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How Disney Generates Free 'Buzz' For New Star Wars Film

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS13) - The ground rules are simple – no cameras in the theater, audience members must remain seated during the closing credits and NO SPOILERS!

A select group of movie fans who agreed to the terms watched an early screening Wednesday of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" at Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco.

Swipe through photos of the event
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Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco\'s Presidio
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star wars merchandise
Marketing merchandise seems to be as important as marketing the movie
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Early screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
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Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco
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John Marcotte, publisher of

Disney Studios has already spent at least $6 million marketing the finale of the nine-part Star Wars Skywalker saga which opens nationwide on Friday, but the studio is also generating buzz on the cheap by inviting so-called "influencers" to share the excitement with their followers. John Marcotte of Sacramento, who operates the website, was among those invited to the Wednesday screening.

"I'm an influencer, whatever that term means," said Marcotte, whose site advocates for strong female models in comics and films. "My audience is women who love geeky stuff and parents of little girls who love geeky stuff."

Marcotte saw the original Star Wars in 1977 at age six and has seen every Star Wars movie in the 42 years since then.

Before the influencers take a seat in the theater, they're invited to browse Star Wars merchandise in the lobby. It quickly becomes clear that this is a major reason they've been invited. Prior to the start of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, Lucasfilm executives spent 30 minutes discussing the new products and games that tie in with the latest Skywalker film. Much of that new merchandise is targeted at women and girls.

"That's the bargain we're making. They show me the stuff and show me a good time and then hopefully I'll talk about the merchandise on my website," Marcotte says.

As for the film itself, the admittedly-biased crowd gave it a hearty ovation as the closing credits rolled.

"The film was amazing," Marcotte said. "There were payoffs for fans, nods to the original Star Wars and every movie that came after."

Asked if would be willing to share a spoiler (there are some good ones) Marcotte declined.

"I love this movie so much, but I still want to come back (to Lucasfilm). No spoilers!"

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