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Thursday, August 11, 2005

After-Action Report: Revenge of the Sith at Atlanta's fabulous Fox Theatre!

The only way this could have been better would be if a good friend had gone with me to this. Otherwise, I can't imagine a finer way to have ended seeing the first-run theatrical release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith than what happened the night before last.
This needs a little setup though: Monday afternoon Lisa and I were driving down to Atlanta for something of a business trip (we'd been staying with her family an hour away) and as we got close to town and started fiddling with the radio, some station called 99X FM mentioned something about Episode III. I didn't catch it the first time but pretty close to our destination they ran it again: Revenge of the Sith playing Tuesday and Wednesday nights... at the Fox Theatre! Since Lisa was going to be busy with something on Tuesday night, we thought this would be a good way for me to kill some time and hey, how often is it that you get a chance to see a Star Wars movie at the Fox? I pulled the full details from the Fox Theatre's website: turns out they do this summer film festival every year: Monday night they had shown Batman Begins and they were gonna end this year's run with two showings of Sith. I conferred with my friend/collaborator "Weird" Ed about it the next morning via AOL Instant Messenger. It went something like this...
ME: Hey Ed do you think I should go see Episode 3 at the Fox Theatre tonight?
There was also gonna be a wine-tasting before this thing. Since I've never been to one before, all the better for the new experience, eh? Anyhoo the movie started at 8 and the wine tasting at 5:45 so I left Lisa's parents' house shortly after 4, fought an awful thunderstorm while "heading down the Atlanta highway" as the B-52s once put it, and after overcoming the local environment's traffic quirks I pulled into a parking garage around quarter 'til 6.

Why drive over an hour to see a movie I've seen about twelve times this summer already? 'Cuz it's at the Fox Theatre!! It must be said with such awe and reverence. I'd been to the Fox twice before - once to see Stomp and a few months later for The Phantom of the Opera and every time this place bowls me over. This is the theater that had the world premiere of Gone With The Wind back in 1938. It's hosted a lot of neat shows and world-renowned folks (and in 1996 it was headquarters for the Australian Olympic team) over the years. Ignore all that and the place will still absolutely overwhelm you: the architecture is grandiose beyond mortal ken. The entire building was originally a Shriner's temple back in the 1920s that got bought and converted into a theatre at the dawn of the Great Depression. Well those Shriners wasted no expense in giving the building an Oriental/Egyptian/Moorish look: the outside of the Fox has those onion-shaped domes out of "Arabian Nights". That's nothing compared to the inside: the main auditorium will literally make you weak in the knees, it's so overwhelming. The bathrooms are cleaner than most people's houses... heck the bathrooms have like a smoking lounge between them and the rest of the theater! The Fox is so grand it borders on the obscene. But, it's incredibly beautiful. It must be seen in person at least once in your life, just so you'll know that this kind of place really does exist in the world... and for seven bucks for a movie ticket, you can take it all in for the evening!

Well, the wine-tasting it turned out cost an extra ten bucks. I ain't a cheapskate but I thought it'd be wiser to keep the pocket change I had on me for a possible bite after the show and 'sides, this thing would be better shared along with Lisa. I decided to forego the wine this time. So I hung out in the main lobby and about 6:15 Darth Vader and four Imperial Stormtroopers came out, joined later by Boba Fett. They were from the 501st Imperial costumer's group, so respected it is that those troops that accompany Anakin into the temple in Sith were dubbed the 501st by Lucasfilm... is that cool or what? There's a documentary film in the works about them also. Neat bunch of guys. Oh yeah did I tell you that there was gonna be a costume contest before the show? Darn... 400 miles from home and I sure could have used my Jedi outfit and custom-made lightsaber. Ahhh well...

They opened the doors at 6:45. I got me the biggest tub of popcorn and a large root beer and then found a seat in the upper balcony (the best seats in the house). Like I noted at the beginning, I didn't have any good friends with me but I did make a few new ones: there was a really nice lady named Marie, in town from Miami, sitting next to me and she hadn't seen Episode III yet. We had quite a good conversation about Star Wars and other stuff. I even told her about Forcery and she said she'd have to take a look at that :-) At 7:15 an organist came out to play on "Mighty Mo": from what I've read it's the 2nd biggest theatrical pipe organ in the world, after the one at Radio City Music Hall. So we listened as he played some stuff and then everyone did a sing-along (complete with lyrics slides that date back to the 1930s) to songs like "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and "You Are My Sunshine". Then came the costume contest: about three Darth Vaders, two Obi-Wans, a pre-burn Anakin, one Darth Maul and a Twi'lek chick, along with a few generic Jedi: the smallest Darth Vader was the winner, I think.

7:55 and the curtains opened up to show they screen. They ran that old Warner Brothers cartoon Duck Dodgers in the 24th and 1/2 Century!!! How cool is that?!? And then you know how most theatrical chains have a custom-made "welcome to the whatever theater"...? Well there was a VERY beautiful one made just for the Fox Theatre: that should give ya an idea how important a place this is, when this ONE theater has its very own... one of those thingies.

Then they crank up Revenge of the Sith. As far as I can tell it was practically a virgin print of the movie. And for the next two hours or so... it was unlike any showing of Episode III I'd ever seen.

Nobody talked. Everybody was spellbound. Marie, sitting to my left, cried a few tears, I noticed, during that heartbreaking scene between Anakin and Padme and Obi-Wan.

The quietest I've ever heard the Fox Theatre be came when Darth Vader's mask and helmet come on for the first time: the mask locks down, the helmet clamps on, there's that momentary silence and then Vader's breathing for the first time: "whooooooo-hhhhaaaaahhh". You could have heard a pin drop in that place, I swear.

And then not long after that the show was over, and as everyone was leaving I told Marie it was great meeting her and we wished each other a good trip back home. I got to my car and after getting on I-75 I turned on my MP3 player and dialed up the PERFECT song to end the night on: "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Yoda".

And, that was my night at the Fox Theatre to see Star Wars Episode III. Even if you never see a Star Wars movie there (who knows maybe they'll run all six of them there someday) it's well worth any chance you get to experience the place. But as for me, if there had to be a one last time to ever see a Star Wars movie during its first run, I can't imagine a better venue to have had it in than at the Fox. It was a night I don't think I'll ever forget.


Chad said...

Wish I could been that friend to be there and see Sith with you at the Fox. Can't believe I lived in Atlanta five years and never saw anything at the Fox. It's one of the things I regret not doing while I lived there.

Chris Knight said...

If/when they show all six Star Wars movies at the Fox, I'm dragging your butt in there to watch 'em ALL!!! :-)