Lincoln Center on Black Friday might as well be a wasteland. That's understandable enough; most of us are either out shopping or still in bed, recovering from last night's Thanksgiving dinner. But when Disney opts to tease the upcoming Star Wars film in just a handful of theaters, you'd expect more than a few superfans waiting in line for a chance to see the Millennium Falcon again. But that's not what happened. At 9:00 in the morning on what might be the biggest day for the franchise in years, most of New York City's Star Wars fans stayed home.
No superfans. Just would-be straphangers and tired families.
The trailer was supposed to play in front of a 9:30AM showing of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I at the AMC theater on the Upper West Side, so we got to our seats at about 9:25AM. We should have been embarrassingly late, but the theater was mostly deserted. No security to speak of. No one in Imperial regalia. Just a couple of would-be straphangers and tired families. Lew, one of the few people sitting behind me, wasn't hopeful when I asked if he expected more people to show up. "I mean, it's Black Friday in the morning," he said. "Probably not." He'd come for the teaser, but also because he wanted to see Mockingjay. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
New Yorkers don't give a shit about Star Wars— Kwame Opam (@kwameopam) November 28, 2014
That was the feeling that pervaded the entire experience: that this was just unessential, especially when the trailer would premiere online in under an hour. The internet has changed the very essence of fandom. The Hollywood Reporter writes that back in 1998, the teaser for The Phantom Menace created a "near-hysterical" reaction among fans. Today, crickets. When the AMC commercials ended, we sat waiting in 20 minutes of almost-silence. But there was no frisson of expectation. We just... waited. I daydreamed about heading home and taking a nap. Two theatergoers nearby discussed the merits of the iPhone 6. "It's just bigger," one said. "What's the point?" I thought I could ask the same about our being there, but it seems the West Coast was having a better go of it.
We kept right on waiting, but the biggest reaction we got was when the trailer never came on. A few confused murmurs echoed through the crowd, but just a few of us — ourselves included — left outright. One audience member asked the staff what happened, and they were just as confused as we were. "Star Wars trailer?" she asked. It might as well have been the first time she'd heard Disney had something planned, even though the teaser would play in front of every movie over the weekend. Eventually we walked into the next available auditorium, never mind what film was playing (it might have been Penguins of Madagascar) and waited all over again.
I could feel the excitement just fine from my phone
Then we saw it. And it was awesome. I admitted audibly that I wanted that lightsaber. And then we left, my euphoria draining away because there was really no one to share it with. The funny thing was, the internet promptly blew up when the trailer premiered on iTunes and YouTube, and I could feel the excitement scrolling through Twitter on my phone. That's where New York fandom went this morning. Not a sleepy theater in Manhattan.