Three leggy Amazon warriors dressed in armor and attitude pose with moviegoers just to the left of the concession stand. A speedster in all red and lightning bolts on his mask passes people in the hall holding tubs of popcorn and oversized sodas. In the last row of the theater, a dark knight sits amid movie viewers sipping his Slurpee in ominous silence.
Just a few things to be seen on Nov. 16 during the kickoff of “The Justice League” screening done Moviecamp style at the AMC Classic Colorado Springs 10 theater. Based in Colorado, Moviecamp is a production team whose goal is to make going to the movies better. For just a little more than an average ticket price, the evening offers much more than the usual reserved seating. Ticket holders can take pictures with iconic characters, watch entertaining cosplay skits and play interactive trivia and physical games for cool prizes. They will also receive prints of original artwork by local artists.
“We kind of break down the barriers and we try to remind people to have fun at the movies. They’re allowed to cheer, they can laugh and have fun and everyone in the theater is kind of on that team,” said co-founder and emcee of Moviecamp Elijah Montoya.
The idea for Moviecamp originated when theaters still had midnight shows. Montoya, and co-founder Andy Adair, were among the people who stood in lines that wrapped around theaters, waiting to be let into midnight premieres. Montoya said that sometimes they would be there for three to four days, patiently waiting for the movie to come out.
In 2007, Adair happened to be first in one of those lines, just ahead of a guy who ran a website that marketed the idea of being first in line, called “First Showing.” The man wanted Adair’s place in line, but he was unwilling to give it up. Instead, they compromised, and entered a partnership that continued to allow the website to capitalize off the idea of being first in line, but left the physical part of it to Adair and his friends. Eventually, more people got involved, including Montoya, and they undertook the mission of entertaining the movie enthusiasts who waited with them.
“We started bringing video games, board games and other things we’d plug into the power outlets around the movie theater. And they were fine with that,” Montoya said.
Eventually their setups became more elaborate. Montoya said they often had couches and whole living room sets in line the first year they started Moviecamp. The theater gave them permission to play trivia and hand out posters to contestants. Hasbro gave them Transformers figures to hand out at the “Transformers” premiere.
“It wasn’t even a business at that time,” Montoya said. “It was just for the website. It kept growing and growing and growing, until the guy who ran the website got big enough to move to LA, and then New York.”
They stopped for a time because they no longer had access to free stuff to give away. But they decided to get back together in 2013. After the Aurora theater shooting, Montoya said there was a different feeling about movie going. Many of the Moviecamp people were involved in Remember Aurora and the Aurora Rise campaigns.
“That was a blow to to the movie community and the nerd community, all the moviegoers in Colorado,” Montoya said. “Because it was a tragedy that happened to us in our backyard, in our home.”
They decided to do Moviecamp as their own business this time, with the goal of making going to movies fun again. Instead of the one midnight showing for new movies, premieres now start around 7 p.m. and run every half hour or hour, depending on the theater. The Moviecamp experience fills the time that people used to spend waiting in line with interactive activities.
“We make it fun again,” said Megan Adair, wife of Andy, as she checked people in on Thursday. “I know that, especially lately, people just don’t want to come out to the movies anymore. We make it a game show, we make it fun, we give out prizes.”
That evening, artist Ben Worrell was on hand, giving away prints that featured the Justice League. Worrell attended his first Moviecamp event a year ago. He saw other local artists doing work for them and approached Montoya about circulating his work. Worrell writes and does the interior art for his own comic book. Moviecamp displays his work on Facebook and Instagram, which he said has led to small jobs and does local conventions and Denver Comic Con.
“So far I’m still pretty small scale,” Worrell said. “I’m not famous yet. I teach middle school and my students think I’m pretty cool. That’s a good start I think.”
Moviecamp encourages cosplay, and “The Justice League” premiere hosted various heroes. Several characters like Wonder Woman, Batman, the Flash and the Green Lantern populated the theater. Cosplayer Nicholas Whitman, dressed as Batman, said he started attending Moviecamp in 2015. He’d heard about it from a friend in high school and wanted to check it out.
“I like cosplay,” Whitman said. “I like to dress up, go to these events and win awesome prizes.”
Whitman said he has cosplayed as Spiderman, Ant-Man, Nightwing, Joker, Dr. Strange, Han Solo and Starlord so far. Moviecamp has become his official cosplay.
The next event will feature “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. Megan Adair said the Star Wars movies have been some of their biggest and best shows, including amazing cosplay and Jedi fights. She encourages anyone who loves the movie going experience to come check them out.