I need a ticket to ride

Sunday, 24 April 2005 — 7:05pm | Film, Star Wars

You know, over six years ago I swore that at around this precise moment – this month of April, 2005 – I would be in a tent on some Californian pavement, preferably the one outside Mann’s Chinese, like one of these guys – armed with Jedi robes, plastic lightsabres and absolutely no concept of personal hygiene. It is with profound disappointment that I have come to terms with the fact that I am not there, nor will I be there, nor will I ever in my life get another opportunity to tent for a new Star Wars movie.

But not all is lost. As I did in Calgary at Famous Players Coliseum in 1999 and Cineplex Odeon Sunridge Spectrum in 2002, this year I plan to be at the midnight screening of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith on the night of 18 May at the biggest and best moviehouse within reach. This effectively boils down to two choices, and it is a decision that needs to be made quickly.

SilverCity West Edmonton Mall – The biggest strike against this theatre is that as with all Famous Players screens, tickets do not go on sale until a week before the big show. I watched Episode I under similar conditions at what was then the biggest Famous Players in Calgary, and opening-night tickets drew a three-day line. The risk of not getting tickets is one I am reluctant to take, as that sort of line is just not possible for me this year. However, everything else speaks in its favour – it’s easy to get to (for both the show and the ticket purchase), it’s surrounded by other shops and fast-food establishments to draw your attention while somebody else in your party holds your spot, and if the weather is bad it probably won’t matter, as at least some of the line will trickle indoors. There’s also a certain prestige factor associated with this particular multiplex, one of the biggest box-office leaders on the continent.

South Edmonton Common – As part of the Cineplex Odeon chain, tickets for the opening show here are available right now, so you can see the urgency of this predicament. Given the architecture of the cinema, which is identical to Sunridge Spectrum three hours to the south, the line will almost certainly be outdoors – a good thing, weather permitting, because of the spaciousness in general, the furious lightsabre duels with total strangers and the stunned looks from passersby who just don’t get it. Two problems, though: first, the cinema stands tall in barren pavement in the middle of nowhere, a fair walk from anything to see, do or eat. Second, it’s an incredible pain to get to by public transit from the University area. (Ask me about Sin City sometime.) Now, I’m not so presumptuous as to use my blog to wink at people to offer me rides and stand in line for me at six in the morning so I don’t have to skip a whole day of work, but you get the picture.

Finally, I am aware that both of these theatres will likely offer four or five post-midnight screenings at once, including shows labeled for 12:02am, 12:05am, et cetera. These are unacceptable. Traditionally, We of the First Line have looked upon Those of the Second Line with earned derision, and had the battle scars inflicted from the scramble for midnight-show tickets to justify it. It may not be a very practical distinction, but I value my pride, thank you very much.

So – and here’s where you, my readership, enters the fray – what works for you guys? I’d love to see you at the ritual – er, I mean, movie.

Here’s a predictive reference for those of you who have never done this before. For a city like Edmonton, here’s what I predict: the first party in line for the midnight show will arrive either the night of the 17th or by 6am the next morning – perhaps before that if they were already in line for tickets a week before, but they won’t be significantly joined. You can expect thirty to fifty people by noon, which will balloon threefold as most of them are holding spots for others. Arriving at 6pm will put you at about the hundredth spot, which may double by the time you are let in to grab your seats, typically between 7pm and 8pm. (For a party of greater than two to four, don’t expect decent seats if you don’t have a representative firmly in line hours before then.) Arriving after 10pm, less than two hours in advance, is not recommended – that’s when gaps fill in and the ushers start scrunching people together, and saving seats is damn near impossible.

So, any recommendations?

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