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UPDATE (Dec. 22): I’m including a comment from the Holderness family: 

This is Kim Holderness. The wife of the man you have written about. Penn, no offense, is not organized enough to have saved seats. A well-intentioned friend had the idea. It was wrong. But Penn had nothing to do with this. You’ve published statements that are completely untrue. We have a well published email address. I suggest you use it when wanting to check facts or I don’t know… ask a question while writing about our family. I’m requesting you change you blog post to reflect the facts. Well, I guess there really wouldn’t be a blog post if you wrote “Man take family to movies.”

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ORIGINAL STORY (Dec. 21)

I was refreshing Fandango every 10 minutes waiting for those tickets to go on sale. And when the greyed-out “buy” button finally turned green, I was among the first in the U.S. to buy opening night, 7 p.m. tickets to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In mid-October — a full two months before the movie’s opening night — I, my wife and our two oldest kids were assured a spot in the IMAX theater at Cary’s Regal Cinemas for a movie that would sell out within minutes.

It’s very important to note at this point that these were not reserved seats. Remember this before moving forward.

On Dec. 17, my wife and I left work early, got our kids in their favorite Star Wars shirts, and made the 30-minute drive to Cary to get a good spot in line a few hours before showtime. We were about 30th in line when we arrived — not bad considering the theater seats about 200. It was looking like we’d have pretty good seats for a movie my family’s been excited about since that helmetless stormtrooper first popped up in that trailer over a year ago.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when we finally walked into the theater and turned the corner to find our seats only to find five or six of the premium rows — each 20 seats across and perfectly centered in the theater — marked off with poorly made name tags taped to each seat. And “guarding” the ends of those rows were adults (maybe 10 to 12 of them) telling people to move along because these seats were taken.

My moment of confusion soon morphed into anger when I realized what was going on. Whoever got to the theater early that day had brought with them these “reserved seat” signs and duct tape (it might have been painter’s tape … but I wasn’t paying attention) and made a dash to get them up before the rest of us walked in.

Go back to my second paragraph and re-read it. The tickets we bought did not reserve seats.

I was angry. Mostly for my kids (honestly), because despite my careful planning, we were going to get bad seats. But also for me, because, despite my careful planning, I was going to get a bad seat.

I sought out the manager. I never seek out the manager. But maybe five seconds into my calm explanation of what was going on, I understood very clearly what was going on. The manager had pretty much helped make this happen.

“Can they do this?” I asked.

“Uhm,” he said. “Hang on.”

He proceeded to talk to someone on his walkie-talkie. Are they still called that? After a brief chat, he turned to me and assured me he’ll “see what I can do.”

I returned to the theater, noticing other people starting to grumble about the situation, and decided to just pick a seat. Any seat. Name badges be damned.

“Oh, look Scott … we got a seat crasher,” a tall bro called out. I was immediately approached by said bro and an older guy with a white hoodie. They calmly, though bitterly, explained the situation.

“Yeah, this isn’t reserved seating,” I said.

“We’ve been here since 8,” the older guy replied.

“Yeah, and you got good seats,” I said. “The other 80 people in your group aren’t here.”

They sought out the manager. I motioned for my family go come join me, but two of the guys in the group sat on each side of me, to prevent my kids (ages 6 and 4) to join me. I gave up.

“This is eff’d up,” I whispered to the older guy. I didn’t say “eff.”

“Oh nice,” he answered. “Why don’t you punch a kid on your way back to your seats.”

I don’t know what he meant by that. He did take great joy in pointing out where my seats were, though.

And so I went back to my seat and sat with my family. The group next to me (back three rows) had been at the theater since 2. They were among the first to arrive.

The closer we got to the movie, the more those reserved seats filled up. Families, friends, some kids, humans in general … some arriving five to 10 minutes before the first trailers. I chatted with a woman in full Jedi gear in line for popcorn, and she was equally upset. She’d been in line all day as well and was relegated to the front two rows — she’d have to look up the whole time despite her careful planning. We were talking about refunds before the popcorn guy interrupted us.

Before the show, another manager walked up to the back rows and began handing out free passes for future movies. This was Regal Cinemas’ solution for the chaos they’d created.

Five minutes to showtime, I finally accepted my fate. I had bad seats — toward the back and far left — but I wasn’t going to let it ruin the movie.

Then he came in.

Joining the group — his seat reserved in the middle of the pack — was Penn Holderness. The Christmas Jammies guy himself. Han Bro-lo. Edit: Assumed mastermind of this whole plan (at least the beneficiary of it).

My wife had spotted him in the lobby before the movie earlier and noticed him with a camera. The Rant has playfully razzed his videos before. Others have been more vicious.

When we saw him sit down and join his group, it finally all made sense. The viral video guy had parlayed his local celebrity status to score him and about 100 others premium seats — the other 100 of us be damned.  (If, in fact, a CEO was behind this, my apologies. Next time they want to block out a theater, I suggest a Monday 2 p.m. showing). 

His movie-going experience led to this blog. 

And this video. 

And some fun dad Tweets.

And maybe some content for their TV show. 

And about $1,000 in free passes and refunds that Regal Cinemas will end up eating so this group could have the best seats in the house.

My experience led to this blog.

Now look, my family did love the movie. As for my kids, the seating debacle only miffed their parents, and they’re clamoring to see Rey and Finn at least two more times in the theater before we end up buying it.

One of those will be on the house.

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