All this anticipation for buying tickets for Star Wars The Force Awakens has me thinking about previous ticket buying experiences I had. I’ve seen a few midnight showings, including Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, But my strangest experience at an early showing came when I was 14 years old. The main reason is because the showing wasn’t at midnight!
In 1999 I was very excited for the new Star Wars movie to come out. I got sucked into all the marketing from Pepsi, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. I watched Total Request Live on MTV religiously at the time (I’ve been an *N SYNC fan since ‘98) and loved when the music video for “Duel of the Fates” premiered. I even bought the trading cards! So when the tickets for the opening day of The Phantom Menace went on sale, I begged my father to buy us tickets for the midnight show on May 19.
Well, he tried. But at that time, movie screens were still working with film and didn’t have unlimited screens to show a movie. (That changed by 2002 with the implementation of digital screens.) So when a showing sold out, they couldn’t just add an extra screen to fill up. When my dad went to get tickets, all the midnight showings in the area were sold out.
However, one theater’s way around this was to have screenings of The Phantom Menace right after the midnight showing. TPM was a long movie, and including end credits, theater clean-up, and time to fill up the theater, the second showing would start around 4:15 a.m.
And that’s the tickets that my father bought.
Luckily for me, my school had a field trip (COSI in Toledo) that day, so my odd hours of sleep would not affect my studies. This was pretty much the only way that my mother would have let me see this movie at this time, and being an adult now, I can understand.
But when I was a child, I was more than thrilled that my father and I would be doing this great Daddy-Daughter Date in such a weird way!
My alarm clock was set for 3:00 a.m. (At the time, I wished it was technologically savvy enough to play “3AM” by Matchbox 20 instead of its annoying buzz.) I did my best not to wake up my sister, who shared a room with me and had no interest in Star Wars. (Her loss.)
We didn’t eat breakfast, but jumped in the car and headed for our local grocery store, Busch’s, which at the time was a 24-hour grocery store. Dad knew that I didn’t like popcorn, so we stopped there so he could buy me some cheap candy. It felt very strange being in a near-empty store with a bunch of college kids who worked the overnight or early morning shifts.
We drove to Ann Arbor to the Showcase Cinema with almost no people on the roads. The bar crowds were already gone, and the early risers weren’t even out of bed yet. We got there before the midnight showing had let out, so there was a queue for us. Yes, there were other people crazy enough to decide that a 4 a.m. showing. There were a few people that were dressed up, but most didn’t. (I did wear my TPM t-shirt.)
It was interesting watching people going out of the theater from the midnight show. Most just were walking out as if they’d come out of any other movie. There wasn’t a lot enthusiasm, but one guy did lift his arms in triumph and said, “It was awesome!” I didn’t really care - I was just excited to see the movie myself.
I do admit I was surprised at how full our theater was. I honestly didn’t think anyone else would be as nuts as my Dad and I. (Little did I know about Star Wars fans at that time.) It was about ½ full, and consisted of a variety of people, but mostly people in their 20s and 30s.
What were my first thoughts? I really liked it! I liked the lightsaber parts. I loved Obi-Wan Kenobi (and Ewan McGregor) right away, and wished he was in it more. The podrace was fun. Most of the other stuff went over my head, and I do remember at the very end, when it went to the closing credits, I was surprised by the opening fanfare coming back. I did register that the movie didn’t feel like it was supposed to get that fanfare ending from the original trilogy. But overall, I liked it.
After the movie, it was sunny outside, and everyone at home was awake and getting ready for school when we got there. They were very curious about our experience, and we told them about it as I ate breakfast and got ready for the field trip.
While the movie was average, the experience surrounding it was wonderful. I am so thankful that my father tried so hard to make sure I could experience this movie in such a unique way. And there aren’t many people out there that can say they saw the a movie the day it opened...at 4:00 in the morning!
I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings.
More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever