A Loss in Geek Life: The Death of the Midnight Premiere

A few days ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Unleashing my inner geek, I had taken all of the appropriate steps: I purchased my ticket two weeks in advance, proudly wore my Hunger Games T-Shirt all day with the golden Mockingjay pin fastened to the top left corner (as Katniss Everdeen herself did), and when November 19th, 10 pm finally came around, I draped my Hunger Games blanket across my shoulders and proudly strode to the movie theaters, anxious to get in line.

Except, there was no line. In fact, not only was there no line, the movie theatre was also half empty. I could have come two hours later, when the movie’s ads began, and still gotten just as good of a seat as I did by coming two hours early. Why? Simple – despite the fact that November 20th was the technical opening day for the movie, there had already been almost 10 regular screenings and 5 XD (IMAX style) ‘early screenings.’

These ‘early screenings’ take place in regular afternoon and evening hours, much as regular screenings do, and cost the same as regular screenings. In fact, the only difference between these early screenings and regular screenings were that early screenings occur before the movie’s opening day while regular screenings occur after. This arbitrary distinction is reflected in the audience attending these screenings. With regular screenings, people somewhat interested in seeing the movie find a time that works well with their schedule– extra screenings allow them additional days to the four to six weeks a movie typically stays in theaters to fit the movie into their schedule. A byproduct of these early screenings is that a good number of Mega-fans take the opportunity to watch at the earliest possible opportunity. Thus, early screenings are populated by a combination of regular and Mega-fans, all watching at their earliest convenience. Hence, early screenings leave midnight premieres meaningless.

Ordinarily, a midnight premiere is the first screening available to the public. Although this Thursday night showing can be inconvenient, the timing guarantees a lack of conflict. While work, school or other obligations may prevent someone from attending an afternoon or evening screening, few non-social obligations occur at midnight. This lack of conflict combined with the inconvenience of seeing a movie at midnight, draws a unique crowd to the midnight premiere. This crowd is a group so committed to seeing the first screening of the movie, they’re willing to make the time to see the movie. Theaters once sold out for midnight premieres, forcing tickets to be purchased far in advance. This combination of factors left only the truly committed Mega-fans in attendance at midnight. This revolutionized the midnight premiere experience. The audience was a crowd of individuals dressed up as their favorite characters or augmented themselves with every relevant accessory they owned from pins to bracelets to headbands. The attendees, though made up of disconnected groups of individuals, are for this two hour period one united community filling the movie theater with a vibrant energy that everyone feeds off of and contributes to.

Although midnight premieres have changed and the wondrous experiences they once defined are only an element of my memory, my inner geek still goes through the necessary steps as if nothing has changed. Hopefully, the midnight premiere will regain its cultural relevance, so again I can go to a movie, raise three fingers in recognition of Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister — and not be alone.