Yesterday I attended entertaining and engaging 1:30pm screening of THE KING OF KONG at the Egyptian. The film tells the Rocky-esque saga of Redmond’s own Steve Wiebe, a highly talented but frequently frustrated competitive videogame player. The cinema was packed; in fact, I think the experience was especially satisfying due to the highly energetic and participatory crowd.
I would certainly recommend THE KING OF KONG to anyone looking for a fun, feel-good night out. This film should be seen in circumstances similar to mine — indeed, I can’t say for sure if it will hold up otherwise. I was pleasantly surprised by the full house, which may have to do with the local connection, but it should be said that though the film received a sizeable public interest piece in the Seattle Weekly, it recieved just one star from The Stranger, and acceptable, if small, capsule reviews from the Seattle Times and PI, from what I could amass with brief Google searching.
After the screening, I found myself wondering what grabbed the decidely diverse audience that came out on Memorial Day to see THE KING OF KONG. If the film was at a Landmark Theater (or, indeed, Northwest Film Forum) I might expect to share the cinema with a dozen or so 30-somethings, nostalgic for their glory days of classic gaming. The crowd — like so many SIFF screenings — was full of children, teens, seniors, foreigners, all cheering with enthusiasm equal to that of said 30-something gamers.
So I have to ask, what draws such a crowd for a show like THE KING OF KONG? It is possible to draw some parallels to a recent opening at NWFF, AIR GUITAR NATION, which also featured charming failed protagonists and a rousing soundtrack, benefitted from lively and involved movie-goers, and risked attracting only a niche audience. If the same amount of people who came out for THE KING OF KONG took a chance on AIR GUITAR NATION, we would have sold out over five shows opening weekend.
Admittedly, these are not the same movies — but I’m still curious, fellow KING OF KONG viewers. What caught your eye about this film? Is it just SIFF fever? I can vouch that the entire audience was not a competitive gamer as a youth or somehow related to the Wiebe family. Why did THE KING OF KONG fill the Egyptian — and where do all of you open-minded movie watchers go on June 17th?