I just watched all 22 films from Phases 1 through 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe back to back at the Marvel Studios’ 22 Movie Marathon hosted by Nerdist at El Capitan Theatre. Why? Because I believed (and still do) that the best way to see “Avengers: Endgame” is to position it to be the real-time culmination of a single cinematic experience. The continuity of watching every movie in one sitting keeps themes, character nuances and other subtle MCU facets readily available in your short-term memory, allowing you to absorb more of what’s in “Endgame.” (That’s true even when you’re severely sleep-deprived, yes.)
I bought my ticket to this event expecting to have that advantage on opening night for “Endgame,” and I did indeed benefit from employing the marathon method. What’s more, I had the inexpressible pleasure of watching all those movies in the company of fellow hyper-fans, which amped up the ambiance. We were punctuating every little emotion in each film with cheering, clapping, whistling or whatever applied. Even though we were all low on energy from needing sleep, we couldn’t resist interacting with what was on the screen because the energy in the auditorium was so intense. Plus, as the marathon wore on, we developed an ever-deepening camaraderie, and strangers became like family to me. I loved it!
I had an amazing time, and I was really sad when it was over. I hope there will be another opportunity like this for the next MCU phases because I’d go again in a second, no question; it was that good.
I brought my kitty Lolita with me down to Hollywood the night before the marathon and got us a room at Loews Hollywood Hotel, across the street from El Cap. I didn’t sleep in the room during the marathon (minus two quick naps), but I was able to pop over in between movies and on meal breaks to check in on my beloved feline. (“Crazy cat lady!” Yes. Yes, I am. I own that.) Also, I loaded up the room’s mini fridge with energy drinks and would hastily chug those while visiting Lolita.
Knowing I’d be sitting in a theater for three days straight, I had packed a little toiletries kit (in an Avengers cosmetics bag, of course) that had everything I’d need to stay fresh and comfy during the event. In a smaller pouch (also Avengers-themed), I had packed changes of chonies and a few other items for hygiene. I carried the two cosmetic bags in a mini backpack, along with a portable phone charger, a journal (for blog notes) and my wallet, keys and phone. In addition, I brought a throw pillow and Avengers blanket to have with me in the theater.
After getting dinner at the Hard Rock Café and chatting with costumed performers on Hollywood Boulevard, I did some prep for the costume I was wearing to the marathon: Valkyrie from “Thor: Ragnarok.” Then, I got to bed at a decent time, knowing I had to be up at 4 a.m. Ironically, however, the very same insomnia that I knew would easily keep me awake for three days of movies got me off to a rugged start for the marathon: I got only 45 minutes of sleep that night.
I spent more time than I should have learning how to do Valkyrie’s hair before putting the costume on, and I had to rush through makeup. When I arrived at the theater for the 6 a.m. check-in, I noticed that no one else had dressed up for this event, breaking from tradition (as MCU fan events go). So, I had gotten up at kill-me o’ clock for nothing. Oh, well.
After waiting in line outside to retrieve my event credentials (a large badge and a coupon card on a lanyard), I had my mini backpack inspected at the entrance. Then, I headed into the theater to begin my cinematic adventure. Donuts and coffee were being provided by Randy’s Donuts (as seen in “Iron Man 2”) and The Coffee Bean. And El Cap was handing out tote bags that contained a sleeping bag, toiletries kit, cap, souvenir popcorn tin, patch, coin, comic book and trading cards. They also gave us a free drink and a decorative popcorn bucket that was filled and came with two free refills. Later in the day, we got an “Endgame” McDonald’s happy meal, and I saved the little box it came in. (The second happy meal box in the picture is from Wednesday’s lunch, next to a juice bottle we got as part of a surprise midnight snack.)
On my way to pick up my tote bag, I was interviewed by El Cap reporters who were interested in my survival kit. After speaking with them, I headed into the theater to find my seat. Inside, a DJ was playing upbeat music and interacting with the crowd, trying to keep us awake and excited about the marathon. As it got closer to the 9 a.m. start time for the first movie, El Cap had a raffle contest, giving away tons of Marvel memorabilia. Then, staff members from event host Nerdist welcomed us to the marathon and introduced our opening feature film: “Iron Man.” (Each movie was introduced by someone from Nerdist.)
When the end credits rolled for “Iron Man,” an El Cap team member stood before the audience and let us know what time the next movie (“The Incredible Hulk”) would be starting. During the breaks in between movies, El Cap played tracks from the upcoming film’s original score. As a fan of movie music, I really appreciated that.
When “Hulk” was over, lunch was served: a six-piece Chicken McNugget happy meal from McDonald’s. I had enough time to visit Lolita and chug an energy drink during the lunch break, and then we resumed the marathon with “Iron Man 2.” After that, a staff member from the YMCA came and led us all in a round of stretches. He did that once each day to keep us from sitting for too long.
After we were nice and limber, Nerdist host Kyle Hill came out to introduce the next movie: “Thor.” During his introduction, he took questions from the audience about scientific elements covered in the MCU, such as the Einstein-Rosen bridge (aka worm hole) in “Thor.” He did a fantastic job of explaining complex science concepts, and it was equally impressive and entertaining.
After watching “Thor,” we were escorted to a row of food trucks for dinner. Each guest could choose one entrée, one side and one drink from The Falafel Factory, Taco Cartel, Jackfruit Café, Berlin, Richeeze or Food Travelers. I selected the chicken kebab tacos from The Falafel Factory and loved them so much that I got them again the next night.
Our next movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” started a little before 7:30 p.m. It was introduced by Sebastian Stan (Bucky/The Winter Soldier), who interacted with the crowd some and took questions from Nerdist team member Kyle Hill. His visit pumped up the crowd, whose energy had dropped from a 9 to a 4 by the time the fourth movie was over.
The last film of the day (meaning that it started before 12 a.m. April 24) was “The Avengers.” El Cap surprised us with a midnight snack (veggies and dip) and free coffee from The Coffee Bean.
At a quarter to 1 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24, “Iron Man 3” (a ridiculously underrated film, and my favorite in the “Iron Man” series) kicked off the next day of our marathon. Having gotten only 45 minutes of sleep since roughly 8:30 a.m. Monday, I was now starting to lose concentration. So, after the movie ended, I opted to take a 15-minute nap back at the hotel during “Thor: The Dark World.” However, I ended up hitting snooze several times and wound up taking a 45-minute nap. Sadly, I missed all but five minutes of that movie.
When I got back from napping at the hotel, breakfast was being served, courtesy of General Mills. We had our choice of Cheerios and/or Reese’s Puffs (I mixed the two – great combo!) and just about every kind of milk imaginable, from almond to lactose free.
Then, “Guardians of the Galaxy” played. I was happy that people were awake by then because I had missed being able to cheer and clap during the movies while a majority of the audience was asleep overnight. (That said, many people might not have even noticed, given their ability to remain in R.E.M. with machine guns roaring all around them in surround sound.)
“Captain America: The Winder Solider” played next. It was followed by “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which was introduced by Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill). During her interview with the Nerdist host, Cobie almost let out an “Endgame” spoiler. She caught herself and explained the near-miss with, “I had gotten out of the ‘Marvel fog’ that Joss [Whedon] creates to keep actors from giving anything away.”
Lunch (a McDonald’s hamburger happy meal with apple slices, yogurt and a cookie) was served before the next movie: “Ant-Man.” Then came “Captain America: Civil War,” which was followed by our food truck dinner break.
During the break, I visited Lolita again and downed another energy drink. When I got back from the hotel, the Nerdist host was introducing “Doctor Strange,” the movie I had most been looking forward to seeing on the big screen again because of its elaborate visual effects. I was already thoroughly enjoying the marathon, but this was an added treat for me.
We got our next celebrity appearance before “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” began, with Sean Gunn (Kraglin/On-Set Rocket) introducing the film. When asked who his favorite Ravager was, he named Jeff the Ravager, adding that his least favorite was Michael Rooker. (He named the actor rather than the character played by Michael, which is Yondu.)
I lasted through “Spider-Man Homecoming” (12:25 a.m. start time) “Thor: Ragnarok” (3 a.m.) and “Avengers: Infinity War” (8:25 a.m.) before needing another nap. I wanted to be sharp for “Endgame,” which was only three movies away by that point, and I was feeling really out of it. So, I skipped most of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” to take a 90-minute nap back at the hotel.
When I returned, our final paid meal was being served: a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin happy meal. I sat outside to eat and chatted with other moviegoers about how much fun the marathon was, and how excited we were for “Endgame.” It was a great feeling to connect with people who share my insanely deep appreciation of the MCU.
The last movie to play before “Endgame,” which was “Captain Marvel,” started a little after 2 p.m. Then, there was an hour-long break in between that movie’s ending and the introduction for “Endgame.”
During that waiting period, anticipation was at its peak. El Cap brought the DJ back in to get the audience primed, and then the Nerdist host surprised us with a multitude of special guests (in the picture, from right):
- Directors Anthony and Joe Russo
- Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige
- Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
- Executive producer Trinh Tran
- Editor Jeffrey Ford
- Composer Alan Silvestri
It was really spectacular to have the entire creative team introduce “Endgame,” and I’m glad they got to see some of the most devoted MCU fans possible hanging on their every word. I can’t imagine a better prelude to seeing that history-making movie.
Thank you, El Capitan Theatre and Nerdist! You gave this movie the opening night it deserved – and more!
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