Lord of the Geeks: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

One trilogy to rule them all. One trilogy to find them. One trilogy to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them.

Despite my repeated objections with the stupid things the movie industry does to we patrons of the celluloid arts (see Movie Ticket Prices and Acts of Piracy), every so often they reward us with something unusual. Like showing all the Lord of the Rings trilogy all in one day.

One very *long* day.

We knew this was coming for quite some time. Being a movie geek, this sort of thing reached my delicate ears some time ago. First as the whisper of dark shadow in the east … er, as a rumour on the ‘Net. Then more confirmed reports slowly started to trickle in. Sure enough, it seemed like New Line Cinemas, along with the respective distributing houses, were going to put all three movies into a single theatre in one day. Only one day.

One event to rule them all.

It wasn’t a hard decision. Tamara, Jensenne, Jon, and myself were immediately taken with the idea of sitting on our butts for 12 hours, watching the collected magic of Peter Jackson’s toils. We also obtained a ticket for Adrian, who is probably the largest fan of our small group, but who was off-continent at the time. We couldn’t afford to wait for him to get back — tickets were on sale for a single showing, on a single day. Similar events in the United States of America sold out in a few hours.

Tickets for the Lord of the Rings Marathon at Famous Player’s Paramount Chinook here in Calgary were worth $50. That’s about $16.66 per movie. And while I had worried that perhaps we would see nothing more than 12 hours of movies for that price, Alliance Atlantis (the Canadian distributor) was kind enough to send Lord of the Rings Film Frame Collectibles for everyone in the audience. (Basically, a fake stone case containing single frame of film from each of the three movies in the trilogy.) Probably worth at least $20 when they appear in stores. Better than a t-shirt.

[Ed. Note: I found out from friends, shortly after publishing this entry, that the Film Frame Collectible (produced by WETA Workshop) was requested by New Line Cinemas *solely* for the audiences of the Trilogy. You won’t find this in stores, after all. Sorry to get your hopes up.]

Tamara and I arrived at Chinook around 8:10 (16 December 2003, just in case you’re wondering), in search of Jensenne and Jon, who appeared at exactly the same time. (How fortunate.) Parking, we found that the official lineup was inside, and already well underway. About 30 people were already seated on pads, folding deck chairs, and I almost expected to see a blow-up couch. That was fine with us. Breaking only momentarily to get food (none of us had eaten), we took up a place in line, and waited.

While the mall was open nice and early (for store staff and the ubiquitous mall walkers), the theatre was not and would not until 11:00. We had a little time to kill. This prompted Jon to scuttle off to bring back his laptop, so we could watch movies on the DVD player. (Jon was only one of six people to bring laptops for watching movies.) It was certainly a pleasant way to spend time sitting on a concrete floor.

When the doors finally opened, there was a controlled passage of patient patrons from the mall, up the escalator, through the (overly) cavernous lobby, and into Theatre 9. We would spend over 13 hours in that room, either sitting and waiting, or watching and experiencing. Jensenne managed to burst by a few people and got among the best seats in the house: upper front-row.

In Chinook, the seating is divided in two where the entrance enters into the room, roughly one-third of the way up the seats. In this division, there is a wide aisle that runs the width of the theatre, allowing traffic up the opposite side from the entrance/exit. It is here where the best seats are to be had — because you have leg room. And when you’re in there for over 13 hours, you need all the leg room you can get.

The manager, a man barely into his 20s from what we could tell, laid out the ground rules:

  1. If you leave the theatre at any time for any reason, make sure you have your ticket. If you do not have it, you will not be let in for any reason. (Yes, this sound quite trite — isn’t this the way it’s always done? But in the past, you could get in if you sounded convincing enough.)
  2. There would be two breaks: 45 minutes from “Fellowship of the Rings” to “The Two Towers”, and a 30-minute break from “The Two Towers” to “Return of the King”. The first movie would start at 13:30, the second at 17:45, and the third at 22:00, sharp.
  3. If your cellphone or pager goes off for any reason, you will be removed from the event for its duration without refund. This almost got a standing ovation.

During the wait, we watched “X-Men 2” and “Office Space” (which Jon bought while waiting for his laptop battery to recharge). It was better than trying to read or wander, or even play the Scrabble that I’d brought along, just in case.

Adrian appeared about 15 minutes before “Fellowship of the Ring” began. (He had only obtained a half day off, and had to go home first, because he had forgotten his ticket there.) Snacks in hand, the lights went down, the crowd went up, and the marathon began.

I couldn’t get into the first movie. I’ve seen it … several times now. And while both “Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers” were the extended releases, I’ve seen the extended “Fellowship” a few times. In other words, my mind wandered most of the movie.

When the first break came, no-one left. This was when we received our little tokens for spending the day cooped up in a movie theatre. You wouldn’t believe the rush that charged the poor staff … mostly because there wasn’t one. Not a single one. Everyone very orderly went up, row by row, calmly received their gift (and thanking the staff), and moved on. No scuffle, no problem.

Just try that with Trekkies, and you’ll have a bloodbath on your hands!

At this point, I would like to give out kudos to the Famous Players Paramount Chinook staff. It was because of them that we had such a great day. They were always courteous, always smiling, and simply nice. It made sitting around all that time surprisingly comfortable.

I was accidentally abandoned in the theatre. I was on guard duty with the seats. The others were gone. I needed to pee, badly. I wanted a drink refill. I wanted a pizza! (I was starving, and the thought of eating nothing but popcorn was utterly revolting.) With fewer than 10 minutes left in the break, Adrian reappeared. I bolted to make the rounds.

And so began “The Two Towers”. Unlike the previous film, I was quite able to absorb myself in the movie. For starters, I hadn’t seen it nearly as much, nor had I seen the entire extended version. It’s a long movie, too — about three hours and 45 minutes. You wouldn’t have heard any complaints from anyone in the audience, though. Jokes were still laughed at, cheers for the good guys, and tears when heroes died.

Second break. I bolted almost immediately, wanting to get some time for myself. We also had a shorter break. Everyone was in their seats when the manager proudly announced that the third movie would begin in only a couple of moments. You’d have thought it was the first movie of the evening — everyone was still cheering, still clapping, still energetic. And so began the final chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It was new material. Except for trailers or those who had downloaded clips (or the entire thing) from the Internet, none of us had seen this before. I think just about everyone had grins running ear-to-ear. But despite the newness, the ending couldn’t come quickly enough. There are several almost-endings, as the movie begins to tie up all the threads to finish off the story. After so much time watching movies, though, all we wanted was for the story to end so we could go home. When the words “The End” appeared, people cheered heartily, and headed for the door.

Now, dear reader, this is where this story should end. But it doesn’t…

For this morning, after about six hours of rest, we rose again to make our way to the Cineplex Eau Claire theatres. Critical Mass had sponsored a special Christmas event for us — a private showing of “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”. And no, you don’t need to ask if I went. As if I’d miss that.

Besides, someone had to give Terri the five-minute synopsis of the first two movies, which she hadn’t seen. (Yes, believe it or not, I can be that brief.)

We waited briefly in the line before they started letting us in around 8:15. Twenty-four hours, two separate theatres, same damn lineup. We passed by the concession stand — Tamara and I held our breath. I hate the smell of popcorn in the morning. It smells like … popcorn. And after so much of it yesterday, I couldn’t stomach even the smell, let alone the thought of eating more.

I dozed twice briefly before finding my second wind. But within 12 hours, I had seen the movie twice. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, so for now I’ll leave it just as: I saw it. And it was good.

The trilogy is now over. There will be no more. No sequels, no spinoffs. It was a finely-crafted triology, the likes of which we will be lucky to see again. But if we do, we will consider ourselves fortunate.

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