Opening Night of Alice Through the Looking Glass at the El Capitan Theatre

The organist plays prior to the film.

The organist plays prior to the film.

This week I went to the very first showing of the new film Alice Through the Looking Glass on opening night at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

While seeing any Disney film at this Disney-run location is always enjoyable, going on opening night has some definite extra perks!

But first, let me run through what anyone would get to see if they attend a screening of the film here.

As mentioned in a feature last week, when live action films play at the El Cap, they are frequently accompanied by a wonderful costume and props display downstairs from the theater – and this movie was no exception!

Starting by the interior theater entry itself, you could find this Alice costume surrounded by Frog Footman and Fish Footman statues:

IMG_7930 sm wm

But once you went downstairs, that’s where the real display was!

As per usual here, the props were on one side and the costumes on the other.

Entrance to the props exhibit.

Entrance to the props exhibit.

The Chronosphere prop.

The Chronosphere prop.

Props used by the White Queen.

Props used by the White Queen.

Props used by Time.

Props used by Time.

Costumes were on the other side of the room:

Time costume.

Time costume.

Red Queen costume and set pieces.

Red Queen costume and set pieces.

Mad Hatter costume and props.

Mad Hatter costume and props.

Returning upstairs, I went to a side concessions counter to pick up the items that accompanied my ticket package.

Because at the El Cap, there are several ways you can enjoy a film – first of all, you can simply choose a reserved seat – orchestra level or balcony level – from an online seating chart on their website and pay for that. Or you can choose the VIP option, which includes popcorn and a drink. But if you are lucky enough to order as soon as tickets for a movie screening are first announced, you may be able to get the VIP LE Pin package – which includes the reserved seat, popcorn, a drink and a special limited edition movie pin!

Last year, these pins were designed to look like movie tickets. This year’s series resemble movie posters.

Plus, while supplies last, the popcorn buckets here are specially designed to promote the film being shown – I still have my buckets from seeing Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland there along with my new bucket from this film!

If you arrive at least a half hour early to your seat, you also may experience the pleasure of live organ music being played on stage in front of the film screen. It’s a wonderfully classic way to enjoy Disney music prior to the start of the movie.

The theater also includes special decorations for the film.

Decorations for the film in the balcony.

Wonderland-themed decorations in the balcony.

And just prior to the film, along with Disney movie previews, there is a special light show unique to the El Cap.

The light show begins!

The light show begins!

That’s what everyone can experience (and why tickets to a film here are a bit pricier than to just any movie theater).

But when you go on opening night, there are even more bonuses!

This included a raffle to two lucky audience members who went home with several pieces of movie merchandise, a costume contest where the top three participants (determined by audience cheers) also won prizes, and a very special in-person surprise welcome from the film’s director, James Bobin!

Director James Bobin greeted the crowd along with his children.

Director James Bobin greeted the crowd along with his children.

All of this made for an absolutely worthwhile experience for the ticket price in my opinion!

Although probably the biggest treat for me was noticing the Disney celebrities sitting literally right behind me during the movie – legendary Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter (who, yes, after the film ended, I paid fannish obsequience to in my own nerdy greeting way! Sorry, I was such a dork, sir, but you are a park legend!) and movie historian Leonard Maltin.

As to Alice Through the Looking Glass itself? Well, the night before I re-watched my blu-ray of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to have that fresh in my mind to compare… and my resulting mixed feeling was that the new film had lost some of its muchness.

That is to say – while it is actually probably a better *movie* than the first (with a better script – clearly with touched-up comedy flourishes from Bobin that made me laugh out loud) it is for me not a better *film* than the first. Meaning, while this is a quite fun adventure-fantasy-comedy that I think people will certainly enjoy, it is missing that quirky Burtonesque style as well as some of its Wonderlandishness for me.

It felt like a Muppets movie (Bobin directed the previous two for Disney) mashed with a Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which after seeing this I definitely would love to see Bobin direct one for this series as he’s got a deft hand for the action-comedy combination and decided visual flair) with touches of The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol thrown in for good measure!

There was plenty to enjoy in the story and it was a visually gorgeous movie, but I don’t think this one will have quite as much repeat viewing for me that the first film, while having a lesser script in my opinion, still retains for its Burton and Wonderland charms.

However, I’m still glad I got to experience it at the El Capitan!

Have you seen a film at the El Capitan Theatre? Do you think it’s worth the extra cost for all the perks at this location?

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