Rumors — later proved false — that Apple’s (AAPL) newest retail outlet in Manhattan was going to open at 6 a.m. and give free MacBooks to the first people in line drew a huge crowd on Friday. Early arrivals braved snow flurries and freezing temperatures for up to 14 hours.
By the time the store finally opened, as scheduled, at 6 p.m., the crowd had swelled to more than 1,600, as hand-counted by Gary Allen of ifoAppleStore . His blow-by-blow report describes the moment the doors swung open:
At 6 p.m. the security team motioned the crowd into the store with the admonition, “Slow…slow,” and we moved forward. I looked to my right at the huge crowd watching our entrance, and then went inside to a deafening roar–clapping and yelling and music–to grab our T-shirts and poster tubes. Three stories above, staffers crowded the rail and rimmed the staircase to provide applause and excitement. As we entered we were handed a white T-shirt box and a black cardboard tube with the limited-edition poster. The Apple employees tried to tell us, “Check the tube top….” but it was nearly impossible to hear because of the noise.
On the inside of one of the tube plastic endcaps was a sticker indicating your prize–or nothing. The crowd mostly made for the third floor where you had to redeem their prizes, or they hung out on the ground floor. And then everyone spotted Mary J. Blige on the second floor, hanging out with Whoopi Goldberg. They both signed autographs and Blige posed for photos. It seemed that most people were more interested in the prizes and celebrities than the rest of the store, and there seemed to be little buying.
Hundreds of photographers and several videographers documented the event, but none captured the madness better than the hand-held 4 1/2 minute video shot by Sidney San Martín and Matt Dowd and posted on YouTube. I’ve pasted it below the fold.