Friday night, I dragged my husband to the IMAX Fan Event for Ghostbusters and although he had fun, he left with a bitter taste of fan snubbing.
We’ve been to mega fan events like D23 Expo and SDCC as well as Long Beach Comic-Con and Los Angeles Comic-Con. We also attended the Psych: The Musical and Psych the Movie fan events. The former was an external event associated with SDCC. The latter was held at the Arclight Dome.
The people at Psych know how to treat their fans right–at SDCC or in a regular Hollywood fan event.
But all of those events were pre-pandemic.
Since the re-opening in Los Angeles, I’ve attended three non-Disney fan events: “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (Warner Bros.) and “Red Notice” (Netflix) at the LA Live Regal and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” at the TCL Chinese.
The people behind “Space Jam” did a good job of entertaining, feeding and giving away swag. I have no complaints there. There was musical entertainment and we could compete for prizes and get our photos taken. There were plenty of selfie opportunities. I just wish I could have had a plus one, but still, it was a fun event.
“Red Notice,” red carpet premiere on the other hand, was a lot of trouble to be treated like a poor and unwelcome cousin at the holiday table. First, registering for the quickie COVID-19 test had glitches. I had to drive and get the quickie test in downtown Los Angeles between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Still, after the “Space Jam” experience, I was excited. When I got in line at 6:30 p.m. for an 8:30 p.m. screening, I felt pretty good. There were two lines. The line I was in didn’t have many people. There were about ten people ahead of me. The other line, 1Iota, was longer. Our line was assured we’d get in and have seats.
Yet the other line went in first, including people who came in long after I arrived. We waited and waited and waited. We could see people from the other line coming down the stairs to use the restroom on the other side of the glass. And still, we waited. Before 8 p.m., we were told it would be a few more minutes. By 8:30 p.m., when the film was supposed to screen, we were still waiting outside. The two women in front of me left. The people at the front of the line had been there since 5 p.m.
About ten minutes after they left, we were given tickets and let in the theater we had been standing in front of. And then, people from the other line who had been able to be upstairs and all received event swag also filed in. This was the overflow theater. Some of us thought that someone would come in and say hello or something. No one did.
Even with a validation, by the time the film ended, I had been at the theater so long, I had to pay $28 for parking.
Just last week, I had attended five red carpets during AFI FEST 2021 at the TCL Chinese so I am familiar with the protocols and the staff. The problem wasn’t with the staff at TCL Chinese.
I told my husband that we would be getting an exclusive mini poster which was cool, but we were led to expect something more. See the IMAX advertising below. My friend, at the last minute, keeping in mind the “Red Notice” experience, changed his Gofobo tickets from the original partner to a radio partner, thinking this would mean he’d be more assured of entry. In the end, it didn’t matter because they took all three of us in as a group. My friend is such a fan, he has a costume (cheaper version), but it was signed by Dan Aykroyd.
I told my husband there would likely be trivia. He was prepared as were other fans. My husband is someone who until yesterday had no idea who Audie Murphy was and had never heard of the Audrey Hepburn film where she played a Native American (This was the 1960 film “The Unforgiven” with Burt Lancaster.)
Still, we were seated in U section to the right of the aisle, in front of people who were standing in line before us. That point can be irksome to people who get in line early.
Our host, whom you can see in this photo, began asking questions. My husband knew all the answers at this point. He really did. He raised his hand. Only people in the front sections were called on.
There was grumbling already because all he seemed to be giving away was a round of applause. And then, he asked a long, but easy question to someone in the front and gave away something. That piqued the interest in the disgruntled fans. There were a few more questions.
People in the back rows were getting frustrated and then came the question that stumped everyone, but my husband waited and then shouted out the answer. The emcee asked who said it and people pointed and said it was my husband. The emcee didn’t reward my husband at all, but just asked people to give him a round of applause. There was one more prize given out, again to someone in the front rows.
What this means is that the people who came to this fan event were very clear that not all fans were equal. Since I only saw the winners from the back, I can’t tell if they were White or Black. So I don’t know if this was the case. My husband is neither and we’ve both been to events where we were discriminated against, even when Black people were not or when the event was run and targeting Black people.
Likewise, the optics were bad on the “Red Notice” premiere event.
If the emcee’s job at the IMAX “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” fan event was to warm the crowd up and make the fans happy, he failed. If there were only two prizes, then the emcee could have made it a competition. Or all the people who gave correct answers could have had their posters signed by the director. All of these things would have made the fans more excited and involved. None of these things happened.
If my husband had answered a hard question at a D23 Expo event or at a Psych movie special event, he would have gotten some swag. There’s no doubt about that. IMAX did better with its “Ghostbusters” fan event than Netflix at the “Red Notice” premiere, but “Red Notice” divided up groups. And neither did as well as Disney for the “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” fan event at the El Capitan just across the street. At the El Capitan, we all got a small bag with small toys, popcorn and a special pass on a lanyard.
Despite that fan event diss, my husband and I liked the film “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” but hope that in the future IMAX will do better. But, who ya gonna call?