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T-MINUS 1 (a descent into trailer hell with Austin STAR WARS fan Robogeek!!!)PLUS thoughts in Talkback from Father Geek

Glen the Coaxial guy here…

No doubt about it, the hottest show in town tomorrow will be only two minutes long.

As fans scramble to prepare for Tuesday’s unveiling of the STAR WARS EPISODE I trailer, ROBOGEEK asked to share with AICN readers a day-in-the-life of an Austin STAR WARS fan.

It’s not a pretty picture - being a STAR WARS fan in Austin today is a perplexing, nerve-racking, and generally psychotic endeavor. And remember - for every Robogeek, there are hundreds and hundreds of other Austin SW fans who have shared similar experiences and frustrations over the last few days.

Here’s Robogeek:

It's the day before "The Phantom Menace" trailer debuts and I am in the living hell that it is to be a "Star Wars" fan.

As you know, last week announced that the trailer to "Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace" would be rolled out nationwide this coming Friday, but that special advance engagements of it would be offered in select theaters, in select cities, attached to select films. Assuming that the Empire (read: Lucasfilm) would seek to strike a blow to the Rebellion (read: us) by not including Austin, I was pleasantly surprised to find Austin on the web site's list of Texas cities (though part of me felt it might simply be a cruel ruse).

That is where my pleasure ended. You see, of all the theaters in Austin, they chose the Cinemark Tinseltown South, which looks like a prison as designed by Joel Schumacher. I despise the Cinemark chain. With a contempt-ridden passion. They are a plague of horrid design, and they force their patrons to endure those insufferable Front Row Joe animated singing cat shorts before every feature. It's a twisted nightmare. And, while their newer theaters do boast nice, comfy stadium seating with high-back rocker chairs, Cinemark Theaters HAVE NO THX.

To premiere the trailer to "The Phantom Menace" in a Cinemark horror-plex is nothing short of sheer blasphemy, in my Robo-opinion.

But it gets better! The two films selected to have the trailer attached tomorrow are "Meet Joe Black" and "The Waterboy." Now, I had virtually no interest in seeing "Meet Joe Black" until I read Harry's review last week, so I was pleased as punch to have an excuse to go see it. I checked the showtimes, though, and grimaced.

Tinseltown is showing "Meet Joe Black" only twice per weekday, at 3:something and 7:something. Given I have a consulting gig with the BPRD I can't make either screening. Why Tinseltown doesn't offer, say, a 12:15 pm showing or something (like another Cinemark Theater in town does), which I could make? I'll tell you why -- SO THEY CAN TAUNT ME!

So what does that leave ol' Robogeek with? Simply this -- if I want to see the trailer, not only do I have to go to the stomach-churning edifice to egregious architecture that is the Cinemark Tinseltown, but I have to shell out $3.50 to see... THE GODDAMN WATERBOY. Those bastards...

It's days like today that I wonder how Steve Sansweet sleeps at night, knowing he has turned to the Dark Side.

It's not like I ain't already annoyed at the Empire, with their salacious taunting of The First Prequel Toy -- the Battle Droid with STAP (whatever the hell that is) -- which is, well, nothing more that an overpriced piece of flimsy plastic, on sale at your local toy store a mind-numbing SEVEN MONTHS before the movie even opens. It's as if Lucas is pulling a Jedi mind trick on all of us devoted "Star Wars" fans, waving The Toy before us, knowing we are powerless to resist its siren's song. Thankfully, given that I am Robogeek, I have managed to resist the temptation that has made both Harry and Glen weak-minded fools (no offense, guys, I just had to work another reference in).

And as if that weren't bad enough, there's the MACE WINDU action figure offer on the back, with yet further temptation. Who cares if it doesn't even look like Samuel L. Jackson, right? You still must have it! And in order to have it, you must send in, what, a half-dozen or so proofs-of-purchase along with a few bucks for shipping and handling? But wait, it's not that simple. You have to include RECEIPTS along with those proofs of purchase, and they must be dated after October 1, 1998. Why? Well, so they can clear off the shelves of existing "Star Wars" toys to make room for a whole new batch of must-have inventory for you to buy this Christmas, which is only FIVE MONTHS before the film! So, in fact, the "free Mace Windu action figure offer" could set you back a good thirty or forty bucks plus.

This is commercialism at its most crass, and it's enough to make even the most devoted "Star Wars" fan more than a little sick. And we're still SIX MONTHS away from a film that increasingly appears to exist for one reason only -- to sell crap.

But then, who knows? The teaser poster is an elegant exercise in subtlty, restrained design, and understated messaging -- which I hope carries through the entire marketing campaign for the film. And I haven't even seen the trailer yet. Speaking of which...

I was all ready this morning to drive out to Tinseltown, swallow my pride (and arguable conscience), and buy an advance ticket to the first screening of "The Waterboy" tomorrow, but then I read Glen's update on AICN. Apparently, Tinseltown was no longer showing the trailer, but instead the Barton Creek theater was. Great! I could go see a real movie! My buddy Alex called up, and I asked her if she was free tomorrow for brunch and the movie, and everything was set. I drove across Our Fair City to the theater to snag advance tickets.

I got to the box office, and sternly interrogated the attendant. "Are you showing the new Star Wars trailer tomorrow?" (I didn't want to confuse him with all that "Phantom Menace" nonsense.) "Yes, sir, before and after every screening of "Meet Joe Black" and "The Waterboy."" "Excellent, I'll take two for the 12:15 "Meet Joe Black."" "That'll be seven dollars." "Are YOU SURE you'll be showing the "Star Wars" trailer?" "Absolutely."

I then sped across town to pick up Abe and Liz at the airport in the Robo-mobile, then drove the pair downtown to the Driskill. Abe, in the front seat, had just scored a prototype of Apple's forthcoming consumer portable, which he was intently playing with, doing wireless web browsing.

Liz was reading over his shoulder from the back seat. "Oh, my God! "Voices" has actually been updated!" she said in shock.

Then my Robo-phone rang. It was Glen. He sounded troubled. Apparently there was a disturbance in the Force.

"They're... they're not showing the trailer at Barton Creek anymore. Instead, it's on its way to Tinseltown."

"Nani?" (That's Japanese for "what?" I'd just been on the phone with Linna Yamazaki -- no relation to Ryohei, by the way.)

"In an armored car. With armed guards."

There was a pause of disbelief on my part. "Really?" I asked.


For a brief moment, I glanced over at Abe and Liz, thinking we could probably take the armored car with little effort, have the trailer for ourselves, head to the Alamo Drafthouse and be done with it. But without the big guy, it was too risky to try. I pushed the thought out of my mind.

"Glen, I already bought tickets for a screening at the Barton Creek tomorrow."

"I know. So did I. So did a lot of people."

"Boy, this story is good," Liz said to herself, gazing intently at the active matrix screen, and then to Abe said "Wait, scroll back up!"

Glen was audibly distraught. He sounded almost as bad as the time his house was invaded by scorpions. But that's a story I'd rather not get into right now.

After some conferring, we both decided we would independently investigate the situation. I called the Tinseltown box office. Amazingly, someone actually answered the phone. I guess it helped that Glen gave me the correct number; the one they give you on their recorded line just rings and rings.

"Are you showing the new "Star Wars" trailer tomorrow?"


"Are you sure?"

"Yes, it just arrived."

Damn, too late to intercept the armored car anyway, I thought. "Well, I was at the Barton Creek earlier today, and they said *they* were going to have it."

"Yes, well, they were, but now they aren't."

"But I bought advance tickets there for tomorrow with the understanding that I'd see the trailer. Do I have to drive all the way back there for a refund, or can I use them at your theater?"

"Oh, you can definitely exchange them here, since we're part of the same chain."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, that's no problem. We'll exchange them for any other film."

"So you're showing the trailer tomorrow with "The Waterboy" and "Meet Joe Black"?"

"Yes, with all showings."

"And when is your first showing of "Meet Joe Black"?


"You don't have an earlier showing?"


"Why not? "

"I don't know."

"But the Barton Creek has a 12:15 showing, and they're part of the same chain, right?"


"So how come they have a 12:15 showing and you don't?"

"I don't know. But we have showings at 3:45 and 7:45."

"Well, that doesn't help me."

"Well, you can see "The Waterboy" at 12:30."


"I'm sorry, sir. There's nothing else I can do."

Admirably, this woman was extremely polite. After some further discussion, just to reinforce my faith in what she was telling me, I got back on the phone to Glen -- who had just gotten off the phone with the manager at Tinseltown. We compared notes. My Robo-brow furrowed.

The manager told Glen that, yes, they indeed had the trailer and, yes, they would be showing it with all screenings of "The Waterboy" and "Meet Joe Black." But they could not accept / exchange tickets from the Barton Creek because of accounting issues, or something.

I called the Barton Creek this time, just for the heck of it, and asked if they were screening the trailer tomorrow. "No, that's happening atTinseltown."

"But I was at your theater earlier today, and was told you were going to have it."

He sighs. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that. We were going to get it, but they changed plans on us."

"So I have two tickets I bought with the guarantee I'd see the trailer. Do I have to bring them back to your theater for a refund, or can I exchange them at the Tinseltown?"

"Oh, you can exchange them at the Tinseltown. That's no problem."

"Are you sure?"



So, after Abe, Liz and I grab some takeout from Threadgill's, I'm going to drive back across town to the Barton Creek theater and get a refund. Hopefully. Sure, it's only seven bucks, and they'd be going to a decent movie, but it's the principle of the thing, and I won't tempt fate. And then tomorrow, I'll go to the aesthetic obscenity that is the Cinemark Tinseltown by noon, and pay good money for a film I have no interest in seeing, just so I can see two minutes of footage from a film I've waited over a decade for. Footage I could wait until Friday to see, and in front of a decent movie, natch.

And you know what? I've got this sinking feeling that I'll be sitting in that darkened theater, packed with geeks who got off work or skipped class or took a long lunch just so they could see the trailer, and it won't be there. And then, there will be a riot. The theater will be consumed in the flames of fanboy retribution. And CNN will carry a story about a strange rash of theater riots scattered across the country.

But I'm trying to think positive. I'm trying to stay focused on the quotes that Harry's put on his own "special edition" Episode One teaser poster.

And I hope.

I hope my world stops for two minutes tomorrow. I hope that I am transported to by youth as a Robolad. I hope that I am moved to tears. I hope I see visions beyond my wildest dreams. And I hope, aside from all the billions of merchandising we'll be assaulted with from now into the new millennium, that in the center of it will be a movie that is true magic. A movie that restores my faith. A movie that I can point to proudly and say, "See? THAT is why I'm a geek."

Tomorrow, across the broad expanse of this great nation, a phalanx of fanboys will have their faith tested. That faith will emerge either gloriously enboldened, seriously questioned, or painfully shattered. And tomorrow, I will return to tell you what I saw.

I just hope Jar-Jar doesn't talk too damn much.

- Robogeek

P.S.: Go to your local comic book store RIGHT NOW and buy SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH by Paul Dini and Alex Ross. It's a masterpiece, and a steal at only ten bucks. (I'd pay fifty for a hard cover coffee table edition with sketches, by the way.) This, along with the recent SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS, should be required reading at Warner Bros.

Note to Terry Semel -- you already have geniuses on the Time Warner payroll just waiting to be unleashed! Fire Jon Peters' ass already and let true artists make a Great American Film worthy of this Great American Myth.

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