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The Waiting In Line For
Star Wars Experience

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A man waits in line at the Cine Capri, Tempe, Ariz., in anticipation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Images by Ryan Scott.
For Hardcore Star Wars Fans, Braving Huge Lines And Hours-Long Waits Is An Integral Part Of The Moviegoing Experience


By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 18, 2015 — A little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally come out, much to the relief of fans who have been waiting since Disney first purchased Lucasfilm for more than $4 billion a few years ago. As of the writing of this article, the film has already broke several box office records and will surely break, if not shatter, many more before its theatrical run is done.

If anyone went anywhere near a movie theater in an even remotely populated area Thursday night, they likely encountered droves of Star Wars fans eagerly awaiting entrance into the earliest possible showing of the film. While many do this in an attempt to avoid spoilers via social media, any real fan will tell you that it it so much more than that.

To get an idea of the insane level of feverish desire there was to see this film amongst hardcore fans, one needs to look no further than ticket presales for the film. Two months prior to the release, tickets went on sale via theater chains and online sites like Fandango and chaos ensued. Websites crashed, showings sold out and the movie had already made more money in 24 hours than many films do in their entire theatrical run.

The frenzy leading up to The Force Awakens release has coincided with a few trends that have made it easier and more convenient for fans to see movies when and how they want.

First, an increasing number of movie theaters throughout the country are converting to a layout that features leather recliners, more dining options and, perhaps most importantly, reserved seating.

Also, in recent years movie studios have started opening up showings at 7 p.m. on Thursday and throughout that night as opposed to the traditional midnight-only showings (and the long lines they bring). For any big movie in the past, those who wanted to see it before anyone else would have to wait for several hours and sacrifice some sleep heading into Friday morning in order for that to happen. This is no longer the case.

With all of this modern convenience in place, why was it that so many people still chose to stand in line for hours, and in some cases even days, to see The Force Awakens? Well, as many people put it at Harkins Tempe Marketplace on Thursday: “Because it’s Star Wars!”

Fans were waiting at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the theater where Star Wars: A New Hope was first screened — and a theater that now does reserved seating — for more than 12 days in advance of opening day. Though this may seem utterly insane to many people given the surplus of theaters showing the film, this nearly extinct way of doing things still clearly offers some sort of a badge of honor to hardcore fans.

The scene at Harkins Tempe Marketplace was perhaps a perfect example of what was going on at Mann’s and other theaters all around the country. People lined up for the 7 p.m. showing in the Cine Capri, the largest single screen in Arizona, as soon as the doors opened on Thursday morning. Harkins was prepared for the madness, though, having countless employees on hand and endless mazes of various roped off lines to corral the madness.

Employees were not allowed to comment on the premier or any of the planning that went into it, likely to avoid getting caught up in some sort of negative press about how something might have been handled poorly. However, that kind of coverage is unlikely, because the theater chain seemed to handle the thousands of smiling fan boy and girl moviegoers with about as much grace as could be expected, if not more so. Shockingly, things went very smoothly.

Rather than let line after line of impatient moviegoers stack up on one another like cattle, the theater opted to allow people into the theaters hours early and sacrifice the potential box office dollars that could have been had in favor of a more comfortable waiting situation for those who were showing their dedication.

One would think that there would be restlessness, frustration and complications as a result of the long wait. There was not.

Unlike many midnight showings in the past, people were not arguing over saved seats. People were not unkind to one another or theater employees. People were not petty or irritated. They were happy to be there, and there was a sense of community that seemingly nothing else in the history of pop culture besides Star Wars can conjure up. It was special, and everyone there seemed to know it, so why be anything but pleasant?

When all's said and done, The Force Awakens could very easily be the highest grossing movie of all time, but that is not why Thursday night was worth waiting at a theater all day. And that was not the reason why it was worth it for many people to use a sick day in order to wait in line for hours to see a movie that will be very easily and conveniently accessible for the next several months at every theater in sight.

The uninitiated will not understand the reason super fans do this, but the “because it’s Star Wars” motto is really the reason. And those who truly understand need no further explanation.

There is something to be said, or not said but felt rather, about sitting in a theater after more than a seven hour wait next to someone who saw A New Hope 12 times during the summer of its original release and another person who had literally never had the opportunity to see a Star Wars movie in a theater until now.

No matter the situation though, as soon as the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” flashed on the screen, it was the great emotional equalizer that made the day worth it all over the world. At that moment, it didn’t matter so much if the movie was great, because that moment clearly was and it was made more impactful through the waiting experience shared by everyone in attendance.

For the record, the consensus from both fans and critics is that The Force Awakens is a great film.  

By the time Star Wars Episode VIII comes out in 2017, even more theaters will move to a reserved seating model and surely more conveniences will be afforded to moviegoers. So, being part of this premiere really did mean something, because everyone who was there will get to say “I was there first,” and that  won’t mean nearly as much or seem as special in the future. But to Star Wars fans, the premiere experience will always mean something even if the film doesn’t live up to expectations. Just ask anyone who waited to see The Phantom Menace.
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