Happy May the 4th! As in “May the fourth be with you” for us Star Wars nerds, which is basically everyone at this point, isn’t it? It’s been several months since the long-awaited Episode VII premiered in theaters on Friday, December 18, 2015. Just a few days before that, on December 14th, I happened to be lucky enough to attend the WORLD PREMIERE and official after party of The Force Awakens in Los Angeles.
Since that entire week was INSANE and then traveling and Christmas festivities quickly followed, I never really got a chance to write or share about my experience. But since it’s May 4th, Star Wars Day, I feel justified in spamming the Internet with all my badly-lit red carpet photos, selfies, and after-partying from that incredible week. Just a warning – I’m probably going to turn on Caps Lock…A LOT.
The Line Awakens
This whole thing started with a little organization called LiningUp.net. Fans have been lining up at Hollywood’s famous Chinese Theatre for each Star Wars movie since the original premiered there back in 1977. LiningUp.net has kept this tradition alive while raising money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
The Line “awakened” 12 days before the Thursday night public premiere of the film. Fans could then check in and out of the Chinese forecourt area to gain hours over the 12-day period. So there wasn’t a literal line you had to stand in for two weeks. Basically, if you clocked in at least 24 hours, you could buy two tickets to the opening night screening. Any time over 24 hours would get you a better seat, since seats were later selected in order of line members with the most hours. And I’m ALL ABOUT getting good seats.
To some, this might seem like a silly thing to do, especially in an age where you can reserve your seats online weeks in advance. But it was about sharing in an experience with fellow hardcore fans and being a part of cinematic history at a legendary theatre in the heart of Hollywood. I went to the Line for most of the 12 days with friends and my sister. Some days I just went by myself after work to clock in some more hours. Because why not? I could plop down my camping chair, open up my laptop, and generally be more productive than I would’ve been at home.
Over the two weeks, Line members were kind enough to pitch in and provide things like water bottles, hot chocolate, and homemade goodies like cookies and “bantha poodoo” (it tastes much better than it sounds). Buffalo Wild Wings even donated food one night.
The last few days displaced the Line from the Chinese Theatre due to multiple movie premieres happening that week. So, on the last night right before the day of the world premiere, my sister and I decided to pitch a tent and officially “camp out in line” with a dozen other Line members. I’ve literally never been camping before, so this was my first “camping” experience. Gotta say, camping at the legendary Chinese Theatre on top of the iconic hand and foot prints was pretty cool.
Despite the freezing temperatures (for L.A. anyway) every night, the Line was an incredible experience in itself, and I’m so glad I got to share it with such awesome company while raising money and awareness for a good cause.
Getting to the World Premiere
A few days before the premiere, several blocks of Hollywood Blvd were shut down to prepare for the biggest red carpet event Hollywood’s ever seen. It was during this time that us Line members learned that we were getting invited to watch the red carpet arrivals of the world premiere. SAY WHAT? Totally wasn’t expecting that!
I’ll skip ahead to the day of…
I got in with my sister and five of our friends that had been a part of the Line with us. It was an early morning filled with metal detectors and lots of security, but I eventually got my golden ticket, or rather, silver wristband.
Originally, we were only supposed to watch the red carpet arrivals from the sidelines (still awesome), but just a few hours before the festivities, they dropped the biggest best bomb ever – we would also be ATTENDING the world premiere by watching the film that night with the rest of Hollywood’s finest and ALSO be going to the after party. SAY WHAAAAAA??
Since the event didn’t start for a few hours, we were allowed to leave and come back. This meant eating some food and getting in a power nap and quick makeover.
Then we situated ourselves in place at the top of the red carpet area, which spanned an entire four blocks of Hollywood Blvd under a gigantic tent tunnel (that’s the best way to describe it). Two 20-foot LIGHTSABER PILLARS (made to look like Anakin/Luke’s and Kylo Ren’s) stood at either side of the entrance, and they even lit up because OF COURSE THEY LIT UP AND EVERYTHING WAS AMAZING.
There was music, there was a march of Stormtroopers, and then there was an endless supply of celebrities pouring onto the red carpet. Anthony Daniels, who has played C-3PO in all the films, was one of the first to arrive, and I was able to grab a picture with him. THANK THE MAKER!
Unfortunately, it was all but FREEZING that day, and the unusually chilly winds made it feel like freaking Hoth outside. With no Tauntauns in sight, we all huddled together for warmth and powered through. But sadly, the cold weather made most of the stars (especially the ladies in their dresses) go straight from their cars to the safety of the tent tunnel without much love to the fans except for a few waves and smiles here and there. But I totally get it – it was seriously freezing. Still, we got to see countless celebrities make their way to the red carpet, including both the new and old cast. I’m pretty sure everyone lost their minds at the sight of Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. *I would share my pictures, but honestly, they’re ridiculously blurry because of the excitedness and the frostbite.
Once the arrivals were done, we were given a lanyard (basically our movie ticket) and walked down that same red carpet, down the enormous tent tunnel. IS THIS REAL LIFE?
The fancy red carpet tunnel connected the three major theaters on the street together – the Chinese, the Dolby, and the El Capitan. Since this was such a huge event, the movie was being screened in ALL THREE theaters! The major stars, including director J.J. Abrams and the cast, were in the Dolby Theatre since it’s the largest. We made it into the Chinese Theatre, which seemed appropriate since we had been lining up outside of it for days.
Before entering the theater, we had to give up our phones (no pictures or recording, of course) and go through more metal detectors. And then we made it! It felt so good to – let’s be real – use the bathroom, finally, and be in the warm indoors. We were able to pick up a free Star Wars bucket of popcorn and drink of our choice – do the goodies never end??
Before the movie, we watched a live streaming of the Dolby Theatre, where Disney CEO Bob Iger took the stage, followed by JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and the rest of the cast (even R2-D2 and BB-8)! After some moving speeches, the lights went out.
The familiar Lucasfilm logo appeared to great applause.
And then the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” – everyone held their breath but managed to shout whoo’s at the same time.
BOOM. We were so close, the yellow letters basically slapped us in the face as they filled the screen accompanied by John Williams’s familiar score. AND EVERYONE. LOST. (JJ pun) THEIR. MINDS. There were no minds to be found. Just screams and shouts and roaring applause because Star Wars Episode VII was playing and that was all any mind needed to know to be lost.
I spent most of the movie punching my friend Kyle in the arm and rocking my sister’s seat in front of me. BECAUSE STAR WARS WAS HAPPENING. And yeah, I’m that obnoxious person who has to make comments throughout the entire movie. BECAUSE I’M INVESTED. When I wasn’t abusing the people around me, my hands were all over my face going through every Inside Out emotion possible. And once Luke Skywalker finally took the screen, I bawled my eyes out one more time as the movie finished, leaving us all to wait two more years to find out what happens next.
After-Partying It Up
After the movie, we got our phones back and were free to enjoy the incredible after party inside the tent tunnel in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. After a crazy long day, we were all so happy to see FOOD. So much food. There were several buffet tables spread throughout the tunnel. After scarfing down my meal, I went looking for some water but found one of the dessert tables instead.
As I was admiring the super cute desserts, I accidentally bumped into someone. This someone just happened to be Seth Green – because OH RIGHT, I’m at the Star Wars after party. No big.
There were all kinds of cool people walking around:
It was all very interactive! There were video game consoles set up, some incredible LEGO displays, and lots of photo opportunities with droids, Stormtroopers, and fun backdrops. But one of my favorite things was the Build-a-Droid station. There were three tables filled with buckets of droids parts, and you could piece together your own little astromech droid! YOU COULD EVEN GIVE THEM HATS, LOOK HOW CUTE. I had so much fun building this little guy in the Yoda hat:
I tried to take a lot of pictures to properly document the night. And because I was fangirling all over the place.
My sister and I even snagged a photo with Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
Eventually, the party dwindled down, and we had to leave. But I got one last photo at the top of the red carpet as they were already breaking everything down.
I drove back home, exhausted but still reeling from the day’s adventures. And I was pretty pleased with my souvenirs and goodies.
In conclusion, this was nothing short of an incredible experience – one I will share with my future children and many more generations to come…and basically anyone who will listen. HUGE thanks to the people at LiningUp.net, the Chinese Theatre, Disney, and JJ who made this dream come true for me and so many other fans. I’m so grateful I got to be a part of this iconic piece of cinematic history at one of the biggest events Hollywood has ever seen. This is one of those times where I’m so thankful I get to live in the awesome city of Los Angeles. THANK YOU JESUS for continual blessings and the memory of a lifetime.
But WAIT! There’s more! I still attended the public opening night premiere at the Chinese Theatre a couple days later, and that was a whole other event in itself complete with a WEDDING (not mine) and more continuing fun and adventures. So be sure to check back for another post about my experience from the Opening Night Premiere!