On Sunday April 14, the final season of Game Of Thrones will premiere on HBO. This past Wednesday, HBO held a massive premiere event in New York City to celebrate and say goodbye to this landmark series, and I was invited to hop aboard the Dragon Wagon bus from Boston to New York City to attend the event.
Inside, I, along with the other 28 passengers—a mix of journalists and contest winners and their guests—checked in and signed our waivers. Breakfast had been laid out for us—a selection of coffee, water, fruit and pastries. While eating and waiting for our adventure to begin, we got to roam around the store and look at all the cool Game of Thrones related stuff they had set up, including an Iron Throne, Hodor’s door, and some costumes from the series. (Kristian Nairn, Hodor himself, had visited the store the day before but I was unable to attend that event.) There was also a large selection of cool AT&T-exclusive Game of Thrones cell phone accessories and Pop figures displayed for purchase (the red dragon scale Apple Watch band looked pretty tempting).
I, of course, took the chance to claim my rightful spot atop the Iron Throne.
Once everyone was checked in, we headed outside and boarded the bus. Each seat contained a bag full of Game of Thrones swag, as well as a house sigil pillow. We were also handed a pamphlet with the schedule for the day’s events as well as a lunch menu, plus a Dragon Wagon lanyard.
— AT&T Boston Flagship (@ATTBoylstonST) April 3, 2019
We were then informed that we had a special guest joining us. His name was Quinn, one of Lady Mormont’s loyal soldiers, and he was going to serve as our host for the bus ride. Once we started on our way, they started showing fan-favorite episodes of the series on the TV screens, starting things off with the cheery Red Wedding episode. After each episode, Quinn assured us that had he been at these battles, some of our favorite characters would still be alive—and while he was at the Battle of the Bastards, he had been knocked unconscious early on and was unable to help Rickon. Also between episodes, Quinn would ask us some trivia questions and give out swag as prizes for correct answers. While the questions were just True and False, Quinn asked people to explain their answers, so the questions ended up being quite tough, and unfortunately I didn’t win any of the cool swag, which included pop-up and hard cover books, Funko and collectible figures, a mug, a plush direwolf, a coloring book, and more.
About halfway through the trip, we stopped at a rest area to stretch our legs. As we re-boarded, we chose from a selection of delicious, fresh sandwiches/salads and drinks to consume on the bus.
A couple hours later we were in NYC, pulling up to the HBO headquarters. Just before we got off the bus, we were handed portable phone chargers, to ensure that we wouldn’t run out of battery for the day’s main events.
We took a group photo outside of the bus and then walked to the HBO building.
— AT&T Boston Flagship (@ATTBoylstonST) April 3, 2019
The lobby was massive, with all of the house sigil banners hanging from the ceiling, and posters for various HBO TV shows on the walls.
We made our way up the elevator to the 14th floor, to the executive dining room, where there was lots of food laid out for us. There was also a station where you could get your hair and makeup touched up using the new Game of Thrones line of cosmetics. And by the window was a selection of various Game of Thrones merchandise to check out.
The huge boardroom had an amazing view overlooking the city. There was music playing in the background and I couldn’t help but think, if The Rains Of Castamere starts playing, I am out of here!
We had some time to relax, chat, have a snack and sign some NDAs for the screening.
We then re-boarded the bus and headed for Rockefeller Center. While en route, we were handed another lanyard, to gain access to the Fan Zone, as well as our ticket into the premiere screening.
As we approached our destination, the Game of Thrones theme started playing on repeat over the bus speakers, to help get us psyched (as if we weren’t already!).
We made our way down the busy street to the Fan Zone, a mini red carpet directly across the street from the actual red carpet into the premiere. I took a spot front and center against the railing and set up my video camera. For the next few hours this was going to be our home as we hoped to catch a glimpse of some of our favorite stars (spoiler, we definitely got more than a glimpse!). Behind us was a giant Iron Throne.
— Game of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) April 3, 2019
While we were waiting for the celebrities to arrive, they handed out even more swag. This time, some limited edition pins:
We could see all of the black cars pulling up to the red carpet, and you could sense by the volume level of the screams who must be getting out. The folks in charge did an excellent job of getting the celebs to make a trip over to the Fan Zone before they headed into the press area. Nearly everyone came to visit us!
It took a little while for the celebrities to start showing up, but once the floodgates were open, it was like a non-stop flow of all of our favorite characters, living or dead, making their way to greet and take selfies with the fans. I am not a selfie expert, and quickly abandoned my attempts in favor of normal celebrity photos, but here are my two epic fails of the day:
It was amazing how many cast members were there. Only two folks that we saw exiting their cars didn’t make it to the Fan Zone—Jason Momoa and Kit Harington. The latter literally walked over from his SNL rehearsal to the premiere just before it started, and then headed back as soon as the screening began.
Since I was focusing more on photos, I just placed my video camera on the railing in front of me and left it there recording the whole time. I’ve edited out most of the downtime, but you get some nice close-ups of clothing instead of the actors’ faces when they get close by to us. The video below should give a sense of the excitement and frenzy of our mini red carpet in the Fan Zone.
In general, it felt like the celebrities were happy to be there interacting with the fans. There were some fun moments with the actors—such as when Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy) talks about people betting that his character will die in the premiere, or Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) giving everyone high-fives, or Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) flapping her dress like a bird as she walks away.
I also took lots of photos of all the celebs we got to see.
After all the celebrities had arrived, we walked down the street to Radio City Music Hall for the premiere screening. As we entered the theatre, they checked our tickets and did a bag inspection. In the lobby, we grabbed some free bottles of water and boxes of popcorn, and then made our way to our seats. All of the folks from the Dragon Wagon were seated in the first two rows in the first mezzanine section, which had an amazing view.
While we waited for the show to begin, there was someone playing Game of Thrones music on the pipe organ, and screens showing various footage from the show.
When the lights went out, we could hear a humorous conversation between Arya and Sansa as they discussed how they would deal with people who didn’t turn off their cameras and cell phones. Then an HBO executive took the stage, and talked about how the show first came about, and the successful gamble that HBO took on the series. He thanked many of the behind-the-scenes folks who have contributed to the show’s success over the years, and then welcomed series creators David Benioff & D.B. Weiss to the stage. They also thanked many people, including their wives and families for all the uprooting and long hours they had to deal with over the past decade. Then they welcomed all of the cast to the stage. After taking a bow, the actors returned to their seats for the episode screening.
With the speeches and seeing such a large number of the cast members together in one place made this event feel like the perfect goodbye and send-off for such an amazing series.
We then watched the first episode of the final season on the big screen. However, since we signed those NDAs at HBO headquarters, we aren’t allowed to talk about the episode. That said, it was great, and there were quite a lot of laughs from the audience as well as a few audible gasps. So audiences are in for the usual treat. I look forward to the episode actually airing so I can finally talk about it with other folks!
On our way out of the theatre, we were handed pins to remind us not to say anything about what we saw.
When we re-boarded the bus, our seats were once again adorned with new swag. This time, a copy of the Game of Thrones Clue game. I’m so excited to try this out as Clue is one of my favorite board games!
They also had some delicious pizza waiting for us—with the choice of pepperoni, veggie or cheese—as well as three flavors of Ice Breakers mints to choose from. We watched one more episode of the series before things went quiet so folks could try to get some sleep. I was busy catching up on posting my Fan Zone photos to Instagram.
We made a quick stop at the rest area before finally arriving back in Boston around 2am!
As we got off the bus, we were handed even more swag, this time an Alex and Ani bracelet and a Game of Thrones lipstick. They were also handing out some of the leftover trivia prizes, so I finally won something…a copy of the Game of Thrones Mix Tape Volume II.
HBO once again outdid themselves with this premiere event. I feel very thankful and fortunate that I got to be a part of this big send-off for Game of Thrones. I had an amazing time both on the Dragon Wagon as well as in the Fan Zone and at the premiere. HBO did an excellent job planning and executing this event, making sure that every possible need was met and that we were well fed, and made us feel like VIPs the whole time. My Dragon Wagon experience will make these final six episodes of the series that much more special. I can’t wait to see how the series ends…who lives, who dies, and who sits atop the Iron Throne! Well, in Westeros…I already know who sits on it in Boston!