Want to enjoy a pure movie-going experience? You're going to have to stay up late. A new article claims midnight movie screenings are the only ones where you're not likely to be disturbed by rude maniacs. The reason why midnight movies are so great? Because the audiences are fans.
Top image: Midnight Screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2 by PopCultureGeek on Flickr.
Alexander Huls writes in the New York Times Sunday magazine,
These are challenging times for cinephiles. The sanctity of our natural habitat - the movie theater - is disappearing amid the dynamite blasts of lighted phones while people text and tweet in the dark; the chain-saw buzz of disruptive conversation; and the slow erosion of common courtesy in communal spaces. As a committed moviegoer who once treasured the cathedral-like atmosphere of the movie house, I now find myself entering the auditorium anticipating a bad experience….
Silk Spectre at Midnight Screening of Watchmen by Kevin McSHane
It's true that talking and texting during most films can reach endemic proportions. But Huls doesn't suggest banning or blocking cell phones. Rather he suggests attending midnight screenings. These "draw a very specific brand of hard-core audience. Rather than conceive of the theater as a cathedral, these die-hard fans turn the midnight show into a frenzied jamboree. The auditorium is stuffed with noisy, agitated true believers, ready to explode in thunderous cheers; they elatedly chatter at the slightest eyebrow twitch of a beloved character on-screen…The people at a midnight show aren't there because they want to be but because they have to be. They literally can't wait to see the movie. That degree of committed anticipation and excitement is something you cannot recreate at any other screening."
Midnight Screening of the Hunger Games Reuters
These "true believers" aren't just any fans of course — people do not flock to midnight showings of romantic comedies after all. No, the movies Huls mentions are almost exclusively scifi and fantasy. And the lone non-genre film Snakes on a Plane might as well be. His description of costumed and thematically appropriate t-shirt wearing fans who shush even a hint of cell phone usage and sit silently through the dramatic parts of the film are definitely geeks.
While Huls' complaints about the loss of etiquette is valid, the problem of rude theater goers predates texting of course. In Elizabethan times dandies could pay extra to sit on the stage, where their clothes could be admired and they could literally interrupt plays. Operas were known for their audiences' misbehavior, including an 1849 riot in New York City which led to death of 22 people and hundreds of injuries. The fights that broke out during the premier of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring began with booing and hissing that was common for upper class audiences of the time. It's only recently that theatrical and film audiences were expected to watch in silence.
Rorschach at Midnight Screening of Watchmen by GuiltyX
This relatively brief period of agreed-upon behavior in theaters is quickly breaking down. At one end of the spectrum will be audiences who have no compunction texting throughout the movie and at the other will be screenings filled with geeks who take the film seriously. Huls keeps mentioning the "cathedral" of cinema, but geek fandom tends toward the tent revival form of pop culture worship. Unlike the "fan"atics who follow sports or reality TV, fandom is far more cohesive: the word alone suggests a sovereign realm. Geeks may argue over whether Batman or Iron Man has better crime-fighting toys — but we will make sure that you don't text while we watch and find out.
July 2009 Midnight Screening of Empire Strikes Back by Zolotkey