This account is more or less an unedited stream of consciousness, written in an airport. So y'know, sorry if it doesn't make total sense.
I promised myself that this time it would be
different. I wouldn’t get caught up in to the hype machine, the publicity
juggernaut. After the disaster of ‘the dark times’, I would be measured in my
anticipation and excitement. And yet here I am, sitting in an airport, waiting
to travel a thousand kilometres to attend the midnight screening I still don’t
technically have a ticket for.
Somewhere in October, after seeing the second trailer for STAR WARS: THE FORCE
AWAKENS, I was calmly convinced that the series was in safe hands, and going to
have the combination of nostalgia and innovation to it that I could trust.
JJ Abrams and his team had me at “Chewie, we’re home.” I decided not to look at
any further preview footage of the movie, and to avoid as much media coverage
as possible, right down to averting my eyes from the toys now in stores. I just
wanted to go in cold, and be as pleasantly surprised as possible. To this end,
I decided I would make a special trip out of it, and see it in full IMAX.
This is the reason for the travel. I live in
Brisbane, a town where in 2003, the owners of our IMAX cinema, in their infinite
wisdom and foresight, decided to cease operation. The building was purchased by
a local budget cinema chain (good), but they cropped the IMAX screen to a
regular 2.35:1 ratio (bad, especially when THE DARK KNIGHT came a long a few
years later and made the giant screen profitable again). In addition to this,
Sydney’s IMAX in Darling Harbour recently got renovated, and now boasts the
largest IMAX screen in the world. They also have the 15/70mm projectors, which
in layman’s terms, basically means the biggest/best/shiniest/chromiest version
of the film that someone like me could wish for.
“Fair enough,” you say. “But that doesn’t
explain why you would go without a ticket.” And you’re right, it doesn’t. Here’s what happened: October 20th, tickets for THE FORCE AWAKENS
went on sale in Australia. Well, they did in most places. As I sat at my
computers (yes, there was a back-up running just in case) at 6:45am, patiently
hitting refresh every 60 seconds or so, I wasn’t nervous. We’re 15 years into
the 21st century after all, and broadband has been around long
enough now for people who work in this area to know what is going to be
required, even on a record heavy traffic day.
Or so you’d think.
7am – the official on sale time – rolls
around, and the screen goes from a quick refresh of the ‘not yet on sale’
message to… nothing. No problem, just congestion - this is to
be expected. Refresh both computers. Nothing is happening. For a long time.
Juuuust big ol’ patches of nothing happening. I check other web pages, all
coming up fine. I become nervous. I consult IMAX Sydney’s FORCE AWAKENS
facebook page. Everyone seems to be having the same problem, which momentarily
relieves the anxiety – until updates begin appearing from people in line at the
box office who have their tickets. IMAX are selling to people who are physically at the location, while no-one else is able to purchase.
I refresh the IMAX ticket page. Still
nothing. Ten minutes go by. All the best seats (the centre of the rows from the
middle to the back of the cinema) will have gone by now. If you’ve never been
in an IMAX before, never sit down in
the front corners. It’s a complete waste of money, whatever anyone there tries
to tell you. Fifteen minutes go by. Anxiety leads to fear. Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Suffering at any rate, for the useless twat who hasn’t
booked enough server space to cope with the rush for tickets that should have
been calculated in by any half-way competent head of IT.
People on the facebook page are starting to
lose their shit. The IMAX box office phones are also not being answered. 30
minutes go by. While I’m holding onto some kind of stiff upper lip delusion,
still no official response from IMAX through any of their social media
channels. Eventually, after more than 40 minutes, a message appears on the
facebook page. A cheery ‘due to heavy traffic, we’re having technical
difficulties with our web booking service at the moment, soz!’ sort of thing, which
only serves to enrage me more. All hope is lost. Even though I can’t check the
website to see, I know that the midnight session will be totally sold out. Not
even the shitty front corners will remain. The hate is flowing through me now,
and I snap, leaving a post on the facebook page that I’m not proud of but still
technically stand behind.
But soon another post appears on
the facebook page. A post claiming that someone has queued at the box office
and bought tickets for the wrong session. They wanted tickets to 12:01 Friday,
and have tickets to 12:01 Thursday by mistake. Straight away this looks
waaaay too good to be true, and is so covered in red flags it could pass as a
member of the Emperor's Royal Guard. But there’s something about it. The person is
asking face value (yes, another red flag), not seeking advance payment online
(not out of this yet), and crucially, claims they themselves are still going - it's just their friends who can't make it; if I got the
ticket, I would go through the box office with them and be sat right next to
them. I take the chance, contact
the seller, and secure myself one of these tickets; never tell me the odds.
Even without committing any money, I’m at
first deeply suspicious of this whole course of action, but I’m keeping a lid
on it. Then a few weeks later, I get a text message from the seller saying they
have changed their mobile number, and are just keeping in touch. Coincidence?
Maybe. Huge fucking red flag? Equally
possible. I develop a sinking feeling in my stomach, and begin to research
ticketing fraud. PARANOIA! I decide to go CSI on this person’s ass – I pretty much cyberstalk
them, backtracking from the gumtree ad, and unless they’re committing major
identity fraud on some poor unsuspecting rube (which is not beyond the realm of
possibility, according to my research), I know their full name, their phone
number, where they work, and what they look like. I may have actually been
disappointed that I didn’t have a photograph to ‘enhance’ in some very flash
piece of hi-tech identifying software. I’m halfway to calling the cops and
setting up a sting on this person, but I don’t know how I’d explain the “if we
actually go into the cinema, you can cancel the whole operation” part. Because
I still want to believe that
everything is going to work out. I begin to understand how people get caught up
in email scams. All this could yet turn out to be my Nigerian Prince story. But
as I’ve not parted with any money, I keep it under my hat.
Now, I’ve got form for this – a have quite a
long history of doing seemingly bizarre things to see movies. In the
pre-internet age, I entered a phone competition about fifty times a day for two weeks to win
free movies, popcorn and coke every day for a year. There was some method to
the madness – it was a game of skill (and trivia) to begin with, so I knew
approximately how much I was strengthening my odds. It worked, and it turned
out pretty handy as it was what remains my only university year; Hoyts cinemas Adelaide
became my home away from home, and free kitchen. I can claim with reasonable
confidence that I was the first person in Australia to buy tickets for at THE
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Yes I've done the marathons: Theatrical versions? Tick. Extended
editions? Tick. In cinema? Yup - although I'm far from the Lone Ranger there, of course. In the days when I actually got paid to do
stuff like this, I, along with two stoic (equally foolish) friends watched what
was then all twenty Bond films back to back. It was a laugh. In fact, the first marathon the three of us did was all six Star Wars movies for the first time on DVD. On another occasion I actually queued
from 5am on a Sunday December morning outside Odeon Leicester Square to the
press screening of KING KONG. Why?! No one else turned up until 7! They can't all be brilliant decisions...
And that’s the question: why? I honestly
couldn’t tell you. It’s just what I do - it’s how I have fun. Dorky? A bit.
Pointless? Probably, but it’s a better way to pass the time than plotting
assassinations of Rupert Murdoch.
So yes, it probably seems like madness to fly 500
miles (and 500 back) on such a long shot, where I’m so vulnerable a target. But
the alternative would mean a) passing on a potentially incredibly fun
experience and b) never knowing either way – and maybe that’s worse; I’d rather
be crushed by disappointment than eaten away by doubt.
And then this morning I received another text
from the seller. They wanted to know if everything was still good,
and despite the news – I shit you not – actually reporting of a
fucking tornado tearing through
southern Sydney as we were texting, I replied in the affirmative. And when I did it,
I included a little Star Wars in-joke. And you know what? They got it straight
away. They replied that they were at the beginning of their marathon in
preparation for tonight’s event. It was like – if I may mix my influences here –
it was like the rays of the sun shining through the Staff of Ra onto the map of
Tanis. I have a good feeling about this...
writing this before my flight, I learned that Brisbane domestic airport has no
wifi, and so this was published after landing in Sydney.