Nothing truly bonds hundreds of young women like collectively watching Peter Kavinsky, the swoon-inducing love interest of Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” films, do something dashing onscreen — and releasing a wave of ear-shattering screams in unison.
Most “To All the Boys” fans will have to wait until Feb. 12 to watch “P.S. I Still Love You,” the anticipated second chapter of the teen rom-com trilogy, when it premieres on the streaming platform. But on Friday, for one packed night at the Paris Theater in Manhattan, some superfans waited as long as five hours in line for a chance to see the film early and on a big screen, surrounded by others experiencing the same emotional joy ride.
It was a rare communal experience for a streaming-site film; the audience usually extends to how many people you can cram into your living room. Netflix has recently expanded its reach into theaters with longer runs of some of its Oscar contenders, like “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” — but this was the platform’s first fan screening at the Paris since signing a long-term lease in November with the theater, the last single-screen site in New York City.
In “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” based on the first novel in Jenny Han’s best-selling young adult series, 16-year-old Lara Jean Covey panics when every love letter she’s ever written — personal chronicles, meant for her eyes only, of her emotions for five boys — is sent to their unwitting recipients.
Amid the chaos, she falls for Peter Kavinsky, the subject of one of her letters. In “P.S. I Still Love You,” their budding relationship seems to be going great — until another letter recipient, played by Jordan Fisher, comes back into the picture. Cue love triangle.
The first film, released in August 2018, became a rewatchable hit that launched its Lara Jean, Lana Condor, into the spotlight, and turned Noah Centineo, who played Peter, into Netflix’s go-to rom-com lead (he also starred in “The Perfect Date” and “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser”). Alongside “Crazy Rich Asians,” which was released around the same time, “To All the Boys” also marked a shift in Asian-American representation onscreen: Condor, who was born in Vietnam, plays one of the few Korean-American characters at the forefront of a romantic comedy.
“I feel like this is a different kind of rom-com than I’ve seen before,” said one fan waiting in line for Friday’s screening, Cynthia Wong, 32. “I love that there’s an Asian-American female lead. Growing up, I never really got to see that.”
Fans lined up on 58th Street early Friday afternoon to snag first-come, first-serve seats. Some brought their copies of the novels and lingered in the house after the credits rolled to get Han’s autograph and selfies with her.
The first 100 in line were rewarded with iridescent notebooks — and once inside, the most detail-oriented superfans competed in an intense round of “To All the Boys” trivia, with hoodies and signed posters at stake. (There was zero hesitation from the audience on even the most obscure challenges: Peter Kavinsky’s Instagram handle, or Lara Jean’s room number on the school ski trip.)
Outside before the screening, many fans said they were hooked on the franchise because they could relate to Lara Jean — a hopeless romantic who would rather bury herself in novels about love and John Hughes movies than face the prospect of the real thing. She represented “somebody that we would have known or would be friends with” in high school, said Sara Garcia, 24, who was waiting in line with her roommate, Carolyn Guerrero, 25.
And, well, staring at Noah Centineo for a couple of hours couldn’t hurt, either.
“We all deserve a Peter,” Liana Bratro, 22, said. She and her three best friends — they were the first in line — started their own book club to read Han’s trilogy after watching the first movie. They already have a slumber party planned for February, so they can watch the film at 3 a.m. when it first drops online. (“I’m Team Peter,” her friend Ashley Librera, 21, added. “But Jordan Fisher ….” She trailed off and raised her eyebrows.)
The group had bought tickets to see Centineo speak at an event uptown later that evening, but skipped it when they heard about the screening. They ended up getting the best of both: Centineo, Condor and Anna Cathcart, who plays Lara Jean’s feisty little sister, Kitty, showed up to surprise the audience before the movie.
Tayler Deggendorfer, 22, recently moved to Brooklyn from Oregon and wanted to take advantage of the early showing, an opportunity that wasn’t very common back home.
“Now I can tell my best friend that it’s good before she gets to see it,” she said. Her friend still lives in Oregon, a three-hour time difference away — but they watched the first movie together “repeatedly,” so seeing the sequel together is nonnegotiable. “We’re trying to plan a Skype date to watch it.”
Bridging the time zones to watch with others will be well worth it, if Friday’s experience is any indication. Having a group to squeal with when Fisher appears in a sharp white suit, to laugh with when Kitty continues her meddling mischief, to scream with every time Peter Kavinsky makes an entrance — of course — added another dimension to a story rooted in sisterhood and young love.
“I love sitting at home on my couch and being warm and cozy,” Garcia said. “But there’s just something a little bit more magical about seeing it on a big screen with a bunch of other people, too.”