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 every 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 who 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 see 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?