DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Conquers Alamo Drafthouse
It was like a perfect storm. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Planet of the Apes who thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a great and worthy addition to the series - plus that it was one of the best science fiction films of the modern era. Meanwhile the Alamo Drafthouse had recently opened a theater in North Austin that is totally Planet of the Apes themed, including a life-sized statue of the Lawgiver molded from the original prop used in the movie. This is the ideal place (and, if I may be so humble) person to host a special sneak preview of the newest film in the series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
First things first: the movie is great. I've seen it twice now, once in an unfinished form and once totally complete and the best thing I can tell you is that even without finished FX that early version worked for me, because the characters and the emotions are so strong. It was nice to be hosting a Q&A for a movie I can totally get behind.
Our guests were Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar in the new films, Gary Oldman and director Matt Reeves. They arrived straight from the San Francisco junket/premiere, but they couldn't have been in better spirits. One part of the event included giving away five signed Mondo posters from a previous Apes marathon I had hosted at the Alamo, and Reeves immediately identified the artwork on the poster as General Urko from the Planet of the Apes TV show. Then when he learned that we had a Lawgiver in the lobby he straight up freaked out with excitement.
I did a quick video interview with them in the lobby in front of the Lawgiver (video coming!) and they explored all the rare and cool Apes posters in the lobby. What was refreshing was seeing how well-versed Reeves and Serkis were in Apes lore; these aren't guys just picking up the reins of a blockbuster, they're guys who have paid attention to what went before. I think that ends up being clear in Dawn, and not through cheap fan service but through thematics and quality.
The video interview was a lot of fun, and everybody was a great sport about the less-common questions we ask in the B A D Q & A ("If only one of your movies could live on after your death, which would it be?" JFK was Oldman's answer, by the way). But then came the main event - the post-screening Q&A with a livestream.
This was going to be tricky. Technically it was tricky because we had to wait for the feed to go live, and that meant hanging out up front for a little while before the main Q&A started. We bantered a bit and then a shout came from the audience: "Ask spoiler questions!" It was Badass Digest's own Phil Nobile Jr, who had flown all the way in from Philly just for the event. He was right - there's a lot to talk about with Dawn that is totally spoilery but also makes for great discussion. So the livestream lag was a blessing as we got to really dig into the moral and ethical implications of the end of the movie (it's a real Apes film, which means a tough ending).
Then the stream went live and the Q&A started. You can actually watch that here. Warning: Andy Serkis does accidentally drop some spoiler stuff in the middle. He apologized profusely after the stream when he realized what he had done, but I don't think the spoiler is too huge. Consider yourself warned, though.
During the livestream I gave homeviewers instructions on how to win one of the five Mondo posters the trio had signed (winners - you'll be contacted shortly! I'll be choosing winners from email AND Twitter), and you could sort of tell the in-theater audience was bummed. That changed when I surprised everyone with a big announcement at the end - the Reeves, Serkis and Oldman would stay in the theater and autograph Dawn of the Planet of the Apes mini-posters for EVERYONE in attendance. I was amazed at how well the whole thing went off, with the Alamo staff getting everything running smoothly and the audience being respectful and awesome.
I've done a bunch of events at the Drafthouse, but this is one of the very best. It's nice to host a movie that is great, to be able to assure an audience ahead of time that they're about to see something special. It's amazing to have talent like Serkis, Oldman and Reeves who were constanstly friendly, funny and very cool. And it's just always the best experience seeing a movie with the special crowds that come to Alamo Drafthouses. We gotta get one of these in LA.