Exterior Night. May 3rd, 2012. Burbank AMC. The Avengers. I’m run-walking to the entrance to meet my friends who’ve been waiting in line since 8pm or so, trying to secure premium viewing positions. The excitement from the crowd is palpable. So many of them, me included, have waited for this moment: the culmination of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Phase 1. Some of them are in cosplay. Some are rocking their favorite Avengers-based t-shirt. All of us eagerly await 12:01am. To Hades with work/school in the morning! Chants start. Beach balls fly. It feels like a playoff ball game, but instead of tip-off, we’re waiting for the curtains to pull back and the reel to roll.
And then it happens. Midnight. The room goes B-A-N-A-ANAS.
Over the next two hours, we as a crowd feel everything together. We shriek in shock when Coulson gets his trip to T.A.H.I.T.I. We cheer in glee when the Hulk utters “Puny god,” under his breath. We ruin our collective pants when that big, ugly, purple titan mugs into camera during the mid-credits scene.
That’s how it used to go down at midnight screenings. That’s how I saw the Star Wars prequels, The Lord of the Rings, Nolanverse Batman and the Harry Potter films. I miss that that feeling. That electricity. That odd sense of oneness with the midnight showing brigade.
I don’t think that happens anymore. Not like it used to, anyway. Let me tell you why.
Fast forward to now. It’s three years later and MCU Phase 2 is in full effect. Its culmination is nigh. Avengers: The Age of Ultron looms upon us. “Where are we watching it?” all my friends ask. Are we doing a midnight showing? No probably not. There are just so many other options now. The theatres don’t even make us wait until midnight anymore. To Hell with advertised released dates.
For example, let’s take Avengers: Age of Ultron. Advertised release date, May 1st. But what says Fandango?
Those are the showtimes for April 30th. And that’s just at one theatre. 16 shows, all before midnight.
Is it a good thing that people have more opportunities to watch the film? Sure. I mean, people have work in the morning, right? They can’t be staying out til 3 in the morning on a school night. The hardcore will still be at the midnight screening, right?
Nah, why bother.
Midnight used to be an event. Part of what made midnight special was that it was first time anyone was laying eyes on this new piece of media, and you were doing it at the same time as a large group of people, who like you, needed to be the first to lay eyes on this new piece of media. Other responsibilities be damned. Not so anymore. Now that happens at 7:00pm. But maybe 7:00pm is too early to get to the theatre from work in time. Maybe people are having dinner then. Let’s just get to the 7:30pm show. Ah, traffic… let’s push to 9:00pm.
What I’m saying is that the multiple pre-midnight showtimes dilute the fanbase. Sure, everyone that’s uber-excited is still going to watch the movie the first possible chance they get, but that chance is spread out over 16 showtimes, whereas back in the day everyone was packed to the brim in that midnight show. If those who couldn’t make it in were lucky, they’d open up another post-midnight screening. Was it less comfortable? Perhaps. But it was also a ton more fun.
Gone are the long queues of people waiting for those doors to open at 11pm. Gone are the wookie cosplayers standing in line, taking pictures with everyone. Gone are those dudes who choreographed their own lightsaber duel to entertain the other folks in line. Gone are the nerds who brought their laptop so they could watch the end of the Two Towers while waiting for Return of the King to start. Well, maybe I just don’t see them anymore because we’re all so spread out now.
Gone are the hardcore midnighters.
You know where the hardcore are now? At the movie marathons. I’m talking about the crazy watch-all-the-previous-films-in-one-sitting-and-cap-it-all-off-with-the-new-realease marathons. Everyone’s doing it. They just did the massive MCU one this past week at the El Capitan. It sounds like it might re-capture that magic that was once reserved for the midnight brigade.
Sad to say, though, I don’t know if I have the stamina or the funds to hold membership in the hardcore.