2019 is turning out to be the year of the marathon. About two weeks prior, I’d given up on spending the Sunday of my 4 day Turkey weekend doing a scavenger hunt at Disney. No one else on my team was available. I put up a sort of hail Mary post on the event, hoping that maybe someone would see it and add me to their team. About five minutes later, I get an email from American Cinemateque. The Egyptian Theater would be doing an all day marathon of LOTR–extended editions–over the holiday weekend. Well I was prolly gonna spend that particular day at the movies anyways, so this sounded perfect!
The day arrived. Marathon started at 1. With minimal traffic, it’d take 35 min to get to Hollywood. I knew I could park at a garage a couple blocks away for $17, but I thought I could maybe get somethign closer and/or cheaper. I didn’t like the idea of walking back at midnight to a dark underground garage. Long story short, I spend way too much time failing at parking and end up at that lot and RUNNING over to catch the movie. It’s a giant auditorium. Their website says it’s easy to get tix at the last minute, so surely there’ll be plenty of seats, yeah? As I’m walking in, I see a bunch of SOLD OUT signs. Crap. I run in and it’s packed. I def need an aisle seat cause these are 3.5+ hour movies. All I find is house left third row. Great. Really close and at an angle.
I drop my blanket and neck pillow in my seat, make a bathroom run, and a concession run. The line at concessions is long, and I hear them starting to make announcements. I wander to the back of the auditorium. They’d said there’d be breaks between, but I wanted to know how long. 15 min then 30. Awesome. Concessions takes forever because the card reader in my line goes down. Fellowship has already started. Well I’m late anyway, so I’ll take the super cute Insta picture I’d planned (although I woulda rather had it in a seat than the lobby). I sit down, and Gandalf has already made it to Bilbo’s house.
Now I’ve seen these movies a million times, including in theaters. 5, 8, and 13 respectively. And ever since the extended cuts were released, I never watched a theatrical cut again. But none of those big screen viewings had ever been extended cuts. It’d also been nearly over 15 years (Jesus.) since I had seen them in a theater. I could not have asked for a better way to spend the day.
The time just flew by. It was like I had simultaneously never been in Middle Earth and had never left. I still had the biggest smile on my face, key scenes made me emotional, I laughed, I nearly cried, it was glorious. I even spotted details and connections than I’d never seen before.
There’s something I realized that I love about watching rereleases in LA at tiny independent theaters: the crowds here LOVE those movies. There were So. Many. Cheers. Every time a new character is introduced (I first heard it for Samwise, and not again for a while later, to the point where I thought maybe I’d missed Sean Astin making an appearing or something), every time Aragorn does something badass, Legolas does something cool, or Gandalf does something powerful, every time there’s a famous (especially meme-d line), everytime there’s a BIG moment. We couldn’t go more than maybe 20 minutes without loud bursts of applause and I loved in. I joined in a few whoops and hollars as well.
The first movie ends, and I’ve been in heaven. It’s now about 4:30. 15 minutes plus credits they said, yeah? I run to the Mickey D’s two blocks away. My nuggets come right away (they forgot my hot mustard tho) and I shove them in my mouth while I wait for my hot chocolate. And I wait. And I wait. It eventually appears and sits on a counter behind the frazzled server and it’s longer until I get her attention and point her to it. I run into the theater. It’s now 4:55. Surely, I’ve missed the intro, right? I hear someone say “5 minutes” as I make a pit stop and then run into my seat, just in time to see it start. Awesome.
I start doing math in my head. Movie 2 is starting at 5. Does that mean movie 3 is starting at 9? Oh now we’re getting out after midnight, closer to 1. My parking garage is open until 2. I don’t like the idea of going alone, but surely a large number of the people in this theater will be heading the same way at the same time. We’re good.
I’m sitting there with my little Gollum doll in hand absolutely loving it. Towers really packs in the extras with the extended edition, so it’s almost a whole different movie, with much more depth between the layers. The neck pillow made these seats not just bearable, but great. I’m comfy and I’ve got a great up close view. Seriously, the best way I could have spent the day.
Movie gets out 8:30 maybe? I expect an either 9:00 or 9:15 start time. It’s still late, but it’ll be fine. I run to Starbucks across the street and bring back a tea and a cake pop. I walk back to my seat to get myself situated and I over hear two things. “9:40” and “4 and a half hours”. Um what?! Actually 3 things “People will have to leave early because they need to get their cars by 2”. WHAT?! A quick Google-ing confirms. LOTR: ROTK theatrical is 3 hours 20 min. Extended adds 50 minutes. So yeah, nearly 4 and a half hours. There’s no way I’m comfortable leaving alone that late, nevermind if I can even stay awake for the movie (good thing I got a green tea at Starbucks instead of my usual chamomile).
I’m standing in the aisle until around 9:15, hoping the film starts soon. I give up and sit down with my book. As overheard, it does start at 9:40. I make the heartbreaking decision to do something I’ve never done before: leave a movie early. I’ll stick it out until midnight, then I’ll bail. That’ll get me thru just over half. The film starts, and I’m lamenting the fact that some of my favorite moments in the film (and really the entire series) are in the second half. I can always watch it at home (even though I’ve already got my Black Friday movies incoming and my queue growing).
10:05. The movie stops. Dude comes up to the front. They realize that they were sent the theatrical cut, not extended. He asks the audience: continue theatrical in 35 mm or switch to extended digital? The crowd votes for digital. It’ll take some time to switch the equipment. He offers vouchers if people wanna leave since it won’t be what was promised. I give him an arbitrary deadline of 10:15. If it’s not running by then, I’m outta here. 10:13 I start packing up my blanket and neck pillow and sweater and Gollum doll.
10:14 dude comes back up. Because they’re using the BluRay, there will be a pause halfway thru to switch discs. Okay that’ll prolly be sometime after midnight, so prolly a good point to bail. Cool. Oh crap, wait a second. Are we… He immediately confirms my fear “Because we missed one of the extra scenes, we’ll be backing it up a little bit”. So now I’m watching less than 2 hours of this film, part of it twice? The lights go down, the screen comes up, and it’s the title credits again. Nope. I’m out. Gimme that voucher.
So I bailed, completely heartbroken. Seriously, couldn’t they have started the marathon at 11 instead of 1? Did no one see a problem with the uber late run time? I guess I didn’t break my “never left a movie early” streak, but now it’s “didn’t see every movie in a marathon” unless falling asleep at previous ones already broke that. I’ll prolly end up watching ROTK at home after my chores are done today. For the ones I did see, does that up my count of how many times I’ve seen them in theaters? Or is it a separate count cause they’re extended? Anyways, still really bummed I couldn’t get the full set in, but what I did see was still absolutely worth it. I’ll play closer attention to schedules and run times if the opportunity ever comes up again