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ISSUE 115 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/8/2002

Madness and the movies

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 8, 2002

“ Come support me in another of my crazy schemes, pleaded Pip Gengenbach in an email to all of his friends and acquaintances last week. Actually, it wasnt his scheme, it was the Act II® PopFest, and it was more of a fund-raising/Guinness record-breaking/popcorn-eating activity, but it certainly was crazy. On Sunday evening, after over 54 hours spent watching 28 movies in the Heights Theater, 12 people emerged as potential (Guinness has to give the official word) Guinness World Record Breakers. A check for $27,000 was also presented to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. A photo was taken of all the winners, to be put on special packages of Act II® Microwave Popcorn. Each winner also received a years supply of Act II® popcorn in the form of a fat coupon book, and a statuette in the form of an Oscar®. The popcorn company wanted to do something for the consumers to promote movies, popcorn, and family, said Morgan and Meyers representative Beth Witherspoon. (Morgan and Meyers is the public relations/ad agency that worked with Act II® on the event). The glut of movies and free popcorn was available to the public as well as contestants for the same $5 donation. All proceeds went to the Boys and Girls Clubs; Act II® fronted $5,000, over $11,000 was collected at the door, and the rest was contributed by the Weinert Family Foundation. Over 600 pounds of popcorn were served. By midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 28, about 95 people had pre-registered. Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Mar. 1, 34 people registered at the theater. The first movie, Stanley Kubricks Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, started at 9:45 a.m. There was a five-minute break after every movie, and fifteen minutes every three movies. There was also a short Laurel and Hardy film added in after the Rocky Horror Picture Show, at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning to get the festival back on time, as it was running almost an hour short after the botched copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that ran Friday morning. Act II® had placed 30 outhouses in the alley next to the theater to ensure that everyone could go who needed to go in the time allotted. I was very poop conscious, said Gengenbach. I thought, Ill be damned if I have to get up during a movie to go potty. Gengenbach stayed awake for over 57 hours for the event, and has the hash marks on his arm to prove it. He and his witness, Elizabeth Daniel, put a tally on their forearm for every hour spent watching movies. A picture of them (their arms, anyway) made it into the Pioneer Press. The two also walked away with four DVDs and two videos for questions answered during the breaks. The improv troupe Brave New Workshop acted as emcees for the event, entertaining between movies so people wouldnt fall asleep. Rebel Without A Cause was the hardest movie for me, said Gengenbach. That and The Shining, because they take place mostly at night, and Shining is rather stationary. 'Bridge on the River Kwai was the hardest one for me to get through, said Adam Bad Wound, one of the 34 registrars unable to finish. Bad Wound and his witness, who happened to be myself, made it through 38.5 hours (if you figure that we arrived to sit outside the theater at 7:30 a.m.) and 18 movies before being disqualified. An official came up after Raiders of the Lost Ark and said that five people reported that I slept, and we were welcome to stay and watch movies, but Bad Wound was out of competition. I dont believe I fell asleep during Raiders, but I really dont remember anything color about The Wizard of Oz, which ran at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Im not bitter about the disqualification. The sketchy part, however, is that the rules which were passed out at the beginning said nothing about witnesses sleeping or not. They clearly stated that participants could not sleep, nor stand, nor do anything until the closing credits ended other than watch. Witnesses had to stay in the theater the whole time as well, and had to keep a log. An entry was signed by witness and contestant every hour (a gong was sounded to remind people it was time), and at the beginning and end of every break. As far as we could tell (and I discussed this with Daniel before and during, who only missed 4 or 5 movies of the 27), witnesses could read, write, or sleep, as long as they were up at the gong to log in. It was not clear until just before Raiders that absolutely nobody could sleep. Its fair, however, because witnesses could be replaced. Many of our friends came down to support us and watch a movie or two, and we saw a group from Gustavus that had a revolving door of witnesses to keep contestants awake. (That particular group didnt make it; when they walked out during Ben-Hur around 11:00 am Sunday, the audience applauded them). The entire crowd was very cameradic and interactive, encouraging other contestants and applauding during key points in the movies. Our entire row did the motions to Greased Lightning during Grease, and there was thunderous applause when Harrison Ford appeared in his trademark fedora. Gengenbach and his temporary witness, Alan, a gentleman whose own witness had bailed, did a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for themselves during The Thing at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

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