THE FORCE AWAKENS. It’s billed as the BIGGEST movie premiere in history. Four blocks of Hollywood Blvd closed off to accommodate a massive tent. Three theaters, totalling over 3000 seats playing the film simultaneously, and a gigantic after-party to celebrate the Premiere of the most anticipated film of all time. This is the story of how we were able to attend, and it’s over two years in the making.
Back in August 2013, when Richard and I were starting our podcast, Skywalking Through Neverland, we thought, “wouldn’t it be AWESOME if we somehow made it big enough to attend the World Premiere of Star Wars: Episode 7?” (Because at that point we didn’t have a title yet) It was a pipe dream for a long time, but events transpired that we started getting invites to Press Events and movie previews from different studios, including Disney, thanks largely to Adventures By Daddy and our wonderful collaboration.
The date of the premiere kept creeping up closer and closer, and no invite. 😔 However, several weeks before the movie we decided to join LiningUp.net to see THE FORCE AWAKENS at its first screening at the world famous TCL Chinese Theater IMAX in Laser 3D. A mere 2 days before The Premiere, word came through the group that 100 of us who were available ALL DAY on Monday, 12/14, would be able to sit in the bleacher seats for the Red Carpet of the World Premiere! The only caveat being we had to arrive at 6am. Well, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We put our names in the hat!
December 14th, 6am. We arrived at TCL Chinese Theater’s forecourt. It was cold! But we admired the beautiful The Force Awakens poster that had just been affixed to the front of the theater.
After an hour and a half we were finally escorted over to the entrance of the Red Carpet area. Everyone’s bags were checked thoroughly, we all went through metal detectors, our names were checked off a list and then given shiny silver wristbands. It took forever, with the entrance to the warm tent looking tantalizingly close.
However, we finally made it through security and were escorted closer to the mouth of the tent and into a “holding pen,” for lack of a better term. So when did we get to get warm and enter the tent? Apparently, the answer was, never! This was our spot. The cold, hard sidewalk. No seating, barely enough room for 50 people, let alone 100. We stared longingly at the bleacher seats right across from us.
We were stuck on the sidewalk. For 10 hours. It was at that moment of realization that a huge gust of icy wind had us all huddling for our extra blankets. It was 7:30 AM. Festivities weren’t supposed to start until 5:30 PM. 10 hours of this?? Was it worth it? Richard and I looked at each other, trying to decide. We had already attended a Global Press Event the weekend before and seen all the celebrities in person. (Recap here) At this point we were only waiting to watch the Red Carpet. Decisions, decisions… Luckily, we were able to come and go, and I decided to go on a mission for coffee and breakfast and think about it.
Fast forward to about noon. Obi-Shawn Crosby had been our “Line Liaison” with Disney to secure this Red Carpet spot. He kept coming back to give us updates. Was this really the spot we were supposed to be in? Would they eventually bring us to a warmer area? What was happening!?? He was pulling to get us some spots on the bleachers right across from us.
The tide turned at 1:00 PM when Obi-Shawn came to us with amazing news. Here is the actual audio from that moment and immediately after (at timecode 41:30):
You know those silver wristbands we had on? These were going to entitle us to not only watching the Red Carpet, but actually seeing the movie that night AND entrance to the After Party in that big tent we’d been staring at all day long!! The icy winds suddenly became worth it! We settled in to watch the worker bees actually roll out the Red Carpet, preparing for the biggest movie premiere in history.
At 4:30pm, celebrities started arriving! Our toes and fingers may have been carbon-frozen, but our excitement was white-hot, especially when Anthony Daniels sidestepped the Red Carpet to come over to us to say hi and sign various items!
We Periscoped from our account @SkywalkingPod and had over 1,000 people tune in, and the celebrities kept arriving! Unfortunately we had a huge boom camera and several media in front of us, but we could see the celebrities getting out of their car and in the entrance tent before they turned and walked on the Red Carpet. We also were right next to the staging area for the official cosplayers at the event, including an army of First Order Stormtroopers, Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Resistance pilots.
Our fingers and toes kept getting more and more numb as the wind gusted and celebrities arrived. We got a hearty wave from Mark Hamill and a lightsaber salute from Peter Mayhew. Gwendoline Christie’s head towered above everyone else so we were able to see her all down the Red Carpet. BB-8 is the cutest thing ever created on this planet AND the Star Wars Universe, and we watched him roll down the carpet and melt people’s hearts. You guys, I cried when John Williams arrived. No words.
#bb8 awesome!! #bb8 on #theforceawakens premiere Red Carpet!! @fangirlcantina @fggoingrogue A video posted by Sarah Woloski (@jeditink) on
Here’s a few more GORGEOUS press photos from the Red Carpet:
Now, ON to the screening! After 12 hours of freezing our butts off, we were FINALLY taken out of our holding pen and received these amazing laminated lanyards giving us a place in one of the three theaters. At this point it still hadn’t really sunk in that WE WERE SEEING THE MOVIE IN LESS THAN AN HOUR!! Thank you to our friends at Disney who were able to make this happen!
We were hurriedly led through the backstage area of the tent and into the entrance of….drumroll…the TCL Chinese Theater! OK! Here we go, folks, this is happening!
After settling in our seats, we were able to watch live feed from the Red Carpet, which then switched over to The Dolby Theater as all the major stars, director and producer took over the stage. It was surreal, as The Dolby Theater is right next to TCL Chinese Theater. This was all happening right now, right here, and in a couple minutes we would actually SEE the most anticipated film of all time!!
Screen fades to black.
There were no previews. The screen fades up to that beautiful Lucasfilm logo.
12 hours of freezing, waiting, huge disappointment followed by extreme excitement catches up to us and we snapped. Our section of the theater cheered in utter joy and exhaustion. That was followed by another cheer as “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” faded up. Let’s face it, we cheered absolutely every time a new character came on screen or we saw a shot we recognized from the various trailers, not to mention certain key moments and reveals in the film. This movie experience was intense!!
The credits rolled and we were all changed people. We had seen THE FORCE AWAKENS! AND our night wasn’t over! We were all ushered out of the theater and into the GIGANTIC tent with the catered After-Party. FINALLY we get to see what’s inside this tent that’s taken them almost a week to build. Food stations and bars line the walls. The lighting was lightsaber blue. Moisture Vaporators doubled as kiosks where you could take your picture or play games. Everywhere you looked, it was themed beautifully.
We head in one direction in search of hot tea and celebrities. Finally, I find a coffee/tea/dessert station and wait in line. I am about to grab a Pumpkin Cream Cheese whoopee pie when someone cuts in front of me to get another dessert. I look at him and it’s Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg)! I couldn’t really talk but managed to croak out, “oh hey! I like you on that show that I watch!” D’oh!
Then Richard and I turned around and who do we see? The Director of THE FORCE AWAKENS himself, J.J. Abrams!!! There was a makeshift line to talk to him, so we joined in. Unfortunately the line turned into a mob very quickly and poor Abrams was surrounded by a crush of people. Richard and I managed to work our way to the front, and Richard was able to say, “Now you need to start a support group for those who’ve watched the movie!” Abrams thought that was very funny. We shook his hand, took this picture and OMG! Life experience complete! We had just spoken with the director of THE FORCE AWAKENS right after seeing his movie at the BIGGEST World Premiere of all time!!! Somebody please pinch us!
The evening didn’t end there. We caught up with friends of Skywalking Through Neverland, Dave Filoni (Executive Producer, Star Wars Rebels), David Collins and Sam Witwer (both of whom did various voices in The Force Awakens, including stormtroopers), and Consetta Parker of Rancho Obi-Wan.
A VIP section was set up for celebrities, but we did spot Ray Park (Darth Maul) and Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett). There were all kinds of activities besides food. You could make Star Wars LEGOS, build a droid, play Disney Infinity. I actually played The Force Awakens Disney Infinity playset under the tutelage of the VP of Disney Infinity himself, John Vignocchi!
Plenty of photo ops were available with BB-8, R2-D2 and C-3PO, Chewbacca and First Order Stormtroopers. Even though we had woken up at 4AM, we still shut the party down. What a fantastic night!!
Now you may think we were extremely lucky to attend this World Premiere, and we absolutely were. But this whole experience was born out of hours and hours and hours of hard work. Each week we put out a Skywalking Through Neverland podcast episode, and between writing, editing and promoting it, it’s like a 2nd full time job. It was through the podcast that we knew about the TCL Chinese Theater Line, and through the line we were able to attend. All things happen for a reason.
Be on the lookout for our podcast episode about our World Premiere Experience, as well as soundbites from fans and friends after seeing the movie for the first time. The Force has Awakened and we look forward to much, much more!