Chewbacca with Han Solo LucasFilm

China has finally gotten round to screening the first Star Wars movie at the local cinema for the first time, nearly four decades after the film hit the screens worldwide.

The Shanghai International Film Festival is showing all six Star Wars films this week, including the first screenings in mainland China, the festival organisers said, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

There are however no plans for a nationwide cinema release.

The original Star Wars was released in 1977 when China had just emerged from the chaotic Cultural Revolution and had yet to launch economic reforms which would gradually transform the communist country, the news agency said.

The Tuesday show at a central cinema was nearly sold out. Sales assistant Joy Han took a day off to see the film, eventhough she has already seen all six of the Star Wars movies through illegal downloads and pirated copies.

"It looks better on the big screen," she told AFP. Some audience member told AFP that they were more familiar with the newer movies – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, than with the original three films – Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and the Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford played Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo, respectively, in "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope." Wikimedia

US studio Walt Disney hopes the screenings will prepare the Chinese audience for the seventh episode in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is due to be released later this year.

Kerwin Lo, vice president and general manager of Walt Disney Studios China told AFP: "This will be the first-ever theatrical screening of the original trilogy in China. The huge buzz and excitement generated is going to be great for the Star Wars franchise ..."

AFP said the original 1977 Star Wars movie garnered a rating of 8.3 out of 10 on the Chinese website Douban, with more than 35,000 comments.