( - It will be a very happy holiday season for "Star Wars" fans in two years.

Walt Disney Studios announced Thursday that "Star Wars: Episode VII" will open in theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.

"We're very excited to share the official 2015 release date for 'Star Wars: Episode VII,' 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," said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios.

This marks the first time in the franchise's history that a "Star Wars" film won't be released in the summer. The original 1977 film helped set the precedent of the summer blockbuster.

The project recently shuffled screenwriters, worrying much of the "Star Wars" fan universe. ScreenwriterMichael Arndt exited, withdirector J.J. Abramsand Lawrence Kasdan taking over the script. John Williams is returning to score the film.

"Star Wars: Episode VII" is set to begin shooting in the spring at Pinewood Studios.

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