Monday, April 15, 2019

'I took Game of Thrones leave': South Africans stay awake to watch the 8th season premiere of Game of Thrones on M-Net at 3am at Nu Metro cinemas as show's conclusion is set to shatter rating records.

Winter is here and they all arrived ready as large crowds turned out in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg on Monday morning at Nu Metro cinemas across South Africa to watch the 8th season premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones drama series on M-Net (Dstv 101) together on the big screen shown at the same time as in America.

By 4am, #GameOfThrones trended in South Africa on social media as the top hashtag, followed by simply a string of names rounding out the entire top trending list that would be familiar to fans of the show: Bran, Jamie, Sansa, Cersei, Jamie, Dany, Arya and Jon Snow.

To celebrate the start of the final season of 6 episodes of the hugely popular medieval-like fantasy series, M-Net teamed up with Nu Metro and the Diageo's Johnnie Walker whiskey brand to hold cosplay cinema screenings across the country at 03:00 at the same time as the episode was shown in the United States, before the broadcast again at 22:00.

Before gathering in packed cinema theatres, guests had the chance to snack on flapjacks, croissants with a choice of fillings, order a range of speciality coffees including teas and hot chocolate types, pick sweet confectionary snacks from a smorgasbord of mini-dougnuts, chocolate truffles, cupcakes, chocolate brownies and fresh fruit skewers, or try the new limited-edition White Walker by Johnnie Walker whiskey.

Leonie Molentze from Hout Bay who dressed up as the feared Night King, leader of the White Walker army, said "I'm an absolute Game of Thrones fanatic. A bunch of friends and I follow it every single week. We have watched all the seasons up to this one so we just love it".

"My costume and make-up took about 8 hours, which I have been doing throughout the day so I haven't slept. And I'm going straight to work from here," she said.

"The one thing I'm looking forward to seeing are the reunions that are supposed to be happening, which I hope will happen. I'm looking forward to the battles, especially Sandor Clegane, I want to see my Hound beat his brother and I want to see the Night King kill a few people".

Mavo Sitongone from Rondebosch said he didn't sleep and woke up but stayed awake "because I've been waiting for this moment for weeks".

"With Game of Thrones I feel like every scene of the show just captures me. There is never a dull moment with this show and everything that happens - you just keep question yourself - and every scene is just so emotional and interesting".

He said he entered the competition to watch it at the cinema "because I knew I was going to wait up to watch Game of Thrones anyway because I was going to watch it live on the DStv Now app, so I thought why not just come to the cinema? And I thought let me just enter."

When he heard he won to attend he said "I was so excited because you know M-Net always goes big with their events so I knew we would maybe get some expensive champagne and free food and I thought definitely I'm coming to this even if at 3 o'clock in the morning."

Fazielah Williams who dressed up as cult-favourite Daenerys Targaryen, also known as Khaleesi and Mother of Dragons, said "I'm one of the biggest Game of Thrones fans in Cape Town and I decided to dress up because this is the final season and the last chance to go all out".

Asked if she would stay awake or go to work, Fazielah said "I took Game of Thrones leave. So I took the next two days off to recover and to keep up to date with all of the Game of Thrones media coverage in the press".

She said she loves the series and the character. "I think it's mostly about strong women; they really bring those storylines to the fore, and whether its Cersei, or whether its Daenerys or even Yara, there are three proud,  powerful women who come to the fore in the show."

She said she's looking forward to seeing "what are Jon and Daenerys are going to do now that they find out that they're related and he's got the stronger crown".

Episodes of the entire final season - especially its premiere episode and epic finale - are expected to shatter TV rating records globally.

Despite almost two years since the last episode, ratings for every season in an extreme rarity for a TV series in a trend that usually sees declining viewership, kept growing and improving on each previous season, together with shattering viewership for illegal downloads as well.

Since 2011 when Game of Thrones started it kept adding millions more viewers as a TV series on linear broadcast who discovered the George R.R. Martin created story through watching it on DVD box sets and video streaming services.

Then there's also the "end"-effect: Audiences flock in massive numbers to the conclusion of well-told visual stories as seen with things like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises and again with the record box office pre-sales for Disney and Marvel's concluding Avengers: Endgame film that will be released later this month.

Besides its linear timeslot of 22:00 on Mondays on M-Net episodes of Game of Thrones will become available on MultiChoice's DStv Now Catch Up service as well as on its subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service Showmax that also carried the library carousel of the previous 7 seasons.

The 6-episode season will be followed by a 2-part "making of" documentary feature film that chronicled the production behind-the-scenes of the end of Game of Thrones.