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Star Wars Episode VII to exit hyperspace in December 2015

The next instalment of the beloved sci-fi series had been expected in the summer of 2015, but Disney wants to give JJ Abrams more time.

A long time in the future, in a cinema near you, you'll finally find out what happened to Luke, Han and Leia after they defeated the evil Emperor. Star Wars: Episode VII will open on 18 December 2015, its makers Disney announced via the StarWars.com website.

That's a delay of six months or so, as the next instalment of the beloved sci-fi series had been expected in the summer of that year. Pre-production has already begun on the new movie.

"We're very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII," said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, "where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture."

That team comprises Star Trek rebooter JJ Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan, who scripted Empire Strikes Back, widely regarded as the best Star Wars movie by some distance. John Williams, of course, will provide the score, and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy is producing. As safe pairs of hands go, these are steadier than an X-Wing squadron in attack pattern delta.

Cinematographer Dan Mindel -- credited with teaching Abrams his signature lens flare -- recently confirmed that the new film will be shot on old-fashioned film, rather than digital, as Episodes I-III were.

Further Episodes will follow in 2017 and 2019, with spin-offs focusing on specific characters in the years in between, rather like how Marvel (also owned by Disney) makes Captain America and Thor movies, and brings them together for the Avengers. The first two of these spin-offs seem likely to be about Han Solo and Boba Fett, two of the galaxies greatest rogues.

Are you bummed you have to wait another two years for new Force-based fun? What do you think of the crew Disney has assembled? Set the scene in the downward-scrolling comments, but wait -- that's not a moon, it's our Facebook page!