Midnight showings used to be the best place in the world to find obsessive weirdos. They were like nerdy church services, attended by only the most zealous and uncontrollably excited. Tickets would be purchased weeks or even months in advance, and talking during a preview could get a theatergoer strangled. Well, maybe not strangled but incessantly shushed and victimized by bad jokes and spineless threats. The whole thing was glorious in its own strange way. Unfortunately, those utterly bizarre and fun nights no longer exist. They’ve been throttled by good old American ingenuity.
We’re a nation of copiers. We see a good idea someone else has, and we copy the shit out of it as fast as possible. In some ways, this is overtly a good thing. It’s the reason why all fast food restaurants have drive-thrus, practically all pizza places deliver and most people bathe regularly. Good ideas have a way of spreading, and midnight showings are a great fucking idea—when used correctly. That’s the problem really. At first, midnight showings were underutilized. They occurred (for new movies) like twice a year, and getting a ticket either involved great organizational skills or a willingness to pay more than market value. Now they’re so bloated and overused the very purpose they were invented has been drowned out.
Midnight showings were conceived as a way to reward the most ravenous consumers and offer a two hour block in which their anticipated movie could be enjoyed alongside the small contingent of people who actually gave a shit as much as they did. They were niche activities, like nudist weekends or snake-handling conventions. Every fat dude with a Jabba The Hutt mask in a thirty mile radius was honored for one night with an evening to argue about who shot first, and within that small window of time, those fat dudes with stains on their signed R2D2 medium t-shirt didn’t have to feel like the weirdos. They were among friends. Sadly, over the past few years, the policy that allowed that escape has changed to welcome every Han, Luke and Lando with even a passing interest into the screenings.
The result is an atmosphere filled with people who, on average, care far less. What was once a single theater filled with 200 costumed screamers has become an orderly collection of 800 somewhat indifferent theatergoers, many of whom only decided to come earlier the same night out of boredom. The entire vibe is gone. With each 12:01 showing of What To Expect When You’re Expecting and each last minute 12:06 addition of The Avengers, a little bit of everything magical and fun about midnight showings dies.
Studios seem to think more of these evenings mean more money, but it’s not like consumers are issuing ultimatums that they’ll either go Thursday night or not at all. I’m sure an overwhelming majority of people kinda excited about The Dark Knight Rises would just go on Friday if they didn’t have any other option, and it’s not like the die-hard fans want them there. The first couple of midnight Harry Potters I attended were like carnivals of scary fanaticism. By the last one with the crazies spread out over ten theaters, almost no one was in costume, and the energy level felt like the second quarter at a basketball game.
We’ve come too far to go back to the days when only a couple movies a year warranted one screening at each theater at midnight, but for the love of God, could we show a little bit of restraint? Could we cut back some to increase the exclusivity and excitement again? I wish there were eighty percent less midnight showings. I miss being surrounded by weirdos.
What do you think? Do we need more, less or the same number of midnight showings? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below…
(Homepage slideshow image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock)