They say that bis repetita eventually placent. So I repeated. But this time I came prepared. When I arrived at the Lincoln Square AMC Loews theater (seating capacity: 4144)  at 1:30 PM for the 3:00 PM showing of Avatar in IMAX 3D, there were already 20 people waiting in line, or rather sitting on the carpet with iPods and laptops to kill time. Within 15 minutes, twice as many had arrived behind me.

So there I sat, along with my fellow obsessive-compulsive movie geeks, and I stared at the food counter. At 1:50 PM, the 4th floor IMAX hall we occupied got locked down. Another line-up was forming outside and probably continued down to lower levels.

A disembodied voice announced on a VHF radio nearby “IMAX is over in 5 minutes, repeat, IMAX over in 5 minutes.” The exodus stampede was about to happen. This IMAX theater seats 600 people. They would all be looking for fresh air fast or a bathroom faster.

I stared at the food some more. A #2 Big Screen Combo cost $17.00 and included 2 large drinks and 1 large popcorn, for almost the price of a full IMAX ticket. At 2:00 PM, the couple next to me realized they had bought the wrong tickets; “You can get a refund,” said the cinema attendant, “but you won’t get in. This show has been sold out for quite a while.” – this being a weekday 3:00 PM show, 3 weeks after the movie premiere…

At 2:10 PM, I was eying the $6.75, 1390 calories Movie Nachos. I resisted. One guy came out of the movie late through the doors next to us, having probably watched the end credits to the very last word, and he gasped to no one in particular: “It’s intense! It’s unbelievable!” People in the line just watched him leave. Most probably knew that already. There were 40 to 50 people with me in the locked-down hall, tickets checked and 3D glasses received. The proud, the few, the patient. We felt privileged. I wondered how many were repeat offenders.

Around me, appetites were rising and weak souls began to yield, their host walking passed me with food trays the size of a small suitcase. I kept resisting. We were let in at 2:15 PM. I shot to the top and sat in the best seat I could find, one that was centered and as remote from the screen as possible and which allowed me to stretch my bad left knee, a valuable commodity after my recent long run.

I instantly felt better. I could see the entire screen without twisting my neck into paralysis. The immense amphitheater filled up slowly for almost an hour. A surprising number of people were going straight for the lower seats and I felt like yelling their mistake out to them. At 3:00 PM, later-comers were still pouring in. A recording played asking everyone to move inwards and fill empty seats since the show was sold out, to allow the last arriving spectators to find space on the outside. But morons will be morons. By the time the movie started, maybe 10 minutes late, a few people were still struggling to find a seat. I forgot about them. This was my – and Cameron’s – redemption.

The screen went blank and all lights were dimmed. Starships flew across space, planets revolved one around
another, a bunch of sleepy guys awoke from cryogenic sleep in complete
weightlessness and I took a deep breath. At last, in full stunning 3D, Avatar was really playing before my amazed eyes.

To be continued.