CATEGORIES Movies
On Thursday, starting at 11 a.m., select Regal and Rave Cinemas across the country did a special all-day "Twilight" marathon, showing the four "Twilight" films in order ("Twilight," "New Moon," "Eclipse," and "Breaking Dawn - Part 1"). These were followed immediately by a 10 p.m. screening of the newest (and supposedly last) installment, "Breaking Dawn - Part 2." With the series coming to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to attend the marathon, to capture the mood of Twi-hards who had come out to celebrate the final film in the franchise. However, instead of traveling to a theater in a major metropolitan area, I decided to go to the place where "Twilight's" massive fandom was born and raised and discussed excitedly at book clubs: the suburbs. It was at the Rave Cinemas at the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, Connecticut, where my fate was sealed.

While I was picking up my special laminated lanyard, which would allow me to enter and exit the theater all day (just in case that Wetzel's Pretzel's urge was too strong to resist), I heard a woman talking into her cell phone. She appeared to be in her early thirties, and super jazzed to be there. "I already know what food I'm going to eat," she said. "I'm in." I turned around and introduced myself. She told me her name was Terry and she was from the area and did this kind of thing all the time. It went back to when her parents took her and her sister out of school so that they could see "The Empire Strikes Back" on opening day. "It's lucky I had off work," she told me. "Because I would have taken off." She was wearing pajamas and had a blanket with her and one of those U-shaped neck pillows you use on really long plane rides.

When I got into the theater I spoke to a disabled woman, whose motorized wheelchair was parked in the flat concrete slab between the two sections of seats. Her name was Laura and she was absolutely thrilled to be there. Describing herself as a "diehard 'Twilight' fan," who read each of the books twice, she looked up at me and said, "I wish it didn't have to end."

Sitting in front of me were a long cluster of women who came together, with ladies in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. They were led, it seemed, by a plucky woman named Shauna, who had already done this kind of "Twilight" marathon for the last three movies. Two of the women she was with had met each other at a midnight DVD release part for "Breaking Dawn - Part 1." One of them won the costume contest that night for dressing up like the Kristen Stewart character, Bella Swan. While nobody was dressed up at this marathon, a few women snuck out in between movies and came back with "Twilight" T-shirts from Hot Topic and quickly put them on.

While the crowd was mostly made up of women, there was one guy, Dan, who had come with his girlfriend. When I asked him if he was dragged here, he said, "Yeah... but I don't mind." The only other guy I spotted, Robert, was in and out all day. But when he was in the theater, he was with his sister, who had already forced him to watch all the movies on DVD.

Soon enough, the first film began. Arguably the most naturalistic and performance-driven of the bunch, it was greeted with a smattering of applause, like when sexy vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) first makes his appearance. The second film, "New Moon," has a sequence where Bella mopes for four months straight and was met with a much more muted response, save for the moment when equally sexy werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) takes off his shirt, which was accompanied by so much exaggerated swooning that I could have sworn Elvis Presley had risen from the dead and was somewhere in the theater. When I asked the ladies in front of me why "New Moon" didn't get as much of a response as the first film, one of them explained that most everyone in the auditorium was Team Edward, and the second movie is, "Kind of a Team Jacob thing." Oh. Well that explains it.

In between the second and third movies, I spoke to two teenage girls who had skipped school to come with their parents. Sure, today was a half-day, and one of the girls said she was doing her homework between movies (she really was!), but there was something special about parents bringing their kids to these movies. One of the mothers, Sam, told me that she loves Pattinson. When I told her I had interviewed him a couple of months ago, she almost fell out of her chair. "He was smoking his electronic cigarette the whole time," I confessed. "It wasn't too exciting."

The third film, "Eclipse," one of the more stylish and action-packed entries, got the crowd going a little bit more. They applauded more regularly, particularly at the big cliffhanger ending (although the thing I giggled at was when werewolf Jacob says, "This isn't a lifestyle choice, I was born this way." Put your paws together, Jacob! Literally!).

When "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" was underway, you could tell that the crowd was re-energized. They hooted and hollered and clapped throughout the entire lavish wedding sequence. You could also tell their commitment to the series when there weren't fits of laughter during the risible scene where the wolves telepathically communicate with each other. There was a fair amount of time before the fifth and final film started, so I went up and spoke to a woman of Puerto Rican descent who said that, despite the movie's lack of Catholic themes (due to the author's devout Mormonism), that the characters, even the bad ones, try and change to be better people. "It's got a positive message," she said. A very young girl told me that she hoped the fifth movie would keep all the things she loved from the book, but also have, "Something a little bit different." I told the women sitting in front of me some of my ideas to jazz up the series like giving the wolves fitted corduroy blazers and have George Clooney provide their voices or hiring Suri Cruise to play Bella and Edward's rapidly aging daughter. In turn, they told me about some of the more bizarre "Twilight"-related products on the market, including unofficial "Twilight" sex toys (yes, apparently they make those).

As the marathon event began to wind down, I realized that somehow, throughout the course of the day, I had been transformed. I was now part of the Church of Twilight, whether I wanted to be or not. When I thanked the crowd for their help, I got a round of applause and someone took my photo. "Let's give it up for 'Twilight,'" I said. "And for ignoring the responsibilities of our life today!" They loved it.

The fifth film begins with the only proper title sequence in the entire series, and everyone's name got a huge round of applause (I was alone in giving props to usually dignified British actor Michael Sheen). Similarly, every joke got huge laughs and every death, in the anticlimactic climax, was met with a chorus of "Oooooohhhhh"s (apparently it was quite different in the book). When it was finally over, I asked one of the teenagers who had stayed home from school to sum it up in one word. She looked at me, took a deep breath, and said, "Ohmygod." I didn't ask her if that was a good ohmygod or a bad ohmygod. Quite frankly, I was too tired to care. This vampire needed to get back to his crypt.

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