Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Theaters put limits on costumes at new ‘Star Wars’ movie

For many, Christmas will come early this year when the hotly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force
Awakens” opens worldwide this weekend.
The long-awaited seventh installment in filmmaker George Lucas' beloved space opera that began with 1977’s “Star Wars” – his love letter to the matinee serials he loved as a child that changed the way movies are made and spawned a gigantic merchandising empire – is predicted to dominate the box office for the next two weeks at the very least and gross $2 billion before its theatrical run ends. Tickets have been on sale since Oct. 19.
Across metro Detroit, theaters are gearing up for a busy weekend and are cracking down on costumes. In the case of Cinemark and AMC Theatres, both are allowing costumes but within reason. Movie-goers cannot wear masks and face-paint, nor wield toy weapons such as blasters (laser pistols) or lightsabers. However, AMC is allowing lightsabers.
“AMC does not permit weapons or items that would make other guests feel uncomfortable or detract from the movie-going experience,” the Leawood, Kan., theater chain says on its website.
“Guests are welcome to come dressed in costume, but we do not permit masks. In short, bring your lightsaber, turn it off during the movie, and leave the blaster and Darth Vader mask at home.”
This is a safety factor, said Tahli Montgomery, the supervisor on duty at the AMC Star Fairlane 21 at the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn.
According to Montgomery, if movie-goers are wearing a mask or face-paint, they will be asked to remove it. If they have to be asked more than once, they will then be asked to leave the premises. Likewise, if they are seen with toy weapons they will be asked to return them to their car; if they refuse, they will then be asked to leave the premises, as well.
Mike Mihalich, the founder/CEO of MJR Digital Cinemas in Bloomfield Hills, said the nine MJR theaters in Michigan, including the MJR Southgate Digital Cinema 20, will allow movie-goers to wear costumes to “The Force Awakens” on Thursday only. However, no masks, face-paint and toy weapons will be allowed.
“This is a different kind of deal,” Mihalich said. “This is going to be the biggest grossing film in a long, long time – maybe ever – so we’ll let people (wear costumes) on Thursday. This is an exception.”
The MJR Southgate is having a marathon of all six “Star Wars” movies – “Star Wars,” 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” 1999’s “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” 2002’s “Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” and 2005’s “Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” – beginning at 4 a.m. Thursday. (See sidebar for more details.). Costumes will be allowed at the marathon, Mihalich said.
RELATED: 7 toys expected to blow up after the release of Episode VII However, once the Thursday screenings are over, costumes will not be allowed at any MJR location, he said.
The policy on MJR's website says: "Costumes, masks or like attire is not permitted in the theater."
Mihalich said the reason for that also is a safety factor.
Theaters across the nation have increased safety protocols and banned costumes as a result of a mass shooting at a movie theater July 20, 2012, at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The shooting took place at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., when graduate student James Eagan Holmes went on a rampage. Holmes, whose hair was dyed to resemble the Joker was dressed in body armor, was convicted of killing 12 people and wounding 70. On Aug. 24, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In addition to following theater rules about costumes, movie-goers are asked to leave their cell phones in their cars or turn them off completely during the screenings. If caught on their cell phones, they will be asked once to silence them; if they are asked again, they will be asked to leave the premises.
Montgomery encourages movie-goers to come early and asks for them to be patient.
“It’ll be pretty busy,” he said. “People need to get here early. We’re talking 30 minutes before the movie starts; there’ll be long lines. If you’re coming to a 7 p.m. show, get here at 6:30 p.m.”
Mihalich advises movie-goers to purchase tickets online to minimize waiting in long lines. Movie-goers shouldn’t avoid “The Force Awakens” this weekend if they don’t believe they’ll get a seat. Mihalich said MJR will open up other auditoriums to accommodate more screenings.
“We’re playing on lots of screens, and there’s lots of seats available,” he said. “Digital today is certainly more flexible than 35 mm films. This might be the highest-grossing film of the last 10 years.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Rated PG-13) opens nationwide Friday, with some screenings Thursday evening. Check local listings for showtimes.

Originally written for republished with permission.

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