The end of summer fast approaches, and while I'm looking forward to the return of all my favorite TV shows (lets face it, it's the best part of September), I'll definitely be missing some seasonal entertainment.
No, not the beach, or those lazy afternoons with a beer and a BBQ. Being the movie geek that I am, I'll be missing drive-in movies and open-air cinema showings that only run during the sunniest months. It's nothing to do with a deep, passionate desire to sit on the hard ground and watch a film as old as I am; new blockbusters seen from a reclining chair, or classics viewed from the comfort of my own couch top that every time. Nor is it that I really enjoy overpriced foodtruck hot dogs and forgetting to bring a sweater (sorry Mom).
It's being surrounded by hundreds of other movie fans, hearing the excited chatter before the lights go down (or the sun sets) and the screen lights up. It's shared anticipation, reactions - the gasp of shock, the whole crowd laughing. It's the same feeling that brings me to conventions, that makes live panels so much more exciting than watching them on YouTube.
And it's something disappearing from traditional cinemas, as slowly but surely, we witness the death of "opening night".
With a new Star Wars movie on the horizon - [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) - it's easy to get nostalgic, to think of when the original trilogy came out, and fans camped out in costume for tickets. The release of the prequels came with long line ups of cosplaying nerds, all thrilled to see a new Star Wars series on the big screen (whether they still felt that way afterwards is a different story).
Fans won't be camping out for tickets when they can purchase advance seats from their iPhone. No point heading to the theater hours early to make sure you aren't stuck with terrible seats when you can choose your seats online and book them with the tickets. As for impassioned debates with other fans... well, that's what the internet is for. With all the teasers, behind-the-scenes photos, fan theories and forums, everything is discussed in excruciating detail months in advance. To top it all off, spoiler-filled reviews filter into the blogosphere weeks before the film actually opens, as critics and lucky fans head to screeners before opening.
It all sounds fairly dire, doesn't it? But change isn't always a bad thing.
Being able to buy tickets online has benefits that massively outweigh the loss of a convivial night time line up (not to mention the fact that camping out overnight always sounds much more fun than it actually is). The majority of working adults just don't have the option of taking a day off to buy movie tickets (unless your boss happens to be a huge nerd as well), and being able to purchase your spot from your desk/car/home/wherever far outweighs the thrill of a camp out.
Besides, once opening night arrived, ticket holders still had to line up early to get the best seats. Nobody wants to be stuck craning their neck at an impossible angle for two hours because the only spot left was in the very first row. So even with online purchasing, fans would rush to the theater hours in advance (many in costume), where all that geeky goodness would play out in the line up. Fantastic!
Now that a decent seat is guaranteed, there's zero incentive to turn up early. The days of a parade of costumed fans outside the theater are gone, but again, the advantages may well outweigh the loss. While I'm a big fan of other fans, I'm also partial to spending as little time as possible standing around doing essentially nothing. I'd far rather head to the gym, or go out for dinner, and then slip into my pre-assigned seats as the trailers start.
It's not that the line ups have really died, they've just moved.
Luckily, you can still be surrounded by other nerds, marvel over incredible costumes, geek out over rumors and trailers and tidbits. That same feeling of bonhomie, of being part of something larger and wonderful and exciting exists, and it's definitely not going anywhere.
Which makes sense. When news and reviews are coming out long before an actual movie does, there's simply more to geek out over months in advance. When a fan puts hours of work into an incredibly detailed costume, isn't it more logical to show it off in a brightly lit hall, rather than squish it into a theater seat after an hour or two?
Conventions have essentially taken the feeling of community that was once found outside the movie theater, and turned it into a full blown event. Want the experience of camping out? Head to San Diego Comic Con and spend a night in line for Hall H - you'll probably even get to meet some of the celebrities who have been known to wander through the lines at night. Geek out with crowds of thousands, and leave with far more than just a movie stub (and maybe a promotional cup) as a souvenir.
And of course, rest assured that by the time you leave, a weekend of queuing will have completely dealt with any lingering nostalgia over movie line ups.
May The Pre-Booked, Assigned-Seat Force Be With You!