Paramount won’t go with midnight showings when the summer’s most anticipated movie debuts on May 8th. Normally with any heavily lusted after film it’s standard practice to start the first reels at 12:01 am, allowing hardcore fans to pack in and enjoy the camaraderie of sleep deprivation in order to be the first to feast their eyes on the latest flick. But Paramount, perhaps realizing that most Trekkies are getting up there in years and generally go to bed shortly after Matlock, has decided to start their midnight showings for Star Trek at 7pm instead.
At least that’s the word from Coming Soon, where they say that Paramount will begin running the movie nationwide at 7pm on May 7th, even though it technically doesn’t release until May 8th This might seem like a good idea, everybody likes a good night’s sleep, but it’s not and I’m here to tell you why.
When you walk into those 7pm screenings and look around, do you know what you’re going to see? You won’t see fans. Sure you’ll see a few fans mixed into the crowd, maybe even a higher percentage than normal. But it won’t be like those great, fan-packed midnight screening. Maybe you saw Lord of the Rings that way or Star Wars. I did. I still remember the troops of costumed dwarfs and the rather normal conversations I had with a wood nymph. At Star Wars there were lightsaber duels and the guys in front of us running Empire Strikes Back on their laptops. The When Yoda throws away his cane in Attack of the Clones, the applause was deafening and weirdly uniting. In fact the newly CGI’d Muppets antics were too much for the guy sitting behind me, he fell out of his chair cackling and rolled down the aisle. Fans showed up early, in numbers, and built impromptu communities together, right there on the sidewalk or in the aisles of their movie theater, confident that hey it’s just us, nobody’s going to mind if we’re dressed like Tom Bombadil’s Merry Men.
None of that happens at 7pm. It can’t happen at 7pm. Setting the screenings at 7pm makes them easy to attend. It allows in the casual fans, the curiosity seekers who would never go to the trouble to attend a midnight movie but heck, why not load the kids up in the car and go at 7pm? The fans will be there too, but now it’s not just them, and that means scaling back and blending in.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the casual moviegoer. I love and embrace the casual moviegoer. I see almost every movie with the casual moviegoer. But anyone who has been to a proper midnight event knows what I’m talking about. Whether by intention or not, they almost always turn into something special. Nerds gather round and geek out together, and when the movie plays they grok it together too. They’re on the same wavelength. Everyone gasps and applauds in the right places. Everyone gets the inside jokes. Cell phones are turned off, noisy kids are left home, and one audience unites to enjoy this one thing, because they’re all there and in it together because they made the extra effort. The big, geek-event midnight showing is the one night a year when every movie theater in the world is suddenly transformed into its own localized version of the Alamo Drafthouse. If you’re in Austin, you get that every day of the year. The rest of us, we have to grab on to those great, geek moviegoing moments whenever we can.
That does not happen at 7pm. It can’t.
Jokes about geriatric Trekkies aside, from Paramount’s perspective this may be exactly what they want. It’s no secret that a big part of their push with this film is to launch Star Trek as a new brand that will bring in the casual fans. Midnight showings don’t bring in the soccer moms and douchebag club skanks. 7pm showings do. So while I’ll bemoan the loss of what could have been a transcendent, Trek-fan moviegoing experience, you can’t really blame them for it. It makes sense. Star Trek is about to make a warp jump out of the niche black hole its falle in and back into mainstream Hollywood success. Who isn’t rooting for that? We Trekkies will just have to settle for enjoying the movie. That’s not such a bad consolation, is it?