Still Flying: Fans Flock to Movie Theater Seven Years After Tv Show’s Cancellation

Posted on October 24, 2010


Not to brag or anything, but I totally got an A on this story for journalism.

The title shot flashes on the screen in a crowded theater. The audience explodes with applause. This is not your typical movie screening, and this is not your typical audience. The people that filled the Arcata Theatre Lounge on Sunday evening were Browncoats, diehard fans of the science fiction television show Firefly, and subsequent movie Serenity.

Joss Whedon, creator of TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse, premiered Firefly on Fox Network in 2002. The show is set 500 years in the future, and follows the renegade crew of small spaceship, who can probably best be described as space pirates, on their adventures around the galaxy, or “’verse,” as they call it in Whedon’s world. Whedon tells The Oregonian, “I’d say it’s a space adventure that involves the lowliest people in the most mundane of circumstances getting caught up in something giant and epic—without lasers, aliens, or force-fields to protect them.”

Unfortunately, after experimenting with the show’s timeslot and airing some of the episodes out of order, Fox stated that the show wasn’t getting enough views and had Whedon end production of Firefly. Only 11 episodes were ever aired.

“And then the fans started rallying to our case,” said Firefly executive producer, Christopher Buchanan, “people on the internet went wild trying to have the show resurrected”. The Browncoats wrote the network, and wrote other networks, asking them to pick the show up. They purchased ads in newspapers and on TV, trying to gain support for the show. They held viewing parties, trying to get the show more views, more fans, and more media attention. Buchanan said, “Our fans, when I say they were ready to march on the network, I’m not exaggerating.”

The outcry got the attention of Universal Studios, and in 2004, Serenity, the motion picture follow-up to Firefly, went into production. “It’s pretty extraordinary when you consider that this never happens,” said one of the show’s stars, Gina Torres, “we’re the Cinderella of movie-making, of TV shows.”

That fact, that cancelled TV shows simply do not get made into movies, is part of what drew Browncoats, as if guided by an occult hand, to the theater on Sunday evening. Five years after the Serenity premiere, fans around the world still gather periodically for parties, conventions, and screenings of the movie.

Music from the show is playing as the audience streams into the theater. Most of those entering unabashedly sing out loud. The more timid hum along, but it appears that almost everyone knows the songs.

There is a trivia contest before the movie starts, and the master of ceremonies, Craig, stands at the front of the stage reading questions and giving out prizes. Among the prizes is a box set of the only season of Firefly, “which, I’m sure you already have your own,” Craig says, “but, you know, the holidays are coming up…” The audience giggles.

When the lights go down and it’s time for the movie to start, a deafening silence falls over the captive audience. The crowd reacts to each scene as if it is their first time watching, and at the same time like they know each shot by heart. They laugh uproariously, cry openly, and watch, mesmerized as the story unfolds.

A man sitting to side sips his beer and whispers the words to almost every line. When a major character dies, a girl in the front puts her arm around her friend next to her, and they grieve together silently.

The credits roll, the lights start to come up, and the crowd gives a standing ovation. The noise of their applause and screaming reverberates around the room.

“We are extremely grateful for the fans, because they’re exactly what keep us flying,” says Morena Baccarin, one of the stars of the show, in an interview with SciFi Network. Seven years after the show was cancelled, the audience streams out of the theater, and it seems they are flying still.

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