Marathons reignite movie theater flame

Teenage girls will descend upon movie theaters across the country to mourn a tragic loss tonight.

Their beloved “Twilight” saga is coming to an end, and Hollywood is cashing in.

Besides opening the movie early at 10:00 p.m., Summit Entertainment, the franchise’s production studio, will present all five “Twilight” movies beginning around 11 a.m. today in each time zone. That means Twi-hards will sit in the theater for more than 12 hours.

But this is nothing new.

Back in May, Marvel Studios presented a national 14-hour “Avengers” marathon that featured every “Avengers” related movie. I had the endurance to sit for that marathon, and it was an incredible experience.

So while I’m not a “Twilight” fan by any means, I can understand the excitement. And when I see events like these marathons, it makes me wonder: How can anyone say the movie theater experience is dying?

Midnight shows have been fairly common occurrences for years now. People raced out at midnight to see the “Star Wars” prequels and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but those movies came before the big screen television’s advent.

The movie industry has tried and tried again in recent years to create experiences that home entertainment cannot touch. Its successfully tried 3D, but it is by no means a huge victory. IMAX could work, but theater access is limited because they are so expensive to build.

It really comes down to the communal experience the theater can provide.

Sure, you can gather your friends and watch something at home. But the people at a marathon or a midnight show are the true fans, the ones who are willing to sacrifice sleep or sanity to see their favorite stars. These crowds cheer, scream and laugh at the proper moments.

And Hollywood has learned to capitalize on this bond.

Carmike Cinemas, a national theater chain headquartered in Columbus, Ga., found a way to revolutionize the marathon experience. “Twilight” marathon attendees can now purchase VIP tickets for $15 more than the regular marathon ticket price. This fee gets the attendee priority theater seating and an exclusive concession stand line.

We certainly don’t want people waiting to get that $8 bag of popcorn, do we?

Somehow, this extra charge seems a lot more fair than the 3D surcharges, which often run $3-$4 more than a regular ticket. The VIP pass is something you can opt out of, and theaters have learned that the right people will pay extra.

Chains simply have to identify those people. We as moviegoers certainly don’t make that distinction difficult when we hype these movies up so much for months, even years, before release. Studios have already scheduled blockbuster films for Christmas 2015.

Marathons are an experience that one won’t be able to find anywhere else, unless you’ve got a 230-seat auditorium in your basement.

It’s a win-win situation. Audiences can gather with those who are just as obsessed as they are, and the theater chains have patrons for hours upon hours, with the concession stand the only convenient food source.

Patrons are getting wise to the theater chain tricks, but there are some experiences that just can’t be replaced. When the lights go down and the audience goes wild, the faithful know they’re in the right place.

One simply can’t put a price on that.

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About Karsten Burgstahler

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at or 536-3311 ext.255.

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