What happens when you mix Star Wars and Zagreb? TCN’s Stuart, a man who has graced cinemas from Germany to Kazakhstan and Thailand, finds out…
My name is Stuart Jameson, and I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Being a Star Wars fan these days is a blessing and a curse, most notably because you don’t know how you’re going to be feeling coming out of the cinema after 120 minutes. Or in this case – 150 minutes. Or actually, closer to the three-hour mark thanks to the outrageously long advertisement reel that runs in Zagreb cinemas, almost to the length of the movie itself.
It’s been several years since I last frequented the cinema in my native land – are the pre-show adverts this long everywhere? It does get pretty bad when a Croatian man is screaming in a high-pitched voice in words I’ll never understand while three people dressed as god knows what jump around the screen selling a fruity flavour juice drink so sugary it’ll rot the teeth of the child you’ve not yet had. I’m subjected to all this waiting in eager anticipation of the next chapter in the Star Wars cannon – The Last Jedi.
Branimir Centar Cinestar was packed to the rafters last night for the early screenings of George Lucas’ episodic space opera, with the ever-swelling legion of fans grabbing early bird tickets to see what has happened to Luke Skywalker and chums since their last outing in The Force Awakens, two years ago. I was proudly wearing my Boba Fett T-shirt that doesn’t fit me anymore, slightly conscious that I looked like a man-child desperately clinging onto his youth, wondering how in the hell I managed to get myself a girlfriend. But hey – the geek shall inherit the earth. And I wasn’t alone, the foyer was full of old and young fans alike, all displaying their allegiances to either the dark side or the light. Zagreb Star Wars fans were out in full force. And may it be with you.
Of course, eagle-eyed viewers and those who haven’t been living under a rock will notice that an integral portion of The Last Jedi was filmed in Dubrovnik. TCN has recently been covering movies that have been brought to life in Croatia – as it seems Hollywood has its gaze firmly fixed on these shores as a quality filming location. The Last Jedi is no exception. All I have to do now is lurk around the film set until I get noticed.
Visiting cinemas abroad has been a mixed bag for me in the past few years, but it’s produced some memorable and entertaining moments and memories. I recall viewing Skyfall in the delightful Czech town of Olomouc in 2012 – so excited that I dressed as James Bond and had a small entourage of locals following me to the cinema, back in those foolish days when I was a staunchly patriotic Brit. I’d also been known to frequent bars in the area wearing my kilt, and when one character delivers the line “welcome to Scotland” as he nonchalantly blows away a bad guy with a double-barrelled shot-gun, I punched the air and whooped with delight. Clearly to the amusement of everyone present, it was greeted with laughter peeling around the stalls.
In Germany, I attended a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and found that if you don’t sit in the right number seat you’re going to get an earful from an angry German muttering something about organisation.
In Thailand – viewing Rogue One – we were required to stand up while the audience sang the national anthem, the image of their recently crowned king emblazed on the screen from the projector. And while watching Zoolander 2 in an empty cinema in Kazakhstan, the movie was so bad we were forced to do other things…
And on that note, I was confused when hovering over seat bookings for the Branimir Cinestar to discover the salacious choices of “love seat” and “love box” as potential options. What on earth goes on in a Zagreb auditorium?! Perhaps the same thing that occurs on the many park benches throughout the city, as young lovers look to other venues to express their lascivious affections? Thank goodness for Cinema. Most of the love boxes had already been taken, and believing the love seat to simply be a double chair with no armrest between, I made a cautious booking.
I used to hold a cinema card back in Glasgow. You paid about £13 a month back then, and you could see all the films your little heart desired. Sometimes I’d go in early in the morning, and I wouldn’t leave until I’d seen everything on show – even if it was crap. I’m looking at you, Sex and the City 2 – the first one was actually pretty good. But in the interim of seeing less than a film year as I wandered the globe, has it really changed so much in cinemas?
Last night as I settled down to view The Last Jedi here in Zagreb, I could cosy on up to my partner in an extremely comfortable seat, astonished as I examined (not without a little envy) the love boxes on the back row, privacy partitions separating each one! With the rest of the audience facing forward as those famous titles stretched into a galaxy far, far away and the blood curdling, goose-pimple inducing fanfare explodes from the sound system, what amorous delights could one be getting up to in a love box?! What a time to be alive. We live in a wonderful world.
Our only disappointment was we couldn’t get popcorn because the queues were too big. I’m British – we like queues – but not when the new episode of my favourite ever series was about to eject from hyperspace. And the best thing about it is – we’re going to be moving to an apartment directly opposite the cinema. You can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to be getting a love box and a stack of cheese nachos for some crap Wednesday afternoon matinee. Zagreb – you’re the gift that keeps on giving.
Oh, and by the way – The Last Jedi is fu*king fantastic.