In a month where the average person is looking forward to movies like Snakes on a Plane and Beerfest, there is one premiere that most moviegoers will never even notice—Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: The Conqueror of Shamballa. The highly-anticipated ending to the Fullmetal Alchemist TV series, currently being released by Funimation and airing on Cartoon Network, was shown in select theaters as a special engagement on August 25 and 26.
If you scan the list of theaters though, you won’t notice too many big cities. In fact, you’ve probably never heard of most of the towns, considering the movie is only being shown in a few small chains. Still, that didn’t seem to stop some serious Fullmetal Alchemist fans. Before the screening I attended in Fort Collins, Colorado, I talked to a girl in line who had driven up that morning from Roswell, New Mexico just for the movie. An eight-hour drive to see a movie? That’s dedication.
The other folks in line didn’t have to haul themselves that far, but some had shown up an hour early just to wait in line. By the time they started letting people into the theater, the line was wrapped around the lobby. The screenings on the second day were even more intense, with cosplayers showing up almost two hours early, clutching plushes and squealing at everything Fullmetal.
Interestingly, after chatting with the people in line, it appeared like roughly one-third of the attendees had already seen the movie. Despite that, they were eager to see it again both to show their support for the series, and to watch something that was professionally done. As one fan said, “I love the series; I could never be happy just watching bad fansubs.” Considering Conqueror of Shamballa is set to hit DVD shelves in mere weeks, the large crowd was a nice surprise.
In fact, most of the fans were excited to just be there, having only learned of the showing through word-of-mouth. The vast majority had been informed by their friends, who in turn either saw the theater list online or had been notified through college anime club mailing lists. Despite how little the screenings had been publicized though, the turnout was pretty impressive.
With the relatively small amount of publicity given to the premiere, I would have been surprised if there were more than a handful at any showing. Given the large turnout at my local theater though, maybe it just shows that the anime community is stronger than anyone would’ve thought. Imagine what could have happened if a bigger marketing force was thrown behind the endeavor. Sold-out theaters? Multiple screenings? More plush-hugging cosplayers? I was beginning to be skeptical about the willingness of anime fans to lay down money to support their hobby, but tonight proved me wrong, at least in my corner of the country.