Going to movie premieres used to be a big thing in my life. No, not real Hollywood premieres with celebrities and shit. Just opening night at the local theater. Along with Cammy and our mutual friend Megan we went to a lot of opening nights. Often in costume. It was generally awesome. These outings used to include Mexican food, until the fateful night when we drank too much iced tea at Don Pablo’s then went to the first Harry Potter film. Several of us suffered from near fatal bladder over-filling. (I hadn’t read the books. It was a kids’ movie. I expected it to be 90 minutes tops. And by the time I realized it wasn’t, things were too exciting for me to leave.)
It’s been a long time since those days. I haven’t been to see a movie on opening night in a while. But The Hunger Games was awesome enough I thought it warranted a return to old behavior patterns. So a group of my colleagues and I made plans to attend. (We briefly entertained the idea of a Thursday midnight showing, but several of us had to teach on Friday morning and well… we’re old now). No costumes this time since my colleagues here are a little more straight laced and well, I had no costume ideas anyway (Though in retrospect the Bajoran Dabo Girl outfit would have done well for this. Cammy knows what I’m talking about.) By mostly sheer coincidence we did go to get Mexican food beforehand, and that’s when things started to get a little dicey.
Turns out several of my friends have never been to a movie on opening night before. They thought showing up fifteen minutes beforehand would be totally fine. Such innocents. This, and the fact that he had just finished his dissertation the night before and was justifiably brain fried, caused my friend J to be late for dinner. So three of us who had already finished and paid our bills before he arrived, left to get seats while he and our mutual friend K stayed to eat.
It had been raining on and off all day. I had actually meant to bring an umbrella but realized I’d left it in my apartment when I got to my car and decided I didn’t care. I was wearing purple so even if the color ran out of my hair (yes, this is a problem) it would be okay since my hair is also purple. At the restaurant I did hear someone say something about a tornado warning, but I didn’t think they meant a current one. After all, we’d been getting the sort of slow, steady rain which typically does not result in such things.
But as we made the short drive to the theater we did notice a particularly ominous looking cloud and as we arrived at the strangely empty theater (I got a parking spot right by the door) we heard some soccer moms dropping off their kids talking about a tornado warning. At this point we all checked our phones and simultaneously realized we had all missed the urgent text from the university informing us of said tornado warning. Oops.
Well, we were already at the theater, and it seemed as secure a location as any, so we went on in. We had just been allowed into the theater and scored good seats (my current city of residence has no theaters with stadium seating, so you have to work for good seats like in the old days) when an attendant came in and told us that because of imminent tornado threat we had to go to the hallway or bathrooms. I can’t for the life of me figure out why those locations were safer, given the large glass doorways in the hall, but we complied. That’s where we were when J and K finally joined us, with all the valuables from K’s car (including J’s dissertation). They said it was looking fairly insane outside.
That’s when the hail started. I thought I had seen it out the doors (lacking a self-preservation instinct I was the one who kept leaning out of the alcove we were positioned in to look) but M went to the ladies’ room and said she could hear it hitting the roof. I could also see that the precipitation, whatever form it was in, was coming down hard at a 45 degree angle. This is when J, a practiced Midwesterner with enough tornado fear for both of us informed him I was making him nervous will all my looking. (This didn’t stop him from continuing to use me as look out mind you.)
At some point I looked down the hall and it seemed the ground and all the cars I could see were covered in a white film. Convinced I must be seeing things I walked down the hall for a better look. No, I was seeing correctly—there was at least half an inch of hail accumulation. I have never seen hail like that. It was simultaneously awesome and terrifying (as I considered buying two new windshields.)
Through all of this we kept looking at each other and looking at our watches asking, “So… we’re still going to get to see the movie, right?” and “If we don’t get our seats back I’m punching a tween!” Ten minutes after the movie was supposed to start word went around we could go back into the theater. A ten year old girl who had been dragged out in the middle of an earlier showing rushed back into her theater yelling, “I’m coming, Peeta!” Somehow it was adorable. We hurried back and got seats one row behind our previous position. Not bad enough to raise a stink over.
We’d gotten all settled when an attendant came in and informed us the watch was not lifted. He wasn’t going to make us move, but it was his job to inform us that we would be safer in the hall. I stayed put.
Finally, thirty minutes after show time they came in and announced they would be starting the movie shortly and they were going to skip the previews. The tweens applauded. The geeks lamented the loss of hope at seeing a Hobbit trailer. And then the movie started. And there was much rejoicing.
Afterwards we verified that our cars were undamaged (they were), we drank some delicious cocktails, and I was coerced into inviting people to my house to watch last night’s episode of Fringe (which it turns out was largely preempted due to the weather. Grr.) It was a long, exhausting evening. It was nothing like my movie premiere outings of old. And somehow? It was just as epic.