As production logos dissolved onto the screen, attendees crinkled plastic packaging while opening snacks in anticipation of an indie classic.
IU Auditorium opened its doors for the first time since March 2020 for a “Napoleon Dynamite” screening and cast panel with actors Jon Heder (Napoleon), Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico). The event was originally scheduled for April 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for months,” IU Auditorium Managing Director Maria Talbert said before the screening.
After laughing at Napoleon’s famous dance skit and applauding the use of Uncle Rico’s steak-throwing skills, cast panel mediator, IU Media School founding dean and current professor James Shanahan, introduced Heder, Ramirez and Gries.
Shanahan spoke to the three cast members about how the classic movie has impacted so many lives.
One individual said it inspired him to pursue video production and another said she watched the movie in school as part of a unit on bullying in her health class. Some attendees mentioned finding comfort in the quirkiness of Napoleon’s character.
The characters in the movie speak to everyone, Gries said during the panel. He said he feels most people relate to them.
“They’re universal,” Gries said. “They’re nostalgic in a strange way.”
Some attendees wore “Vote for Pedro” shirts, a shirt that Napoleon wore in the movie during Pedro’s student body president campaign. One audience member even sported the classic Napoleon perm.
Spencer, Indiana, residents Elliani Chanley, 18, and her mother Amanda Chanley, 40, said they purchased tickets for the event when it was still scheduled for 2020.
“We have been eagerly anticipating this for over a year,” Amanda said.
Amanda said she and her daughter Elliani saw the movie for the first time through Netflix when the company sent movies through the mail. The two are still big fans and now own the DVD, Elliani said.
Amanda said the last time the two were in an auditorium setting was pre-pandemic.
“I loved it,” she said. “I loved the people opening the doors for us, the ushers showing us to the seats.”