Are Midnight Openings Becoming a Thing of the Past?

Recently, I was approached from a representative from Moviepilot, a site designed to connect bloggers and fans together in discussion over various aspects of upcoming films.  I have been looking for an outlet for opinion pieces for some time and Moviepilot has turned out to be a wonderful place to do just that for an audience of like-minded readers beyond anything I’d be able to build on my own.  I encourage you all to check out the site and/or my post for the following article which can be found here.  Without further ado, here’s the piece itself.

ImageProxy (1)Over the course of the past year, movie theaters across the country have been experiencing a broad shift in the way they premier movies.  For as long as I can remember, a midnight premier was the ultimate litmus test for whether or not a movie could be counted as a “big deal”.  In my small home town’s movie theater, only  upper echelon of blockbusters were afforded the luxury of a midnight release.  Along with that luxury came an immense increase in excitement from the moment you found your place in line to the moment you walked out of the theater.  The moment the clock struck midnight, it felt like the gates flew open with the official passage into the film’s opening day, allowing everyone to experience it for the first time as God and their calendars intended.  

Those midnight showings may soon become a thing of the past, though.  Since early 2012, many national theater chains, including AMC and Regal Crown Theaters, have been transitioning from midnight releases for event films to Thursday night openings for nearly movie-theater-hangout-shutterstock-99435824every new release.  This change offers a great deal of practical benefits for the theaters themselves, such as increased regularity in staffing requirements by eliminating the need for employees to work late on the nights of midnight releases.  In addition, many movies that cater to smaller yet more enthusiastic audiences gain the benefit of the excitement levels of an early release.  For example, under the old system many theaters would not have spent the extra staffing wages to give Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World a midnight release, while the new system would allow dedicated fans the chance to come together for that unique groups experience rather than being spread out across the opening day itself.

From a consumer standpoint, the selling points are a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, being able to see a movie for the first time at 9:00 PM instead of at midnight allows those 9-00-mdwho work on Fridays to partake in a premier without losing out on precious sleep.  For the more impatient/excited fans, it also never hurts to have three hours less to wait to see the movie you’ve already been waiting so long for.  On the other hand, many viewers feel that by taking away the midnight component of a movie’s release, audiences are missing out on a great deal of the atmosphere of excitement that made midnight releases an event in the first place.  For many of these people, the aspect of staying up late for a premier and lining up for hours before is an important part of tradition itself.  With the current system, the night of a release functions just like any other night of going to the movies, requiring no overdose of coffee and red bull whatsoever.

It should be noted that many theaters are still offering midnight screenings for many releases, which would make it seem like fans still have the option to choose which option suits them best.  The problem is, as you can imagine, the point of a midnight premier is to ImageProxysee a movie before anyone else does.  When you wait in line for four hours only to watch people emerge from the film you’re waiting for before the midnight premier has even started, every feeling of exclusivity goes straight out of the window.  As I walked out of my 9:00 PM showing of Iron Man 3 last night, I couldn’t help be feel a small amount of nostalgia for the days when the word “Premier” had some real meaning to it.  Luckily, that feeling was mostly drowned out by an overwhelming surge of superiority as I looked out on  the hundred plus people still waiting to see a movie I had already seen.

Now I’d like to hear what you think.  Will you miss the ritual of midnight releases, or will you be happier for the hours of sleep you’ll save when work comes around the following day?  

About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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16 Responses to Are Midnight Openings Becoming a Thing of the Past?

  1. Ryan says:

    Great write up! I think one of the major benefits of going to a midnight show is the fact that usually the people who tend to go to them are generally the true fans who go to actually SEE the movie rather than talk through it. I’d see every movie at midnight if I could.

    • r361n4 says:

      Exactly, it’s so much fun to see a movie with fans than w/ mildly interested people. They gasp, laugh and occasionally clap all at the right times and as you mentioned, they tend to shut up when the important parts are showing

  2. I used to love to go to the midnight premieres of some films, particularly in the HP saga. But now that I’m older and have a full-time job, I value my sleep and I prefer to wait for the normal opening. I’m too old for that shit anyway.

  3. My local cinema has the occasional midnight screening but only for the big blockbusters. And I’m always so tired, there’s a good chance I’ll fall asleep! I think part of the problem is that cinemas don’t want to have to stay open later than they have to because of excess overhead costs and having to find staff willing to work and then pay them.

    • r361n4 says:

      It definitely seems like this is something that’s only happening in the big cities right now w/ the big chains, but the process always starts with test markets so if it turns out well you can be pretty certain that it’ll start branching out to other levels.

      In any case staffing does represent the biggest bonus for theaters, but that just makes me wonder why some theaters like the one I was in do both 9:00 pm screenings and midnight screenings; sorta defeats the purpose doesn’t it? Soon I will be working on the financial side of the industry and be able to answer these questions, lol

  4. I personally never understood this, the movie will still be there the next day. I guess I can see Ryan’s point above, but I think those die-hard fans are TOO enthusiastic and cheer and clap too much.

    • r361n4 says:

      Interesting, I guess it depends on the movie but I definitely prefer the crowd experience. Usually in my experience people only hit “die-hard” fandom levels w/ some sort of returning franchise, like Harry Potter or Iron Man. If you’re a fan of either franchise that enthusiasm does wonders, but if you’re not I can see how it might be distracting

  5. mettelray says:

    Gosh.. I wish I had the brains to do write a business plan and run my own cinema – I WOULD! And I would have all kinds of different events and stuff, including midnight screenings during the summer. I feel like the summer is the best time to have them.. at least in my country. I think they actually have some.. special premiers time to time.

  6. Minako says:

    I have some very fond memories of waiting in line for hours with hundreds of people just as excited as me for midnight. Midnight premieres will always have a certain aspect that I miss about them. But since I work for a theatre, I really appreciate the earlier premieres. I think now that it is summer we are shifting towards midnights again though.

  7. Zoë says:

    I must say, I have never experienced a midnight screening or anything of the sort. We are not fortunate enough to have events like that, which is disappointing, because I would love to just be able to know what that feels like, just once (but preferably for something I would like to see)!

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