By Aly Semigran
Updated November 18, 2011 at 02:37 PM EST
Credit: Aly Semigran
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Some said they arrived at 5 p.m., a full seven hours before they could hand over their ticket — purchased two weeks ago — to get into last night’s sold-out midnight screening of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. Or the sold-out 12:06 a.m. screening…or the sold-out 12:11 a.m. screening…or the sold-out 12:16 a.m. screening. The United Artists Kaufman Astoria theater in New York City, like so many other theaters around the country, attempted to accommodate Twi-hard demand with a multitude of options slotted well past midnight. (A tip of the hat to any movie theater employee that works on nights like these. It cannot be easy.)

As a newbie to the Twilight midnight showing experience (and oh, is it an experience), I arrived at 10:30 p.m. It was pretty obvious I had zero chance at getting a good seat — the lobby and theater area (pictured) were packed to the brim with (mostly) girls in their late teens and early 20s (though I spotted a few reluctant boyfriends here and there), all out far past reasonable bedtimes and curfews.

A Twilight midnight screening is a group affair. Unless you’re the lone reporter who won’t stop asking everyone questions, you travel in packs with friends and relatives who adore the series as much as you do. For many, it’s a tradition, like it was for Queens resident Faiza Fatimah, who was celebrating her 20th birthday by seeing Breaking Dawn with the same two close friends she’d seen all the other Twilight movies with.

The mood at the Kaufman Astoria was excited, but incredibly well-behaved and patient. (Way to go, youths!) No one was willing to risk missing the premiere of this long-awaited movie by starting a foolish Team Edward-Team Jacob brawl (though there was one group of friends debating inside the theater when someone suggested that Taylor Lautner is an awful actor because Abduction was so awful. That’s a pretty damning argument in support of Team Edward if there ever was one.)

It wasn’t a shock to find that Edward-Jacob allegiances were split, but it was somewhat surprising that everyone I spoke to unanimously, unabashedly loved the Breaking Dawn book. I’d labored under the false pretense that even fans of the franchise hated the Bella-and-Edward’s-baby-gets-imprinted-by-Jacob ending. They don’t. (They also have no problem whatsoever with the book being split into two films.) Katherin Arias of Amherst, N.Y. told me that Breaking Dawn is the best of the series because “it wraps everything up nicely. No questions are left unanswered.” Arias, like so many others, cited the honeymoon scene, in all its feathery, bed-shattering glory, as the one she was most excited to see. One fan simply referred to it as “The Scene.”

After I was ushered into my screening, a group of cousins (including one who had traveled from Philadelphia so that he could see it with his Twi-hard relatives) kindly insisted I sit with their group to discuss all things Twilight. (And hey, I got a good seat, after all! Thanks gang!) Of the group, 24-year-old Natalie Rentas, a Team Edward supporter from the Bronx, said she “loved the descriptions in Breaking Dawn, more so than the other books,” and noted that she was more eager to see this movie than the other installments. “I’m nervous and excited to see it,” she told me. “This feels like my movie.”

With Twilight experts by my side (Natalie informed me that she’d read Breaking Dawn four times) I was prepared… well, as prepared as one can be for a jam-packed Twilight midnight screening. The moment the lights dimmed, the theater erupted in applause, a running theme of the evening early morning. The crowd was mostly disinterested in the opening trailers — the preview for The Grey didn’t exactly have the brand of werewolves they were looking for — but the spot for Kristen Stewart’s Snow White and the Huntsman received wall-to-wall cheering and a universal decision: “We’re seeing that!”

Of course, that excitement paled in comparison to the reaction to the Summit logo’s appearance on screen, the sign that the two-hour cinematic experience was finally upon us. There were gasps (Bella’s wedding dress, Bella drinking blood to keep her demon spawn alive), screams (the epic vampire-werewolf showdown, the violent, disturbing birth sequence), cheers (“The Scene,” Taylor Lautner losing his shirt, natch), “D’awww”s (Edward referring to Bella as “Mrs. Cullen”, Stephenie Meyer’s cameo), laughter, both unintentional and otherwise (the wolf pack meeting, the imprinting), sniffles (Edward’s wedding speech, Bella and Jacob’s reunion), and an unrelenting amount of sighs and swoons. It was clear that at this screening anyway, the fans were as absolutely off-the-walls crazy about the movie as they were the book. (Natalie reassured this for me when she exclaimed, “That was amazing!” when the closing credits started to roll.)

Despite some moviegoers leaving slightly droopy-eyed and worse for the wear (one cried, “I can’t believe I have work tomorrow” — finally, a sentiment I could truly relate to!), the audience as a whole was buzzing as much on their way out of the theater as they were when they walked in. Amongst the chatter, I heard friends telling one another which scenes were their favorites (the wedding and the honeymoon sex scene were clearly the reigning champs) and others promising that they were seeing it again later today.

For now, however, it was simply time to go home and dream while visions of brooding vampires, talking werewolves, and imprinted human-vampire hybrid babies danced in their heads.

Did you attend a Breaking Dawn– Part 1 screening yet? Share your experience in the comments section below!)

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