Two days, nine films

To be a couch potato or an Ironman participant? Every weekend, it’s the same difficult choice for most of us when it comes to leisure time.

Not this weekend or next, though.

AMC’s Best Picture Showcase returns to three metro Atlanta multiplexes this (long) Saturday and the following (even longer) Saturday. The challenge, should you choose to accept: Seeing all nine films nominated for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards back-to-back-to-back-to — well, you get the idea.

That’s 1,128 minutes of sitting and watching over two days (“The Tree of Life” just makes it seem longer). At $60 for both days, it’s a bargain price to see nine first-run movies. Plus, there’s a $5 gift card to use at the concession stand each Saturday.

The cost of a small popcorn at one of the participating theaters, the Colonial 18 in Lawrenceville? $5.75. Gulp.

But coming off as an awe-inspiring combination of cinema smarty pants and Ironman at your neighborhood Oscar party Feb. 26? Well, priceless.

“The Showcase is pretty tough,” acknowledged 99X.com film blogger Jon Lamoreaux. “There are a lot of people who get really excited to do it and are totally pumped in the beginning.

“And by the fourth [movie], they are like ‘Oh, my God ...’”

Oh, my God, the fourth and last movie on Saturday’s lineup is “The Descendants.”

If the chance to see George Clooney in a lush Hawaii setting in what could turn out to be this year’s best actor-winning performance isn’t sufficient inducement to stick it out for that long, there’s also this: The chance to see Clooney, period. (He wears shorts. A lot!)

Actually, other than bragging rights, there’s nothing that says a person has to see every movie in the Best Picture Showcase. Tickets, which can be purchased for one or both Saturdays, allow the holders to come and go as much as they please.

“You’ll be given a lanyard and that becomes your pass in and out,” said AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan. “You can go out and get a bite to eat and make a phone call. Maybe even take a nap. ...”

Napping might become more of a factor Feb. 25, when there are five films on the lineup (an Oscars rules change meant no one knew how many films would be nominated this year, making this sixth annual Best Picture Showcase a bit more complicated to plan). Noonan wouldn’t say how AMC decided what order to show films in, although some decisions seem obvious: Both Saturdays kick off at 11 a.m. with movies that, if not specifically kid-themed, arguably are more in tune with morning showings (“War Horse” this Saturday and “Hugo 3D” on Feb. 25). Meanwhile, it will be slightly more than an hour before midnight in metro Atlanta on Feb. 25 when the ninth and final film, “Midnight in Paris,” runs its closing credits.

And some decisions seem slyly funny: Is it pure coincidence, for instance, that “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is immediately followed by a silent, black-and-white movie, “The Artist”?

One thing AMC does make clear: No outside food or drink is permitted inside the theater. If you’re not willing to spend next month’s car payment on 10 hours’ worth of concessions eats, it’s wise to scout out the area around the theater for other options and figure out which movie (or parts thereof) to skip. At the Colonial 18, a host of fast-food options, chain restaurants (Chili’s, IHOP, Steak ’n Shake), Starbucks and even a Hooters are all within a short walk or drive. Inside the theater, you could apply that $5 gift card toward a large popcorn and drink ($13.25 at the Colonial 18) — an admittedly pricey choice that comes with the added benefit of free refills.

But it also comes with some potential pitfalls. Take it from this reporter, whose stomach ultimately rebelled against that all-popcorn-and-soda approach during last year’s Best Picture Showcase.

By the fourth movie (“True Grit,” in this case), it really was like, “Oh, my God ...”

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Academy Awards preview

AMC Best Picture Showcase

11 a.m. Saturday and Feb. 25. $30-$60. AMC Colonial 18, 825 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Lawrenceville; AMC North DeKalb Mall 16, 2042 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur; AMC Parkway Pointe 15, 3101 Cobb Parkway, Suite 201, Atlanta. 1-888-262-4386, www.amctheatres.com. (Two-day passes cost $60 and are available only at the box office of participating locations. One-day passes — $30 for Saturday and $40 for Feb. 25 — can be purchased online.)

The schedule

Saturday: “War Horse” (11 a.m.), “Moneyball” (1:40 p.m.), “The Tree of Life” (4:10 p.m.), “The Descendants” (7:30 p.m.)

Feb. 25: “Hugo 3D” (11 a.m.), “The Help” (1:20 p.m.), “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (4 p.m.), “The Artist” (7:15 p.m.), “Midnight in Paris” (9:05 p.m.)