Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A loose interpretation of Wednesday

I got an email yesterday from telling me to "be among the first to be transformed."

(I may actually be transformed, but I refuse to be "among the first.")

The email was to tell me that "midnight comes early" at AMC theaters, which are showing Transformers: Dark of the Moon tonight at 9 p.m.

It's become common for theaters to show midnight showings of new releases, even the ones that aren't that big a deal. In fact, I remember when the last Twilight movie came out, there were showings at some theaters starting every five minutes from midnight to 1 a.m. After that I think they did the decent thing and told everyone else to wait until the matinee showing later that afternoon. Though it's not unprecedented for movies to screen throughout the night, which is I think what happened when The Phantom Menace came out 12 years ago.

But the one governing rule used to be that you at least had to wait until the clock struck midnight to start showing the movie, so it was technically the correct release date. Well, not anymore. AMC theaters -- at least in Los Angeles but probably elsewhere -- is getting a three-hour head start on the movie's official June 29th release date. Anticipating the huge rush of fanboys who care a huge amount about the scintillating mythology of Michael Bay's mechanical monstrosities? (Note the sarcasm.)

The whole thing reminds me a little bit of the increasingly earlier opening times for retail stores on Black Friday. Back in the day, businesses trying to sell Christmas presents on the day after Thanksgiving used to wow us by opening their doors at 7 a.m., a good two hours before they normally would. Then it became 6 a.m. Then 5 a.m. Then 4 a.m. And then at that point they may have just skipped the really wee hours and jumped all the way back to midnight.

The Wednesday release date is already a head start on Friday, and the midnight show is already a head start on the Wednesday matinee. Now a 9 p.m. show? For Transformers 4, someone will have to push the envelope further and start the show at 8 p.m. (Though it occurs to me that perhaps the 9 p.m. time was chosen because it's technically midnight on the East Coast, though that logic is flimsy at best.) The really funny thing is that the June 29th release date itself seems to be a recent phenomenon, as I couldn't find a single poster on google images that displayed the June 29th release date. The one here, and all others, listed it as July 1st.

Sigh ... yeah, I might be seeing this movie. In the theater. In IMAX. I know, I know.

A friend of mine, with whom I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (also in IMAX), recently treated me to a night at the Hollywood Bowl. My friends and I don't usually treat each other to such extravagant outings, but this was an exception -- when he invited me, I told him I had the interest in going to Star Wars in Concert, but not the money. I thought that would be the end of the discussion, but he called my bluff and offered to pay for my ticket. So I accepted, thinking I'd pay him for at least half of it. When he refused my money, telling me instead I could treat the next time we went to the movies, I hatched the plan to see the third Transformers with him in IMAX -- IMAX being closer in price (if only by a few bucks) to the Hollywood Bowl ticket than a regular movie.

At a recent birthday drinks, however, he hedged, negating that part of him that didn't care about the mass hatred of Michael Bay and just wanted to witness a spectacle. So we may see something different. (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, perhaps.)

You'd think I'd breathe a sigh of relief, that I didn't have to sit through the third Michael Bay suckfest in the theater, but what can I say. They've done a pretty good job with this trailer, and I was secretly happy to have an excuse to see this movie based on the obligation to repay my friend's favor -- which saved me the embarrassment of having to actually choose to see the movie of my own free will.

We'll see what happens. At least I know that I will not be among the first, and certainly not on the day before the movie is actually released.


Travis McClain said...

No theater is permitted legally to screen this or any other film earlier than the time designated by the studio. Paramount allowed the 9:00 start time, just as they did with Star Trek and Revenge of the Fallen in 2009. So while it may be that the start time will eventually begin even earlier, it won't be rogue theaters responsible for the escalation.

As for the Twilight release, I readily concede that it may not be of much artistic or cultural value, but the size of the crowds justified the number of screenings. My wife, cousin and friend went to one of the midnight screenings and said it was insane...and this was after scouring for hours earlier that night to find a showing that wasn't sold out in all of Louisville. Box office isn't about culture; it's about butts in seats, and Twilight puts 'em there.

Personally, I wax nostalgic about camping out for Phantom Menace tickets, which is likely the last such incidence of its kind. Until May, 1999, the Storm-the-Theater phenomenon had been a very peripheral and infrequent occurrence. The days of theaters staying open round the clock to show Goldfinger died off with the expansion of theaters.

We now have lots of theaters with lots more screens and lots more seats per screen; it would take an enormous hit to overwhelm the modern theater scene so much as to force 24 hour screenings.

Personally, I love midnight screenings. The audience is lively and respectful. No one shows up at midnight surrounded by hardcore fans to play on their phone. Given the price of evening movies these days--especially IMAX and/or 3D--I find it prudent to see a screening with the audience most likely to be respectful and attentive.

Vancetastic said...

But see Travis, when you come up with facts and logical procedures to explain the phenomena I discuss, it detracts from my old-mannish rants that are based on nothing.

But seriously, I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I've never been to an opening night midnight screening. I guess there aren't any movies I want to see that much anymore. Jeez, that's depressing.

As far as Twilight, I didn't say they shouldn't do it -- it was just an amazing example of what the market would bear. And boy would it bear it.

Thanks for the comment ...

Travis McClain said...

The Phantom Menace was my first midnight screening. I was a year out of high school, and it was a big deal. Since then I saw the midnight release screenings of the other Star Wars prequels, as well as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. All crowds were reverent and enthusiastic. It's fun seeing a movie with a crowd that laughs at all the same moments, and even applauds.

I'll never forget when Yoda walked into the hangar bay near the end of Attack of the Clones. We all knew what was coming: we were going to finally see Yoda in action, after wondering what it would be like for 22 years. There was a wave of excitement that washed over us, and it really added to the enjoyment of the movie. Was it a great movie? Not really. But it was a great movie experience.

I'm also fortunate that a local theater screens cult favorite movies every other Saturday at midnight. In the last few years I've gotten to see Beetlejuice, Dick Tracy and Ghostbusters on the big screen for the first time there. Seeing those with an appreciative audience really added to my enjoyment of each. Ghostbusters was a whole lot more fun with a crowd laughing along with it than it ever was at home on VHS or DVD.