Grosvenor Lock-In Night: The Lord of the Rings

When the Grosvenor’s staff came up with the idea of Lock-In nights, I’m not convinced they were entirely sure what they were getting themselves into. As the votes came in and the winning trilogy for their first all-night session became apparent, there must have been a moment where they looked at their prospective working hours and slowly began to weep. Still, not liking to disappoint their fans, the fine people of the Grosvy followed through and, sure enough, this past weekend Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings was screened to all comers in its entirety.

Okay, not quite its entirety. They couldn’t show the extended editions that several fans insanely requested, but you can hardly blame them; the Grosvenor did still have to show other films this week! But with tickets selling out at £20 per person (or £50 if you and a friend wanted to get comfy on one of Screen 1’s back row sofas), the night still provided much promise; three excellent films, a good time spent with other cinema lovers and, for those who survived, even a complimentary breakfast!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One did not simply walk into the Grosvenor! Not unless you wanted to end up like a hobbit with only some humble lembus bread to get him through the journey ahead.

Some people clutched pillows, seeking to save their neck from a night of major screen-strain. Some spoke proudly of their Pro-Plus supplies. Others, however, gave in to the inevitable and turned up armed with sleeping bags and wearing pyjamas. I personally came prepared with a duvet for keeping cosy (I wouldn’t need it, Screen 1 was as hot as fires of Mount Doom!) and a bag containing a spare pair of trousers (No, I wasn’t just really excited, they were for lounging purposes, you dirty beast!).

But the overtly comfortable amongst us only made up one part of the crowd. Other fans were determined to be anything but relaxed in order to display their love (and, hopefully, get their hands on the night’s coveted ‘Best Costume’ prize).

Two ladies looked like this:

Another had crafted this:

And it wasn’t just the girls having fun; in the lobby a pair of hobbits were topping up their snack supplies:

Heck, even Peter Jackson himself turned up to celebrate the occasion:

Not common sights by any means, but I had always expected this to be a night of firsts. Never before had I come to the cinema with bedding; never before had a sofa on which to spend my evening; most of all though, never before had I seen The Lord of the Rings.

Wait! Don’t kill me! Stop throwing those rocks at me! I know I work for a film site, but one of my co-workers hasn’t even seen The Breakfast Club! Please, no-arrrrgh! …Honestly though, I’m aware of the magnitude of what I’ve just said, but please – hear me out. It is true; until this past weekend, I had not sat through the entire Lord of the Rings, but this was not out of a snobbish desire to be different. It was simply because I hadn’t found the time.

Flashback to 2002. The cinema release of The Fellowship of the Ring had already passed me by, but – by the time The Two Towers was hitting screens – fifteen year-old Paddy had heard enough to be excited. I booked a ticket with my friends and eagerly sought out the first film in my brother’s DVD collection the morning before the screening. The problem? He only had the extended edition. Barely had the hobbits left The Shire by the time I had to rush to the pictures. I saw the second film, but resolved never to see the third before I’d watched both of the first two properly. Sadly this day had never come. Until now!

Returning to 2010, I took my seat, looking to the screen for our evening programme. It was only when seen in written form that the true scale of my mission became apparent. “Oh, the first one’s only three hours?” one friend commented, glancing the projection in front of us. Only?! Now, don’t get me wrong; like everybody reading this, I have always been aware that The Lord of the Rings films are not short, but hearing the words “only three hours” regarding the running time of just one film really hit home the sort of trilogy we were dealing with. This was an 11pm to 9am epic! There was now no doubt in my mind; this was to be a mammoth undertaking.

If you would like to see the programme in its full glory, click the image below.

And so it began! But of course, this article isn’t really a review of the films themselves, more a review of the entire Lock-In experience. So, what can I tell you?

Well, first I must sadly confess that despite the four hours I’d slept in the afternoon being added to the four I grabbed before my early morning flight to Glasgow, my body somehow didn’t register having had the eight it needs to fully function. During The Two Towers, my attention started to wane and I had to make a painful decision; I took a tactical nap through the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

“Sacrilege!” – you surely say, but this being the one film I’d seen before, it seemed like a smart choice; one that would prepare me for the trilogy’s sure to be awesome conclusion. However, when a five minute interval kicked in about ninety minutes before the end of The Return of the King, I could sadly only summarise what was occurring as follows: “The bad guys are fighting the good guys at a big castle. Meanwhile, the owner of the castle (note the lack of name), has gone mad – I think? He was trying to burn somebody… maybe his son?!”

As it turns out, this was a fairly accurate assessment, but when Aragorn and company rocked up to save the day on a ghost ship that I had no recognition of, I soon realised that I must have dozed through slightly more than I thought! Who on Earth is this chap?!

Yet this should by no means to suggest that I didn’t enjoy my night at the Lock-In. It was fantastic to be able to see the films on the big screen, especially having missed it first time round. The effects still hold up for the most part and the sound design is truly incredible; there’s nothing quite like the terrifying screech of the Ringwraith assaulting your ears from every angle!

Most of all though, there’s also nothing quite like a good laugh and watching the films with this crowd meant that there were plenty of them; pretty much every time Orlando Bloom spoke, in fact. Biggest group chuckle probably went to Captain Obvious’ declaration that Aragorn’s plan to distract the enemy, keep Sauron’s eye on them and generally make sure people are looking the wrong way could accurately be described as “A diversion!” This is a battle plan, Legolas, not the world’s easiest game of taboo! It was good to know I wasn’t alone in my assessment of his acting “talent”.

There were a few downsides. Arranged by a member of staff who had since moved on from the cinema, the night’s “Costume Prize” was disappointingly nowhere to be seen. Similarly, the quiz sheets distributed at the start of the evening were too easily forgotten and would have been better off replaced with a more vocal question and answer game to entertain the audience between films. A final pain – though no fault of the Grosvenor staff – was that during The Return of The King‘s infamous neverending conclusion, I really needed the loo. But y’know – you live, you learn… you wee yourself a little bit.

When the last film finally came to a close (albeit for what seemed about the seventh time), one of my friends could only muster enough energy to mutter “never again” – but I wouldn’t go so far. The Lord of the Rings may be an ambitious all-nighter, but its definitely a challenge worth undertaking at some point in your life. And the Lock-In itself? Ignoring small organisational glitches, a resounding success – though the fact that the brave soul manning the concessions stand all night (I salute you, sir) apparently sat through five films before we’d even finished our third probably says something about the need for a shorter trilogy!

And they have obliged. With the first three Die Hard films rumoured to be the Christmas line-up, the crowds are sure to turn up to spend the night in vests and no shoes. It may be the closest you ever get to the John McClane 4-D experience and I endorse it with a firm Yippee Ki-Yay!

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