Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Marathon

A few months ago, I decided that, if they were to offer a marathon movie viewing of Star Wars movies, I would be game to take the day off and watch. I kind of hoped they would only do the original trilogy, because that would allow me to do a bit of work and then head out for the movies in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, the only way to participate in the theater marathon was to do all seven movies and start at the ungodly hour of 2:30am. But I had vowed to do it, and I had gotten my boss' permission to take the day off, so there really wasn't anything holding me back.

My Wednesday ended up being really busy, and with dinner, church, and choir practice, I didn't get home until 8:30. It took me a bit longer than usual to get to sleep, but I didn't just lay in bed for the whole night like I was worried I would do. It still was not fun to have my alarm go off at 12:30. 

I ate "breakfast" and headed out at 1:00. With me was my survival bag, which included a banana, apple, carrots, donuts, 3 boxes of Buncha Crunch (my favorite theater snack), my Kindle Fire, my phone, earbuds, my water bottle, and a neck pillow. Some of the stuff I kept in the car for the first few movies, while other things I kept with me the whole time. I did wear my stormtrooper pajama pants and my Rebel Alliance t-shirt, along with Uggs that were extremely comfortable.

I made it to the theater in no time, blasting the Return of the Jedi soundtrack the whole way. My body was tired, but my mind was starting to realize that this thing I'd been looking forward to was finally happening. 

I'm unsure if there were any movies still playing from Wednesday in the theater, but when I made it inside it looked like any normal weeknight in the theater. People were at concessions, a few people were at Guest Services, and there was a ticket taker. I was anticipating a line of some sort, so I was kind of surprised to see everything look so normal. 

I went over to the kiosk and used my confirmation number to print out my ticket. The ticket taker told me to check Guest Services and receive my lanyard and concession vouchers. This didn't take me long at all, and I was through in no time. 

My number one priority was getting a good seat, so I made it into the theater and scoped it out. Like any other theater, there was a large back section and seven or eight rows in the front section. In the last row of the front section were small groups of seats - intended for people who are accompanying a handicapped person. I didn't realize it at the time, but after the first movie I found out my seat said "Reserved Until Showtime." I hadn't noticed any wheelchairs in the theater, and hadn't been asked to move, so I figured I was okay. 

My seat was on the far left of the back row - a group of three chairs. The chair on the left of the three had stuff placed in it, but the two on the right were empty. I took the one on the right and left the middle one in between us. Turns out, the chair on the left belonged to a Princess Leia cosplayer, complete with white dress and star puff buns. 

Relieved at my good fortune, I settled in. I read for a bit, sent some pictures and tweets, and listened around. There were some louder guys in the front rows of the back section, but it didn't seem like they were going to spoil anything. They were just saying stuff like, "If I hear Darth Jar Jar I'm leaving!" Everyone else seemed pretty calm - they were there to see Star Wars and have a good time.

One of the workers made a few announcements before the marathon began. He stated that we could leave the building and come back any time, as long as we had our lanyard and ticket on us. He did mention that we couldn't save seats, but it seemed like there were a couple of people who were holding places for people coming later in the day. I didn't hear anyone have issues with that, and I didn't really mind - especially since I had a good seat.

The Phantom Menace

I think people made a point to sleep during the prequels, and I did hear some pretty loud snoring during The Phantom Menace at one point. I don't mind TPM too much, so I watched it. 

This was the only part of the entire marathon when they closed the concession stand. After the movie started, they closed it for about an hour while they set it up for the day. It was a pretty slow concession stand, but I'll give them credit for working crazy hours and most, if not all, of them were working the insane time around the opening of The Force Awakens. I just ate a banana and drank water, and that helped me get through the day. (It's exactly like how to survive a running marathon!)

I could hardly believe it, but I was watching TPM at the exact same time of the day when I saw it back in 1999 - 4:30am Eastern Time. Craziness.

In between movies they gave us 1/2 an hour to recover, use the bathroom, grab more food, and decompress. I found it was necessary to just stand up in my spot. 

I was a bit concerned that someone would try to steal my seat, so I kept my coat over it the entire time. I was relieved when no one did - all of us in the theater had come to a mutual understanding that we should respect each other's property and stuff and leave it alone. 

Attack of the Clones

This was where the neck pillow was so wonderful. I had said in my earlier marathon article that I would sleep during this movie, and there were many moments when I shut my eyes. I may have fallen asleep, but the audio was still playing in my head so I never truly achieved the REM cycle. However, when the movie was over I felt much more refreshed than when it started. 

There was quite a bit of snickers and sighs when Anakin made any sort of move on Padme, and I can't say I blame them for rolling their eyes a bit. Still really enjoy that coliseum scene, though. 

I went out to my car during the break and grabbed more of my food stash. I am so thankful they weren't strict on the food - especially for such a long movie. I saw people with sandwiches and brownies, so I wasn't the only one pulling a Han Solo and smuggling stuff.

I noticed two children under the age of 12 in the audience, but everybody else was adults. To their credit, I barely noticed the kids during the movies. (There was one time where a kid was rolling down the middle of the floor during one movie, but I think he was just being stealthy in his mission to get to the bathroom.)

Revenge of the Sith

While there was actually minimal applause at the end of TPM and AOTC, there was larger applause for the end of ROTS. This may have been because they liked ROTS more than the other two, or they were celebrating the fact that the prequels were over. 

I didn't notice any vehement prequel haters in the audience - there wasn't any annoying heckling during any of those movies. However, I did notice that a few more people showed up before the 11:00 showing of A New Hope

During one of the final scenes of ROTS I decided to stretch my legs and get some pop and popcorn. If you know me, you know that I never eat popcorn...ever. I had a bad experience with it when I was little and never liked it since. However, this kind of special day deserved something special, and since it was free, I had no problem eating it! (Though I only ate about half. I don't get how some people can demolish an entire bucket!)

One of these people, came over to my little section and asked if the middle seat was open. I said yes, and was happy to see it was another woman. She was super-friendly and immediately introduced herself to myself and the Leia cosplayer. She had been working till 3:30am and wasn't able to make it to the prequels. 

I didn't care too much - my fears about where I would sit and with whom I would sit were squashed. I could rest easy now - these ladies were great seatmates!

A New Hope

At the very beginning, when "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." came up, someone yelled out, "Finally, the good ones!" That deserved a chuckle, but someone else immediately quipped, "Quiet! I'm reading!" That got a good laugh.

It was clear that this movie was different from the three previous movies we had seen. I mean, the droids got applause when they showed up on screen, as well as the more obvious Darth Vader. And even before that, the Star Destroyer that zooms onto the screen from above got applause! (That is a genius shot, and deserves all applause it receives.)

This was my second theater viewing of ANH. My first was back in 1997 when the Special Editions were released into theaters. There are some movies that don't require the theater experience, and some that do. This is definitely one that deserves to be on a big screen with amazing sound. That dogfight at the end is exceptional - even more so when seen in such a large format. 

The Empire Strikes Back

This was the point where I started watching the movie and realized, "Good grief - I have already seen four other movies today!" My brain was starting to comprehend this fact, even though my heart was swelling with increased joy at every single movie. 

When I did a bathroom break during ESB, I noticed that there was already a queue of about 10-20 people in the hallway for The Force Awakens! I smirked because I already had my seat picked and ready to go. However, these people didn't have to wait in the hallway for very long - they let them into the theater around 4:00.

ESB gets better every time I watch it - and this was my first time watching it on the big screen. That Hoth battle is intense when magnified to such a large scale! Of course, this was the point where there was a lot of laughter at any Leia-Luke interaction. It only increased during ROTJ, and by that point I was sick of it. Move on, people!

They kept it pretty cool in the theater, and my guess for that was to prevent a huge BO problem from taking over the room. I was keeping my coat as a seat holder, so at some points I was pretty chilly. The lady next to me said she was going back to her van to get some stuff and had some extra sweatshirts from her business - would I like one? 

She brought it back before ROTJ, and it is really soft! It's light blue and says "Grateful Bread" on it (she works at a bakery). I loved it and wore it the rest of the marathon.

I decided to get my dinner between the movies, and the concession line was super slow. This was my only splurge of the day, and I got popcorn chicken, which was adequate. The ranch dressing was what made it tasty. 

Return of the Jedi

My favorite of the original six! While I was really looking forward to the movie that followed this one, I had no problem enjoying every aspect of this movie. From the rescue at Jabba's Palace to the Ewoks to the three-pronged battle at the end, I could not get enough. 

But it was the ending that struck me this time. Normally, this would be the end of the cinematic adventure. Everyone lives happily ever after. But not anymore. This ending suddenly became bittersweet, because there was this impending doom over our heroes instead of the enjoyment of a happy ending. 

This one got the loudest applause, but I'm pretty sure it was elation that we'd survived the six movies and could now see the one none of us had ever seen before. During those six movies - and the interludes in between - people had gotten to know each other better. We were all united with a knowledge that we all love Star Wars, and we were all crazy enough to sit in a chair for almost an entire day and watch our favorite pastime on the screen. 

So when we got to the interlude between ROTJ and The Force Awakens, the energy that had been increasing ever since the start of the day was suddenly at its peak. I could barely sit or stand in one place - I was pacing! I couldn't focus on a book, or on the music on my phone. 

I did overhear a conversation in the theater of someone offering anybody their second popcorn voucher. Someone claimed it, but another person said, "I'm sure there's somebody in the concession line outside who would love free popcorn."

That inspired me to take my final popcorn voucher into the insane concession line. I'd been observing the concession line all day - from nonexistent to growing to a couple of giant lines. Now, everyone who was only watching The Force Awakens was in the theater, and every single cashier was open with a huge line. 

It didn't take me long to find someone - a dad with two boys. I asked them if they had done the marathon, to which they replied no. I gave one of the boys my voucher and told them I hope they could use it. They were very appreciative, but did inquire how long I had been there. I mentioned 1:30am, and they were very surprised. 

People in our theater were incredibly excited. I was thankful that no one let loose any spoilers - everyone was respectful to each other about that. Someone kept yelling out how much time was left to the audience, and the closer we got, the louder we cheered. 

Finally, the lights went down, we screamed with joy...and they showed previews.

Ugh. There hadn't been any previews for the other movies, so this was kind of a buzzkill. Every time that green preview screen came up, there were chants of "Star Wars! Star Wars!"

The Force Awakens

Finally, it was time for the movie. Instead of the 20th Century Fox music, there was silence as the Lucasfilm logo came up. Well, kind of silence. We were cheering. We also cheered for the blue type. And then for the "STAR WARS" logo. And, finally, a huge cheer when the words "EPISODE VII THE FORCE AWAKENS" appeared in the crawl. Who would have ever thought that we would ever see those words? Five years ago I wouldn't have believed you!

There was a ton of audience participation for this one, and in a good way. We cheered for the first shot of the Millenium Falcon. We cheered for Han and Chewie. We cheered for Leia. And when Luke finally appeared, we cheered for him, too. We laughed at all the funny parts (I don't think anyone expected it to be so funny, but it was!) and sat in awe at the amazing effects and various beautiful shots. 

I left the theater 20 hours after I entered it, at 9:30pm. Those seven movies - as well as the lack of sleep - had really drained any emotions out of me. While there was a lot of conversations when the credits of TFA rolled, my seatmates and I just sat there until the end. Both of them were sad that Han had died (he was their favorite character) and one of them was convinced that he wasn't really gone for good! 

With that, I took my leave. I returned home and decompressed through phone conversations with my father and brother, and finally, blissfully, went to sleep.

Overall

Did I enjoy my experience? You bet I did! I doubt I will ever get another chance to do anything so monumental in a movie theater ever again. I don't think I'll have the time to do anything like that again. It is quite a difficult experience to watch movies back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I think anyone who did the marathon would say the same thing.

However, it was a lot of fun. It was great uniting with a group of people who enjoy the Star Wars saga as much as I do, making a few new friends, and just having a good time!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to do some running to train for the half marathon that is helping me lose all the weight I gained from this movie marathon!


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. 
Thought-Provoking Star Wars Articles
The Force Awakens Movie Review

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