What It's Like To Attend A 24-Hour 'Star Wars' Movie Marathon

I've done long movie marathons before; horrifically long ones that lasted more than 30 hours, in fact (and you can read about that Marvel marathon here). So when the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood partnered again with Nerdist to host a 24-hour Star Wars marathon, I eagerly signed up. I was a pro at this, I told myself. Watching the nine movies that comprised the Skywalker Saga would be a breeze. Spoiler alert: a 24-hour movie marathon is still a very long time to sit in a movie theater chair. But, armed with my movie marathon survival kit (in addition to toiletries, a blanket, two travel pillows, ear plugs and an eye mask are the core items) I still enjoyed myself even though two days later, my body still hates me. This piece will chronicle the highlights of the marathon—the highs and the lows of spending many, many hours with other Star Wars fans eagerly awaiting the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps this will make you eager to brave a super long marathon on your own. Or perhaps not.

The Beginning

The El Capitan Theatre opened doors for the event super early, which meant I didn't have to wait in line for almost an hour like I did when they hosted the MCU marathon. I walked in around 5:30 PM on December 18 and had plenty of time to get myself settled before the official kickoff at 7:00 PM. I was glad I had the extra time—I had a lot of preparation to do, after all. My first stop after I made it through security was to the swag table. Every good marathon has good swag, and the El Cap and Nerdist brought appropriate goodies for the event; there was a plush Star Wars blanket to snuggle in and a Star Wars-branded toiletry kit for those who forgot to bring their own. There was also a very cool pin and a very large, plastic Millennium Falcon that I'm sure my nephews will love when "Santa" gives it to them for Christmas. Swag in hand, my second action item was to stake out my seat. This marathon was smaller than the MCU one—only the ground floor was ticketed, though people were mercifully allowed to spread out to the balcony once the marathon got underway. This eventually resulted in me getting roughly four seats in a row to myself, which was a decent given I had brought a neck pillow, a tiny travel pillow and a blanket of my own to set up an awkward, impromptu resting area. The downside for the one poor guy on the aisle was that he had to get up for me more than a few times. Sorry guy, if you're reading this—I appreciate you. There was a cereal bar sponsored by General Mills available before the official kickoff as well, but I decided to keep it classic and got my first tub of popcorn and sat in my seat taking part in the trivia contest going on in the theatre before the first movie aired. There was also a costume contest. About a dozen fans participated including a very good Jawa, a couple of Ewoks, some Jedis, a Princess Leia, and a Jar Jar Binks. Speaking of Jar Jar, Ahmed Best–the actor who played Jar Jar in the prequels—took the stage with Dan Casey of Nerdist to kick off the first movie, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. While on stage, Best shared a fun anecdote from filming the prequels: in the submarine scene in Episode I, he and Liam Neeson pretended to be Scottie and Captain Kirk from Star Trek, and kept cracking up during takes. Best also talked about his new show on Disney Plus called Jedi Temple Challenge, where he'll be leading kids through a series of Jedi-inspired challenges.When Best and Casey left the stage, the first of nine movies started! We were off.

The Long, Long Middle

And then we were in the middle of it, where there were visits by both R2-D2 and BB-8, as well as video messages from several actors from the films including Mark Hamill and Warick Davis. Early that following morning, we also got a visit from Greg Grunberg, who plays X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley in the most recent trilogy. After jokingly complaining that he had to get up at 8:15 AM to hang with us all, he shared a tidbit about how Carrie Fischer grabbed his butt at the end of his first take in The Force Awakens. We were also fed food during the event. Some of it was appropriately themed, such as the Kylo Ren-branded apple slices and Artoo Gogurt from McDonald's, and some of it was standard junk food fare like hot dogs and pizza. Each attendee also had tickets to get two fills of popcorn and three drinks, which was nice. I added in buying another mini-pizza and a bag of M&Ms because why make good choices? The El Cap and Nerdist team also had other perks to keep everyone excited. In between most movies there was a raffle giveaway or two, and some of the prizes, such as the battleship replicas from the films, were pretty impressive. There were also Stormtroopers walking around in the lobby for photo opportunities, and before the screening of The Rise of Skywalker, we could also walk through a Star Wars costume exhibit in the lower level of the El Capitan, which will be up for other movie goers to see during The Rise of Skywalker run.And last but certainly not least, there was also a surprise proposal!  Just before the showing of The Last Jedi, a young woman, herself appropriately dressed as a Jedi, was called onto the stage. While she stood there looking a little nervous and a lot excited, the curtains rose behind her and a man, also appropriately dressed as a Jedi, came out on stage as well and proposed to her with a ring in a BB-8 ring case. It was very nerdy, and very. very sweet!

The End

And then The Last Jedi was over, and we had 45 minutes to kill before The Rise of Skywalker began! The El Capitan did a good job of entertaining us in the meantime—in addition to the costume exhibit opening and the Stormtrooper photo ops, their famous organ also emerged from the stage and we were treated to some songs while we all migrated back to our originally assigned seats. We were all packed closely together now, tired and smelly and eager to finally see the last installment in the Skywalker Saga. We were treated to a Star Wars laser light show replete with a laser lit-up X-Wing, another specialty of the El Capitan, and then we were off!  I'm not going to review The Rise of Skywalker here; there's plenty of other reviews and articles covering that already online. The one thing I will say is that it was interesting to compare this marathon viewing experience with the Marvel marathon I did leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War. It's relatively well known that the MCU under the leadership of Kevin Feige had from the beginning a cohesive, overarching narrative that tied all of the movies together. And it's also relatively well known that Star Wars, well, doesn't have that. It was still jarring, however, to see that play out when watching the movies all in a row; The Rise of Skywalker is a fun movie, but, to me at least, it's not a culmination of the movies that came before it, and especially not of the newest trilogy. And so while I had a great time at the event, as I took my promotional poster and left the El Capitan, I disjointed, and not only because of lack of sleep. I felt as if I had watched different interpretations of the same characters, and that those different portrayals didn't quite fit together. I love Star Wars though, and it will always be nice to see a new Star War in a room full of other serious fans. That alone made the experience a wonderful one, although my back is still complaining.