Due to loading times only a few of the total 71 photographs I took at the The Hobbit - Battle of Five Armies World Premiere are shown below. Chose from the sub galleries on the right to see more photographs. Clicking on any of the shown thumbs gets you a larger version of the respective photograph.
Since the Battle of the Five Armies is the last film out of the six (including the Lord of the Rings films), I already assumed there would be tons of fans camping out way before the premiere taking place on Monday December 1st. I expected it to be perhaps two days. In order to ensure I get a wristband and to be upfront the barriers (what can I say I'm short) I flew into London on Friday early morning, at 7:05 AM to be precise. The plan had been to check out Leicester Square, check into the hotel, do a bit of sightseeing and once in a while re-check the situation at Leicester Square, just prepared to spend my night on concrete at any time.
Well, so much for the plan. The first thing that happened was an email I received when I still was at the Cologne airport. Euphorically my hotel informed me that they had upgraded me into a five star hotel due to maintenance issues. Oh dear! The main reason why I had chosen the Shaftesbury Piccadilly hotel was its closeness to Leicester Square, well knowing I needed a loo nearby, screw the five stars.
While on the Stansted Express I pondered how to find this new hotel and went with my gut feeling. Marble Arch tube exit it was; kind of an obvious choice considering the new hotel's name to be the Marble Arch hotel. Not too far from Leicester Square tube-wise, but too far for a loo break.
The second thing that happened? My Smartphone stopped doing what it is supposed to do, showing a map. So, there I stood at Marble Arch revolving around my axis wondering at which corner to start to search for my hotel. And again, it was my gut feeling, and perhaps the travel experience of years, pointing me in the right direction. Great Cumberland Place the road was called and I found it instantly. Only problem was, there were tons of hotels, all with Marble Arch in their names. Okay...
Thus, I decided to ask my way through and started with the noblest of the hotels that was nearby, the Cumberland Hotel. Entering the lobby, I felt somewhat displaced. See, I was wearing a fake furred jacket with a dragon around my shoulders (too bad there was no smoke coming out of its nostrils, would have loved to see those people's reactions), walking boots and otherwise looked more like a stray than somebody that would fit in here. Two worlds collided!
That was probably also the reason why I was fed with a warm cookie after I had asked for directions to "my" hotel. That wasn't the only cookie I received, because the friendly staff at the Cumberland sent me, you may guess, to the wrong hotel. The next warm cookie I received was at the Tree Hill hotel (Marble Arch said the outside sign).... In fact, it took me three hotels (all serving warm cookies) before I arrived at mine wondering if I had made a starving impression on people, and so full I could easily skip lunch.
Of course it was only 10:30 AM and I could not check in, only possible after 2 PM I was told. I left my belongings at the hotel, grabbed my camera, hopped onto the tube and checked out Leicester Square. Little did I expect fans already camping out, but, there they were. Only 18, mind you, but it was only Friday not even noon. So I got my number 19.
Naturally you cannot leave and return on premiere day once you got your number. You have to camp out to be fair to all the fans that do. Some of them had already spent the night from Thursday to Friday on Leicester Square concrete. I had no other choice than to join them.
And once more I felt a tad out of place, because they were all equipped with blankets, sleeping bags and tons of stuff to spend a night outside. I do not like to travel packed like a mule, so I decided in the afternoon to quickly check into my hotel, get my scarf and the foldable and insulating sitting cushion I had brought along. I cannot sleep anyways when not horizontally in a bed, so I figured I'd be spending the nights sitting and hoping for some entertainment to come along.
Oh boy, and entertainment we all got. In no particular order, we had the good encounters and the bad ones. Ranging from the drunks throwing themselves between the sleeping girls, to the concerned people wanting to help us outcast folks with food and clothes, to the very obvious drug deal going on in front of our noses and the one starry-eyed idealist trying to make us do better things than to camp out for a film premiere. All had the same in common - incomprehension, intolerance and even aggressiveness.
One guy got so aggressive that police had to be called. It needed three officers to arrest the man. One woman thought we were homeless people; right all 200+ of us! I was tempted to tell her that this was a homeless people gathering from across Europe protesting against the state of society. We could explain as much as we wanted, people had already made up their minds. They gave us chocolate cake, and one guy left a coat and a beanie. And for the first time in my life I really understood how handicapped people must feel when unwanted help is forced upon them.
By the umpteenth time a drunk threw himself laughingly between the sleeping girls showing off in front of his other two pals, my inner dragon made an appearance and I lost my temper telling him to p*** off. Something funny happened then. While the one still maintained his show-off routine, trying to insult me with poor German, the other two actually started to engage in a sober talk with the fans. In the end all three left behaving normally. There we go!
Of course, there were also the funny drunks. We were asked for what we were camping out. We said the Hobbit. He asked which Hobbit, we said THE HOBBIT, still no comprehension on the other side. One elderly guy was happy to have found company and spent the night with us along with a massive glass of Brandy. Or the woman that was so sparsely clothed that one of the fans asked her to maybe cover up. Her reply? I am covered, I am wearing boobs. Then and there, I seriously started to believe that we fans were the normal ones here.
A lot of people approached us also in a friendly way asking what we were doing. They smiled when we said camping out for the Hobbit premiere, but after they learned that that premiere was on Monday you could see directly in their faces what they were thinking about us and the shocked "MONDAY" they uttered afterwards told us the rest. People are no passionate anymore nowadays!
At some time on Saturday the security team around Paul appeared, letting us know that we would get our wristbands on Sunday morning. Great! At least one day in a bed. Sunday morning came and with it very early the security team. The official Warner Bros website had stated a wristband handout for Sunday around noon and a strict no camping rule.
However, the security team was desperate to get rid of us at an earlier time, since another premiere for early afternoon was planned at the Odeon cinema. We had already sorted us out number-wise at midnight to make it easier for security to give out the also numbered wristbands in order, but there was a delay.
Somebody had complained online that it was not fair because she would only arrive on Monday. So Warner Bros UK refused to hand out the wristbands. Did I already mention I love the London film premiere security around Paul? They sided with us, fought for the wristbands and eventually I got my number 18 wristband at 9:15 AM with the desperate plea not to re-appear at Leicester Square before Monday 11 AM. The wristband would be taken off of anybody who got caught before.
Number 18 you say, wasn't it 19? Yes, it was 19, but see at the London premieres the fans and the security work hand in hand. There are a couple of regular fans that have a list and get the numbers out in order of the fans' appearances. They also check whether you camp out or not. The ones that leave and don't return for the night get pushed back number-wise. That is why I got a lower number. Happily, I hopped on the tube to finally see my bed at my hotel at Marble Arch, not without noticing in passing that huge sign at Leicester Square tube station informing me about the Northern Line's strike on Monday.
My hotel went beyond and above the call of duty after they had learned about the hotel / loo problem and the camping out initiative on Friday. Secretly, I think they normally do not get as crazy folk as I am. Already when I checked in on Friday, they had surprised me with complimentary fruit and the offer to use a taxi to be paid by them to get to and from Leicester Square. The latter, I declined; the fruits I accepted readily. Now they offered me to get breakfast even at a later time. That, I refused, too. All I wanted was a bed. At 10:45 AM I sank into the blissful warmth of a mattress and blankets with the full intention to attend the TORN party at a pub near Leicester Square at 6pm.
Well, to make a long story short, I did not make the TORN party, because I was stuck at a Moroccan restaurant exchanging philosophies with a Moroccan family. That was too interesting to discard and I did not want to leave. I only heard afterwards that the party was quite packed and some fans more or less mobbed the attending actors. Good, I was not there, because I would have had a fit. Trust me, once my inner dragon is released, it is not a pretty sight. I just cannot help it disrespect is something where I see red.
Monday came and of course loads of fans had already gathered loosely around Leicester square way before 11AM, making absolutely sure not to put a foot on said square. Better to be safe. ;-) Because there were so many of us, security started to put us into groups and in order not to block any roads or other ways, we stood to each roads' side in pairs of two. From the air it must have looked like a mass demonstration. All side roads leading to Leicester Square were filled left and right with queues of fans. In our group we passed the time by singing various songs, most prominently of course the 'Misty Mountains' song.
Around 3pm we were let in and I chose to stay opposite the Empire's cinema entrance. A not too bad place to take pictures at as it turned out and a bit challenging to get not blurred pictures, since the pushing and shoving was at times quite intense. The photographs are quite colourful since behind us were LED screens put up showing the trailer and depending on what was on the screen it reflected in the actors' faces.
It was a great premiere but something was amiss, something I could only put a finger to when I sat in the plane back home on Tuesday. It lacked something the European premiere of the Desolation of Smaug had had last year in Berlin, something I thought would never be possible for a London premiere. It lacked the heartfelt warmth, which may have something to do with the not invited Kiwi dwarves and Warner Bros' handling of the situation.
I have come full circle now regarding all six of the films. The books have been a lifelong companion to me and will be in the future as I will re-watch the DVDs. Out of the six films I did three of the film premieres, the Return of the King in Berlin, The Desolation of Smaug in Berlin and now the Battle of the five armies here in London. I am glad to have been part of the journey and despite feeling a bit sad, I also feel a sense of achievement. Guess, I need to look for a new / old franchise now. Star Wars, you better deliver. ;-)
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