“Lord of the Rings” trilogy at the Riverview Theater: 690 minutes in Middle-Earth

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On December 18, I did something I never planned to do. I went to the Riverview and sat down in a sold-out theater with a bunch of nerds (I’m including myself here!) to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yes, for 12 hours. Well, runtime is 690 minutes and there are two breaks (so you can buy pizza or go out to your car and munch sandwiches and sip whatever you put in your flask or cooler).

I admit that I love the Lord of the Rings movies. I do a pretty mean Smeagol impression and have even made it through most of the Lord of the Rings books (yeah, I know, I know) so I felt like I could handle this event. I even considered a costume for this year’s costume contest, but couldn’t figure out how exactly to manage it especially since it started at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and my Saturday nights often lead to sleepy Sunday mornings.

If you don’t know the Riverview Theater, it’s really quite something. Reputed to have the best popcorn in the cities (they use real butter!), the Riverview is no ordinary movie theatre. It was built in 1948 and still looks as it did when it was first showing films. They have special showings like the annual Lord of the Rings trilogy and special holiday films (December 21-23) but also show Hollywood’s biggest productions, which only run you a whole $2 on Tuesdays and $3 other evenings.  It’s a fabulous place for a relaxing evening or a dinner and movie date—you may or may not want to avoid bringing a date to the LOTR showing—and can even be rented for super special events!

I showed up for this event on Sunday and witnessed pretty much what I was expecting. There were people of all sorts, some dressed in fuzzy white beards or funny little hobbit-pants, some dressed in comfy I’m-watching-12-hours-of-movies-pants (me!), and others in costumes I can’t even explain. I wish I could tell you who won the costume contest but I actually had to duck out before the final movie and missed the costume contest announcement and the raffle!

The crowd can only be described as excited. So. Very. Excited. The cheering started when the members of the fellowship of the ring all appeared in Rivendell during the first movie. A huge cheer for each! I was caught off-guard, but not really surprised, as I’ve been at other movies with cult followings that have received cheers and claps. I have to admit I’ve never understood clapping at movies since no one in the movie is there to appreciate it but I do see it as a way for people to show their intense love of a movie, a character, or an exciting scene. The cheers increased in frequency and fervor and started to give me a bit of a headache. 

During the second film, there were sections of the crowd hissing whenever a certain character was on screen, and the cheers got even more numerous. One cheer after another erupted, but now and again someone would begin cheering only to be emphatically shushed. Was this because that part of the movie was just not the correct time to cheer? How was one supposed to know? Was it because the cheers were becoming too constant even to the cheeriest of LOTR fans? I couldn’t quite determine the answer but I found it to be quite an interesting dynamic. 

By the end of movie two, I was ready to retreat to a quite corner (or attend a dinner party I’d almost forgotten about and show some love to my poor little dog, Ninja, who was not a big fan of me leaving her at home to travel through Middle Earth with Frodo and his buddies). I scooted out of the theatre with the excuse that I was just way too much of an extreme fan to watch the theatrical version of the last movie and would only watch it if they were showing the extended version like they did for the first two. A believable story, I hope.

My recommendation is to only attend this event if you’re either very serious about your Tolkien-lore or you get a kick out of witnessing such fandom. If you’re more of a quiet, reserved movie-watching person, it’s something I’d maybe recommend for a relaxing day on the couch with friends instead of in a crowded theater, which after eight hours, smells a bit much like popcorn and hobbit.