Undeniable Fact About ROTS #20: It Was The Only Star Wars Film Not To Open At The Chinese Theater

Very few theaters in the U.S. had the privilege of showing all six (existing) Star Wars films as they opened. Maybe only a couple of them. One theater everyone thought would have that rare honor is the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Mann’s Chinese Theater/formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theater) in Hollywood. After all, it’s very much tied in with Star Wars history, beginning with Lucas scoping out the opening day crowds from the now-closed Hamburger Hamlet across the street. Fans had even started camping out in front of the Chinese in the spring of 2005, fully expecting the film to play there. When I went Legoland that April, they even had LEGO guys camped out in front of the Chinese at Mini Los Angeles.

Then fate threw a wrench in the works. For reasons I don’t remember, the ArcLight Cinerama Dome about a mile from the Chinese ended up with the movie instead. Campers had to pull up stakes and migrate over to the ArcLight, ending 28 years of tradition.

Better luck next time! (Though the Cinerama Dome is a pretty impressive place to see a movie.)

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4 Responses to “Undeniable Fact About ROTS #20: It Was The Only Star Wars Film Not To Open At The Chinese Theater”

  1. Hunk a Junk Says:

    I was living in LA during the premieres of both AOTC and ROTS. Frankly, the line people camped out at the Chinese were ridiculous. They had their own system of ensuring places in line for people who weren’t there (you had to log a certain number of hours to guarantee a spot, or some such nonsense that they deemed official because shut up), and many times there were maybe 10 people there at most. I used to drive by regularly during my commute from the west side to Studio City. I remember getting to the theater at 8am the morning of the AOTC midnight opening and counting no more than 25 people physically in line in front of us. For the next two hours, that grew to maybe 30 people as a few of their comrades arrived. By that afternoon, however, others on their list started showing up and started telling me and my friends we had to move back on the sidewalk because their people needed to get in line in front of us. We refused, saying we are in line and we don’t have to move just because they made some agreement among themselves to save spots for their friends. It occasionally got heated because the police wanted to keep the sidewalks clear and the line people kept letting more and more friends squeeze in. At one point, they tried to get the theater management to move us back and the employees just rolled their eyes. Despite refusing to move, during the hour before they started letting people in, every one of the 40 or so people who had physically been in front of us throughout the day let another 5-10 people apiece jump in with them as the line started moving. In the chaos, two guys jumped in line behind us and laughed about how they’d just decided to come to see the show an hour earlier. Then during ROTS, the line people freaked out when the show was announced at the Arclight and another group quickly scrambled to get their people in line there first. There was a day or so of nerd meltdown as the Chinese Theater line people fought with the Arclight line people and the management to honor their list. In the end, some arrangement was met, but it was geekageddon for a while. I’m all for the excitement of lines. Lines are fun. Most fellow Star Wars fans are awesome. But the Chinese line wasn’t a line. It was organized place saving and that’s not cool. If I get in line and there are 10 people in front of me I expect to be the 11th person through the door.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      I knew the line campers at the Uptown in Washington, D.C.. Maybe it’s because it’s Wonk Town, USA, but the campers went out of their way to work with the theater, the neighborhood, and nearby businesses to make sure there weren’t any problems. (The biggest issues they had to deal with were rats on the street and pranksters throwing eggs at them.) And thanks to the magic of Fandango, I ended up at the same screening of AOTC without sleeping on the pavement. I prefer doing it the civilized way!

      • Hunk a Junk Says:

        I’m sure the Chinese line people worked with the theater and businesses too, but I think they mistook the theater wanting order and safety with some sort of contract of “we’ll let you and your friends in first.” In my interactions with the staff they told me they had nothing to do with the list the liners were keeping. In my book, if you want to be first in line, get your butt in line and keep it there. Now with advanced tickets going on sale weeks ahead of time, there shouldn’t be any of this long term line stuff.

      • lazypadawan Says:

        The PT-era lines were more about tradition than necessity. These Gen-Yers who read about or saw old video of people waiting in lines outside of movie theaters back in the day thought it was part of the Star Wars experience. But I wonder if fans now want to camp out five months in advance, especially given that 1) as you’ve said, you can buy tickets way in advance 2) some chains like Arclight or Cinépolis let you reserve seats and 3) the movie opens in December, not May. (And as we found out with the PT, all you had to do was pay $100 or so for entry to a charity screening and you get to see it before everyone else.)

        I plan on seeing Ep VII at either my local Arclight or at Cinépolis. The latter has La-Z Boys and waiters who bring you gourmet food. Screw the lines and campouts.

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