break records for an opening weekend, just like it did in the states.”

Nick Coe of Virgin Cinemas in Ocean Village said: “We have got 12,000 people booked to come in today.”

But it wasn’t just the movie fans were keen to see – they wanted to get their hands on the merchandise too.

Dozens set out to Toys R Us on June 17, 1999 for midnight opening, including father and son David and Jack Nutley from Otterbourne.

The pair had over 200 of the original figures released to tie in with the films and the relaunch in 1997, but were eager to get hold of the new figures to enhance their collection.

“I have been a fan of the show since the first ones came out and Jack takes after me,” said David.