How NZ's ultimate film geeks will be avoiding the election: 24 non-stop hours in an Auckland cinema

The movie marathon will offer respite from the election.
The movie marathon will offer respite from the election. Photo credit: Supplied

Binge watching? That's for amateurs.

Every year, hardcore movie fans gather in Auckland to melt their brains with 24 straight hours of cinema. It's not for the timid.

The 24-Hour Movie Marathon is the baby of Auckland film producer and Incredibly Strange Film Festival founder Ant Timpson. This year, the 24th annual marathon takes place on 14 October at the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale.

Timpson calls it "the Mount Everest of cinema-going experiences".

Its roots go back to his first year at Otago university, when he ran a weekend movie marathon and "charged people to watch VHS tapes on a large monitor that I hired".

At first, the marathon was just overnight, but soon expanded to fill an entire day. It moved around Auckland cinemas, including the Civic Theatre and Crystal Palace, before finding its home of nearly 20 years in Avondale. For a while, Timpson also took the show on the road to Wellington until it all became a bit much.

He says marathon attendees are "a very particular type of person".

"It's tough, man. It is a tough endurance test.

"It's an assault on the synapses that takes a good week to recover from."

The main driver of the marathon is Timpson's love for movies and the communal experience. A general admission ticket costs about $75, or viewers can bring their own comfy beanbag for an extra $25, and settle in for the ride.

"It's very self-serving. Films I want to watch with a crowd and basically a giant living room kind of vibe," Timpson says.

"There is a real sense of community. People have been coming to this thing for decades now. They've all grown up together."

Steve Skeet, co-host of the Ludicrously Specific podcast, has been attending the marathon since 2004.

"I've literally met lifelong friends though the marathon, and movie geeks are legitimately some of the nicest people on earth," he says.

Patrons at the 24 Hour Movie Marathon.
Patrons at the 24 Hour Movie Marathon. Photo credit: Supplied

Johnny Andrews, host of the My Movie DNA podcast, has only been going for three years, but says he's hooked.

"People fly in from all over New Zealand for this event - it's like Christmas Day for movie lovers - and so there's a real reverence and respect for the experience."

Bevan Shortridge, a veteran of 22 marathons, says good preparation is important.

"Get a good sleep the night before, have a good meal the day of. Things I usually never manage to do."

Some of the regulars prep for the movies by... watching more movies.

"I now tend to 'warm-up' by spending a day with the group of movie-geek friends I've met at the marathons, re-watching previously shown films as both preparation and nostalgia," Skeet says.

The marathon is rated R18 and the film line-up is always top-secret, ranging from classics to the obscurest of oddities.

"The whole point of the secrecy is that it's enclosed in time for those people who actually made that effort," Timpson says.

"That's the fun of the marathon - never knowing what you are going to get," Shortridge says.

So how does one make it through 24 hours of what Timpson calls a "marathon for the mind"?

Stretch your legs between films, stay hydrated and pace yourself, the regulars say. And of course, it helps to not mind excessive screen time.

"As a slightly obsessive film nerd, I watch anywhere between 10 and 15 films a week anyway," Andrews says.

"The biggest surprise was just the variety of films that played - every genre you can imagine, big-budget, low-budget, independent, and everything in-between."

That doesn't mean attendees love everything.

"There have been films that have played that I've never wanted to see again," Shortridge says. "However, I also discovered one of my favourite films at a marathon."

Once the festival gets into the wee hours, things get strange. Timpson says the "pre-dawn movie" is always a tricky pick to make.

"That is when people are literally falling apart."

"Your brain starts to melt and you lose grip on reality as the films start to get weirder and weirder," Andrews says.

Shortridge says he doesn't get sick of movies by the end: "Just tired, mostly."

Timpson's playlist is carefully curated, leaning toward genre films, B-movies and "Z grade trash".

"We're talking about films that are made by complete nincompoops who just have no understanding of cinema. But there's a joy in that. … There's a collective enjoyment from the audience that we're in on the joke."

Film fanatics say just like a runners' marathon, plan for the long haul.

"Don't overdo the junk food," Skeet says. "Movies and popcorn go hand-in-hand, but 24 hours with only sugary and salty snacks and you will not enjoy the last few hours.

"By 3am, a lot of attendees can be found face-down in their beanbags, power-napping through the breaks.

"First and most important, shower, wear deodorant and pack a change of socks. The nerd funk is strong in a theatre after 24 hours."

"Time your caffeine intake," says Andrews. "I make sure not to drink any coffee the morning of the marathon. Then sometime in the early hours of Sunday when I'm starting to lag, I grab a coffee from the barista in the lobby and - ZING! - I've got a second wind for some more brain-melting movies."

It wasn't intentionally planned to fall on Election Day this year, but Timpson says the marathon can be a "great escape".

He doesn't, however, want people posting a TikTok or other social media during the experience.

"You post and you're out," Timpson says.

"If you want to find out, then get your arse along and experience it. These other guys just suffered through 24 hours of non-stop movie watching. You don't get to look at a list (of films) and say, 'ehhh, I've seen it.' You've got to experience it.

"This is a shrine. It's a church for us."