Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 214 - Waiting in Line for a Midnight Movie Screening on Opening Night

I have never waited in line to attend the midnight screening of a film on opening night. Although I have seen lines of people winding outside of theaters on the release dates of blockbuster films over the years, I never had a real desire to partake in such an event. This was a direct result of the relative degree of indifference I feel about seeing a movie when it is just released and the fact that there haven’t been many films that get me excited enough to spend hours of my time waiting to see them. Despite that fact, several of my friends that had attended midnight screenings of films on opening night insisted the event as a whole was something to experience. Calling specific attention to the collective excitement maintained by those in attendance, I consistently heard of the high spirits and joyous sentiments that ran throughout the experience and culminated in the viewing of a highly anticipated movie. As a result, I decided I would give waiting in line for the midnight screening on opening night a try during my “I have never...” year, and I had just the film in mind for my first experience with such an event.

Smuggled goods
As a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien I have excitedly awaited the release of Peter Jackson’s films following the release of the first Lord of the Rings movies. The blend of a classic work of literature, wonderful cinematography, and remote areas of the world appealed to me since I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring sometime after its release. Consequently, I have eagerly taken in all of the films released since that time, and I have spent plenty of hours watching the films multiple times over the years. As a result, I knew the upcoming release of the second film in The Hobbit series of films, The Desolation of Smaug provided the perfect opportunity to wait in line for the midnight screening of the film when it was released December 13th. As a result, I recruited my friend and a big fan of the cinema, Ross, to join me for the opening night view of The Desolation of Smaug and headed to the theatre tonight to wait in line for my first ever midnight screening of a film.

After making a quick pit stop to gather some smuggle-worthy snacks, Ross and I made our way to the theater with a little less than two hours left before the screening of The Desolation of Smaug was scheduled to begin. Although Ross was quick to point out our arrival time was sure to get us toward the front of the line, both of us agreed the action was justified if we were going to get seats for such an anticipated film. As we walked through the theater parking lot, I was happy to see the cinema was permitting movie-goers to wait inside before the screening, which saved us from having to brave more than an hour of freezing temperatures for the sake of a movie. As a result, we dropped some layers as we entered the theater and put together a quick game plan for the next 90 minutes. Ready for the experience, we handed our tickets to a theater employee, took our stubs, and entered into the theater lobby.

In front of us a small line of people standing and sitting on the floor chattered and played with their phones in a sight that would have been quite awkward in any other context. Realizing they were likely waiting for the forthcoming release of The Desolation of Smaug, Ross and I checked our tickets and rehashed our instructions for locating the screen for our tickets. After confirming the location of our screen was in another part of the theater, we grabbed something to drink before wandering down the long, aged hall of the cinema and taking up position near a screen entrance partially blocked by a velvet rope. With a few people already gathered around the entrance, Ross and I took our place in the vague form of a line that had developed in the area and settled in for an extended stay.

Over the next hour, Ross and I shared stories and had a few laughs between interactions with the people around us. With and undertone of excitement carrying us into the night, the entertaining tales and the good company made the time pass quickly as we waited. As the minutes passed the line behind us grew into a mass people all clamoring to see The Desolation of Smaug for the first time. Eventually, we found ourselves being greeted by a cinema employee as we were incrementally let into the designated screening area for the film. As Ross and I approached the door, the female employee stopped us and asked us to step aside as the rest of the line passed into the screening room. A bit confused at first, the woman told us our preordered tickets permitted us entry into a higher frame rate screening of the film in a nearby room.

As a result, Ross and I made our way to the alternate screen and entered to a theater filled by little more than 30 people. With plenty of choice seats available, we found our way to the center of the room and took seats with a nearly perfect viewing angle. As we settled in I took note of the fact the experience was coming together better than I expected, which caused a smile to cross my face. Although I knew we had three and a half hours of movie left in front of us, I already knew the experience was one worth having. Stated frankly, everything I had been told by advocates of attending opening night midnight film screenings was accurate. While a portion of the night was about seeing a new film, the bulk of the event was about groups of friends and strangers coming together to experience something for which they shared the same affinity and passion. It was cheerful. It was good. And it was certainly worth staying up for.

Now, I won’t go into the details of the film as to not spoil anything for those that have not yet seen it, but I will say it was engaging enough to keep everyone in the theater on their toes throughout. While Peter Jackson took plenty of liberty in recreating aspects of the story, The Desolation of Smaug came together as fully beautiful and gripping as the film’s that came before it. My conversation with Ross as the movie credits began to roll probably best summed up the experience. “Well, that was good!” Ross said as he leaned toward me with a smile. In agreement, I stood up and reached for my coat in preparation to leave the theater. “Good enough to keep us awake until a few hours before sunrise,” I replied as I slipped my arms into my coat. With the clock eclipsing 3:30 am, both of us were alert and captivated, and that says more about the quality of the film than any of my words could say.

Post-show photo op.
On the ride back to my house, Ross and I chatted about the movie and about the overall experience. The stillness of the city around us caused the reality of the hour sink in as we traveled. In turn, I felt my body catching up to the time quickly with each passing mile until we arrived back at my house. After saying goodnight to Ross, I entered my house and sat down in my living room. My eyes beginning to feel heavy, I stared at the floor for a moment and let the tired feeling I had been fending off the better part of the night take hold. Realizing I was about to crash, I felt the corner of my mouth curl up at the thought of the night’s experience and the inevitable exhaustion that would come with waking in the morning. “It was totally worth it,” I said in a hushed tone as I rose and dragged my feet into motion toward the stairs, “There’s no doubt about that.”

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