A day at the movies: 14 straight hours in Century 12
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    Photo by Tyler Daswick

    Ironically, Tyler Daswick and Ben Croll were seeing a movie together when they thought of this idea: They would buy a ticket for the first film of the day at the Century 12 theater and stay in the building until there weren't any more movies to see. It was a terrible idea. It was a dangerous idea. It was perfect. In the midst of awards season, the amount of quality films released each week can be borderline overwhelming, but that didn't stop these two friends and cinephiles. They chose to hit as many movies as they could in one go, and now, they're here to share that experience with you.

    Dazz: It seemed like a pretty logical idea, really. I like movies. You like movies. Neither of us have very much time. Both of us have slightly more free time on Fridays. Bailing on class to spend an entire day at the movie theater was the logical choice. We could see all the flicks we had been trying to see for weeks all in one easy shot.

    Long story short, my friend, we spent 14 hours at Century 12 last Friday, and you know what? It was great. We saw five-and-a-half movies, which were decent at worst and terrific at best, and had a wonderful time doing it.

    Croll: The night before our binge I actually had trouble getting to sleep. Excited and anxious like a kid on Christmas Eve. When my alarm finally went off the next morning, getting out of a bed was still a hell of a lot easier than it normally would be on a class-filled Friday. It was time.

    As Northwestern students, we have an expectation to be cultured and up-to-date with movies, music, sports and everything else going on in the world. But unfortunately, as Northwestern students we also have an ass-load of work that prevents us from actually consuming all those new movies and albums. I, for one, was tired of faking my way through conversations about Nightcrawler and Birdman – I didn’t want to become the uncultured black sheep within my social circle.

    When we cataloged all the movies we needed to see, we realized that we weren’t going to be able to do this in a couple hours. It was going to take a gargantuan effort. But having spent countless nights cramming for exams or doing entire 10-page papers, it almost seemed fitting that our game of cultural-catch-up would be a colossal cramming session too.

    Dazz: Hence, your Game Plan.

    Croll: That’s right. I looked up all the showtimes online and drew out a massive schedule on a whiteboard – every showing of every movie. We needed to find a schedule that allowed us to see every movie without any missed openings or endings, and without any long wait periods in between. After spending a solid 45 minuntes drawing out possible itineraries and feeling like the world’s most useless Will Hunting, we landed on this lineup:

    The question remained, though: “How were we going to survive?”

    Dazz: There are three crucial components to spending 14 hours at a movie theater: rations, disguises and attitude. Your food game needs to be strong. We used a Subway giftcard (bangin' on a budget, you know) to score some sandwiches prior to our personal film festival, and we had plenty of snacks and munchies to graze on throughout. Chex Mix and Nutter Butters were some of our more coveted options, and we each brought a water bottle too. Those bottles might have been the real MVPs of the day, alongside my toothbrush, which garnered some looks but was worth it to rid myself of 14-hour Cheez-It breath. 

    The next two components work in tandem. Disguises need to be discreet and subtle if you're sneaking around. We both brought glasses, hats and various shirts and overcoats to mix it up during the midday lull, but what's even more important than the material disguises is the attitude that comes with them. If you're walking around a movie theater for 14 hours, you have to act like you own the place. Timidity and hesitance are huge giveaways, and if Ben and I were to make one wrong move, we would have been thrown out and the whole story would have been ruined. Act like you've done this before. Carry your backpacks (snackpacks?) with confidence, acknowledge staff and personnel politely, but at the same time, don't dilly-dally. You're in and out of each theater like a dimestore robbery. Is that a bad comparison? Maybe, but the point is, you're not there to make a new friend. You're there to take in some films.

    Croll: That begs the thought, though, why not do this in the comfort of our own homes? What’s the point in dodging janitorial staff and slowly starving for 14 hours? Well, there is no movie experience quite like the theater. The dark and quiet, with the massive screen and powerful speakers too, create a sort of movie cocoon. It isolates your experience from the rest of the world, and you just don’t have that on a 32-inch screen.

    Take a movie like Birdman. That flick is shot so it looks like a continuous two-hour take, and the immersive experience of the movie theater really adds to the effect of its frantic camera movements.

    Dazz: That’s dead-on. This cocoon concept was really apparent in Interstellar as well. We sat toward the front for that flick, and the screen pretty much filled our entire gaze. The vistas seemed limitless – for a while, it was easy to forget that we were grounded. You see that concept with sound too. Evocative scores, like that of Interstellar, or roaring sound effects like we saw in Fury really put you in the moment. The theater blends the visual and audial in ways that even high-end home theaters have trouble doing. There certainly is no other viewing experience like it at Northwestern.

    The other thing about the theater: you’re always present. You can’t really multitask or talk or check your phone – it’s pretty refreshing to just go and sit and absorb the experience. You’re never worrying about other things, and how many activities around Northwestern can say that? I think that’s a huge part of why we were able to survive this ordeal.

    Croll: That’s not to say that this wasn’t exhausting. Full emotional and intellectual investment for 14 hours straight takes a lot of you, and we faced a lot of fatigue throughout the day.

    That’s ultimately how the Game Plan really helped us out. After two hard-hitting and tiring flicks in Nightcrawler and Birdman, Big Hero 6 was light-hearted, cute, funny, and it pretty much saved our asses. I would not have made it through the day without Baymax giving me that mental half-time.

    Dazz: Oh yeah, and being careful not to turn this into a cornball “power of friendship” sort of message, I definitely would not have done this alone either – this is an all-in type of commitment, and it helps to have someone along the way to stick it out with you. Plus, the snack-sharing game we ran was strong.

    The real question though: would you do it again?

    Croll: Totally ... but after a long rest. The day would have been torture if we had tried this individually, so if anyone plans on trying this out, make sure you bring a friend. All in all, I’d say it was a great experience and a fun (if exhausting) way to keep up with the best movies of the year.

    Some quick superlatives from our Day at the Movies (Croll/Dazz):


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