Harry Potter. The Lord of the Rings. The Dark Knight. What movie did you see at your first midnight release?
If you’re a Millennial, chances are you’ve been to one – if not many – midnight movie releases. You know the excitement. You’ve probably looked forward to midnight with giddy eagerness, keeping yourself caffeinated enough that you won’t fall asleep halfway through and spill soda down your newly-acquired Quidditch robes. If your adolescence was anything like mine, midnight movie releases featured heavily.
Midnight, however, isn’t good enough these days. Many theater chains have now started offering earlier and earlier showtimes. Instead of having a midnight premiere, most of my local theaters are offering showings as early as 8 PM. From a business standpoint, I can see how this makes sense. The theater doesn’t have to pay additional staff to stay until 3 AM, and having these screenings during regular business hours diminishes certain security risks. Additionally, there are many people – much like myself – who as adults have to work early on Friday mornings and can’t afford to stay up until 4 AM. If it wasn’t for these earlier showings, I likely wouldn’t see these eagerly anticipated films until Saturday or Sunday.
Nevertheless, I can’t deny that we’re losing something by slowly cutting out midnight premieres. There’s an intangible magic that comes from waiting until the clock strikes midnight to see Harry defeat Voldemort. Counting down until 8 o’clock just doesn’t have the same attraction. More important, though, is that we are losing the way midnight releases bring fans together. Most of the fun of seeing a movie at midnight comes from the fact that instead of attending screenings scattered throughout the day, the most excited fans can get together and geek out without any strange looks. Costumes are everywhere. No one has to hide how much of a fanboy or fangirl they are. Midnight releases are the closest most of us get to the feeling of gatherings like Comic-Con.
So how can we save the midnight release? To be honest, I’m not sure we can. Most of the members of the generation that grew up on them are now working adults, many of whom can’t fit a weekday midnight outing into their schedules. Theaters have seen this opportunity and are offering earlier options. If it’s the model that is the most financially successful, it’s likely going to be the way of the future. However, regardless of whether midnight premieres fade into the past or come back to life for a new generation, they will always a defining hallmark of my early relationship with movies.
What do you think the future of midnight releases will be? Leave your thoughts in the comments.