We Are Groot


When Guardians of the Galaxy was released the summer of 2014, I was frantically at work finishing my doctoral dissertation. I also happened to be living (but not employed) in Amsterdam at that time, due to my partner’s job. I begged my friends and family in the US (getting Guardians a solid three weeks before I did*), not to spoiler me, and they came through. We went to the midnight screening at Pathé Arena, and I laughed and wept and found it an entirely tolerable bargain not to make it home to my flat in the city center until nearly 3:30a (thanks to quirks of Dutch overnight transit).

My time in Amsterdam was a cinematic paradise, thanks to the Pathé Unlimited Gold pass, which, for €26/month gave me unlimited admission to all films at all times, including 3D and IMAX. It even included my own pair of nice, reusable 3D glasses, stamped with their logo. I lived an easy walk from both the modern Pathé De Muntand the deco treasure Pathé Tuchinski, and there were many days I’d arrive in the morning, see the first film available, and just continue in kind all day, once even seeing four films before heading home.

That spring and summer, as I struggled to complete my dissertation, I’d escape to a double feature most afternoons, first Captain America: The Winter Soldier / other film, and then, when Guardians replaced it, Guardians of the Galaxy / other film, or finally, just Guardians as I submitted the dissertation and had to turn my attentions to packing for an international move.

The two indelible screenings for me were on “days before”: Guardians at the Tuchinski, sitting in the back row with a roll of packing tape round my wrist like a bangle, the August afternoon before we flew home, and later, mid-October, at a theater in a city where I’d be defending my dissertation at last the next day. As the first song welled up over black, I joined the collective sigh of homecoming in the theater, and started to believe I could survive the next day. I caught myself singing “Oooh child…” on my walk across campus to the room where my fate would be decided, and I announced passing to my friends with a gleeful, “I’m just like Kevin Bacon!”

And it's translating to LONG theatrical engagements

This has been a personal nostalgia tale so far, but there’s a hidden lesson as well, about the changing nature of spectatorship in the face of the epic multi-film franchise that Marvel has built. While many critics bemoan their “superhero fatigue” and blame the industry’s creative timidity on it, Marvel’s audiences have been reliably visiting theaters at a time when attendance has been declining in the US, and not just to see each of the film installments once, but it seems, many to revisit them multiple times during a theatrical release. All told, Guardians of the Galaxy had an astonishing domestic box office run for a film of its nature, filling auditoriums daily long after its fellow summer films had long vanished, and if you were in those auditoriums, it was hard to miss that the repeat audience population was strong. It shaped the arc of my summer well into Fall, and I have no doubt it did so for others too. And apparently I’m not alone in this thinking as we approach the May 5 release of the sequel:

So in most urban areas, that's what, 8 times to break even? Fewer?

I was disappointed upon my eventual US return to discover that passes of the kind that had indulged me in Amsterdam didn’t really have comparable analogs here, still. However, it looks like Marvel’s exhibitors are catching on that the usual rules don’t apply when the Guardians are in the house. The promo even firmly announces in the fine print that this offer is only good through November 9 screenings. Just in case.

*If you’re not familiar with typical international release schedules for Hollywood films, it bears mentioning that American audiences are presumed to be enthusiastic filmgoers during their school and summer holidays, whereas in much of the EU, every effort is made to avoid the peak holiday-going time in the summer, for fear of poor box office while everyone travels, the Netherlands being no exception.

What do you think about this Regal promotion? Do you want one? Is there just no way you’d spend the money?

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