July 10, 2008

(Movie) News You Need to Know: The Darkest Part of the Night

"Many Movie Theaters Decide to Leave the Bat Signal on Till Dawn"

(I'm going to end up sounding a lot crabbier than I intend to here.)

In yesterday's New York Times, Michael Cieply reported on the unprecedented decision to screen next week's The Dark Knight for a 24-hour period beginning next Thursday night at midnight. Unless you've been on Mars for the last year, you know that the Batman sequel of course opens wide on Friday.

Here's my concern: the opening weekend experience is becoming more diluted and less exciting. Cieply reports "midnight shows have become part of the summer blockbuster ritual", which is true in one sense but not in another. My memory tells me that they started in earnest with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I don't know if that's true, but either way, yes, most summer blockbusters get this treatment now.

But so do non-blockbusters outside of the summer months. There's hardly a Thursday night at any local cineplex that isn't screening a new romantic comedy or action fantasy, regardless of the buzz and regardless of whether it's January or June.

So this leads into my next question: if people don't see it at midnight, does that mean they're not going to see it at all? Is that the concern, and is that why they've added 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM screenings of the The Dark Knight?

It's an event. I get that. We live in an age where "Harry Potter" books are released at midnight and video game releases cause riots. There's nothing inherently wrong with advance screenings. I just think it's pretty special to still see sell-outs. Have a midnight screening a few times a year for the big ones, fine. Demand will be massive. Those who don't get tickets immediately will have to see it, horror of horrors, on "opening night" (which is either nonexistent or the best definition, depending on how you look at it).

And let's get the other little ant out of my pants. If I'm anticipating a movie for months on end, do I really want to watch it for the first time at 3:00 AM, when the audience will either be snoring or on the collective verge of cardiac arrest due to sugar and caffeine overdoses?

Like I said, I'm sounding a lot more negative than I mean to. As it happens, I'm seeing The Dark Knight on Thursday at 12:00 AM...

What are your thoughts on this trend?

2008 Asian American International Film Festival

In other news, the 31st Asian American International Film Festival opens today in New York. From the press release:

"With groundbreaking new programming and an eye for innovation, the Asian American International Film Festival ’08 will open on Thursday, July 10 with the East Coast debut of Princess of Nebraska, from acclaimed director Wayne Wang. The Centerpiece Presentation will be on Thursday, July 17 with the U.S. premiere of The Speed of Life by director Ed Radtke. The Festival will close on Saturday, July 19 with Ping Pong Playa from Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu."

Maybe check it out if you're in New York. These festivals are you usually ignored at the viewer's expense. The AAIFF has previously been the occasion for the U.S. premiers of films from directors such as Mira Nair and Ang Lee. Besides that, I don't think Asian-American filmmakers (maybe aside from Justin Lin) have enough exposure in Hollywood.

More info can be found in festival director Sonjia Hyon's post on PBS' P.O.V. blog.


  1. I'm actually thinking it might be pretty sweet to roll into work at 9:00 am having just seen The Dark Knight at 6:00 am... but I do tend to be a psycho hosebeast of a morning person.

  2. "And let's get the other little ant out of my pants."

    Um, which one would that be?

    Sorry, Danny. The way you worded it was just TOO funny.

    I apologize for any embarrassment or improprieties (as I laugh my ass off).

  3. I agree with Nayana and I might've sprung for the 6am ticket if I hadn't already had one for a saner hour later in the evening.

    I'd guess a lot of these people (and I've been one of them) are the type to see movies more than once so the theaters are just milking it for all it's worth and squeezing screenings into every possible slot.

    Midnight or 3am movies are fun, but from a reviewing perspective, it's a bad way to go. For me anyway.

  4. Ah, psycho hosebeasts. Some of us know them, some of us are them.

    According to Miranda's post at CP: "A Fandango poll of more than 3,000 people revealed that 38% plan to take time off work the same day after seeing it during the wee hours of the morning."

    That's insane.

    I'm not embarrassed, Miranda - I just hope they're all out of there...

  5. The box-office numbers have to be the reason for this, Craig, but I just can't imagine people who miss it at 3:00 AM won't still see it twice later. It will inflate the opening day total but I'd be curious if it affects the overall gross.

    And for what it's worth, if there was no early screenings I'd rather be in your position. 8:30 PM opening night, energy sky high, crazy buzz and people waiting for it all day in wild anticipation. Like Willy Wonka's appearance at the chocolate factory gates. That's how it used to be. I think. If not, that's how I might like it to be.

  6. I enjoy watching films with a crowd that I know is excited for the film. I watched Episode III at the midnight premiere and it was a lot of fun. The screening, not the movie, the movie blew fat chunks.

    I think that the ever-expanding trend of midnight shows is fine, I'm just not going to see them. Standing in line at midnight to see Sisterhood to the Traveling Pants: Part Deux just doesn't seem worth it.

  7. I also saw Sith at the midnight screening, Scott, costumes and pre-show amateur light saber battles to boot. In that case it was kind of a fun deal.

    But with TDK, to be honest, I'd almost rather be in a more subdued crowd. I'd like to really be freaked out by Heath Ledger and not having shrieking girls and who ever else making a big deal everytime he's on screen. I also get the sense that people are going to be laughing at all the wrong moments. Just me, though, and just this movie. We'll see what happens next week.

  8. To me, it seems that with more movies (i.e. more competition) films today feel that they need to jam "the spectacle" into a much smaller time frame. The period to which a blockbuster gets the spotlight is a much tighter window than it used to be.

    Granted, b-busters like Iron Man, Indy 4 et al are still bringing in cash, but the buzz and furvor around it is pretty much dead, and what... it hasn't even been 6 weeks since Indy 4 opened?!?! When we were kids, movies like E.T. buzzed around our heads all summer. Now, in two weeks time we'll be onto chatting about The X-Files.

    Finally... Nayana mentions seeing a movie at 6:00 AM!!?! Oooo lordy! The only thing I wanna be doing at 6:00 AM is sleeping (or having sex... and then going back to sleep.)

  9. This seems like a good thing to me for one reason: they won't close the snack bar at 12:01. When I got dragged to a midnight showing of Wanted, I got so bored halfway through that I decided to go get a soda...and guess what, the snack bar was closed. :(

    But if they're gearing up for a 3 a.m. showing, they won't close the snack bar and they can't keep me away from my snacks. That's pretty exciting, particularly if the movie sucks.

  10. I can remember seeing the 1989 "Batman" on a midnight release. I believe that was one of the first to attempt such a thing. The comic book crowd (you know... stereotyped as caffein frenzied geeks who don't need sleep, which is exactly what my brother and I were) sorta fit the mold for this type of film promotion. I love the idea and I hear they're still great fun for the right crowds.

  11. Now that's a great point about the spectacle factor, Fox. It takes until about Monday night after opening weekend to forget about the last blockbuster and move on to the next. I don't know the numbers, but I would guess that there are just way more movies being churned out every year, so movies just get crowded out. There's no room to buzz overhead. But again, I don't know the numbers.

    As long as the snacks are good, Luke, but what if those suck, too? I don't often get concessions, but seriously shouldn't there be some standards at every theater, like DOTS?

    Thanks for the visit, Joseph. You take 10 years off my midnight screening initiation estimate of Star Wars. I don't want to take anything away from the frenzy crowd (again, I'm going to be part of it), but I still wonder if it's necessary for every movie, or even for the right movie necessary to this extent.

    A late night premiere of the original Batman would definitely have been an event, though. Bet it was a great time.

  12. Daniel, I am a curmudgeon, and rarely go to opening weekend showings of blockbusters, because of all the noisy crowds, all the young whippersnappers makin' all that noise, or whatever. (Get off my lawn, ya %$#@&^* kid!)

    Although I did see the opening showing of "There Will Be Blood" down here in the wilds of Alabam, and was one of about two in the theater. I met a friend on the way out, she was going to see "Big Momma's House 23", and when I said I saw "There Will Be Blood" she asked what's that? Oy.

    By the way, I very emphatically don't want to know what your "little ants" are. Not, at least, in front of the children.

  13. Hide the children until the coast is clear. I don't really know what the little ants are either, Rick, but now I'm afraid to find out. A spontaneous analogy has turned me into a perverted entomologist.

    Your anecdote is hilarious - and horrifying. I can see why you took refuge in the land of a million movie addicts online.

    Incidentally, I know that I quite frequently play the role of your friend here in the blogosphere. Oh well, nobody's seen everything.


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