Things worked out perfectly for the husband and wife duo of John and Kate Short when the advance screening of the horror thriller "The Purge" started at 10 p.m. on June 6 instead of midnight.
"I do not go to midnight shows. I'm usually too tired," said Kate Short, 27, of Mays Landing.
But, Short made it to the sold-out, advance 10 p.m. screening at Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township. Short is a fan of horror movies. That's why she wanted to see the first possible showing of "The Purge." A 10 p.m. Thursday screening is ideal for her because she hates attending movies Friday or Saturday nights because people talk too much during those, but midnight pushes beyond her ability to keep her eyes open.
For many years now, midnight openings have been the norm for anticipated films, giving die-hard fans the earliest chance to catch a cool movie.
But these days, people who like to attend midnight screenings are finding fewer opportunities. Movie studios and theater owners are increasing advance screenings at 8 or 10 p.m. on the night before a film's official release date and decreasing the number of films that premiere at midnight.
Deborah Frank is one of the principals in the Frank Entertainment Companies, based in Jupiter, Fla. Frank Entertainment owns the Towne Stadium 16 along with other southern New Jersey movie theaters. Frank said five of the next six big summer blockbuster releases will open at either 7 or 8 p.m. on either the Tuesday or Thursday before their official opening.
"We have seen more people going out for the 10 p.m. Thursday night," said Frank, who added the reduction in midnight movie premieres may be a result of the mass shooting during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20 in Aurora, Colo. "The unfortunate incident in Aurora took away some of the pleasure and fun of that whole midnight movie. Midnight movies have been around for a long, long time," said Frank, adding she hoped they would eventually regain their popularity.
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has been the definitive midnight movie experience from the 1970s through today, but two film franchises - the Harry Potter movies and the "Twilight" films - turned midnight moviegoing into the ultimate hardcore fan event it had morphed into recently.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," the final film in the magical wizard story from July 2011, broke the midnight moviegoing record with a gross of $43.5 million. That record was held by the human-vampire-werewolf love triangle of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," which earned more than $30 million from midnight shows in 2010.
Karli Libbey, of Brigantine, who just graduated from Holy Spirit High School , attended all the midnight showings of the "Twilight" films.
"One hour before the 'Twilight' movies, the lobby would be mobbed... I think it's more fun to come at midnight," said Libbey, who would hit the bed at 3:30 a.m. only to wake up for school at 6:30 a.m.
Libbey attended the premiere of "The Purge" because everyone was tweeting about the movie. She had nothing else to do and did not have to work the next day.
Sean Bannon, 23, of Linwood, attended the 10 p.m. June 6 premiere screening of "The Purge" with her girlfriend, Danielle Fucci, 22, of Hamilton County, Mercer County. Bannon has enjoyed seeing movies at midnight.
"It's normally a movie where there is a lot of built up. ... It's kind of cool being one of the first people to see it," Bannon said.
Bannon saw "The Dark Knight" in 2008 at a midnight show when he was age 17 and "The Dark Knight Rises" last year before he graduated from college. Bannon just graduated college with a degree in economics and has been working at UBS Wealth Management for the past two weeks in Northfield. If the first screening of "The Purge" would have been at 11:59 p.m. June 6 instead of 10 p.m. Thursday, Bannon said he would not have been there.
"With a midnight movie, I don't think you would see too many people who are working full-time, 9 to 5," Bannon said.
Paul Dergarabedian of hollywood.com noticed more movie preview screenings are starting before midnight. He too believes it has come more into vogue since last year's Aurora, Colo. shootings.
"It could be more of a marketing tool, to have people get in there a little bit earlier, offering the movie up, rather than at midnight, at 9 p.m., and it probably enhances their ability to get an audience because usually this is during the midweek," Dergarabedian said. "If people are working the next day, a 9 p.m. or even a 10 p.m. is a lot more appealing, I think, than a midnight screening."
The midnight screening was a tried-and-true way to give the fans an early look at a movie before anyone else. If you were willing to go out at midnight, you could see it, Dergarabedian said.
"But, opening it up to a little bit earlier broadens that audience, no question about it," Dergarabedian said. "They still serve to create excitement, buzz. If they have a big (box office) number for a midnight screening, they can crow about that on Friday morning if it's a Thursday night kind of thing. The midnight screening, I don't think, is going away. I think it's just evolving into becoming something that starts a little earlier and maybe goes into the midnight hour and beyond."
Paul Clayton, 24, of Somers Point, is a big midnight movie and scary films guy. He would have still come to the Towne to see "The Purge" if it started at midnight.
"It's nice. It's (midnight movies) something to do at night. I'm kind of an insomniac," said Clayton, who works as a cook at Baia Restaurant in Somers Point. "I work until 11 p.m. I could get off of work and to go a midnight show."
Contact Vincent Jackson:
Films opening with advance screenings in the next few weeks include:
"Monsters University" and "World War Z" - Can open as early as 8 p.m. Thursday. Official release date is Friday for both.
"White House Down" - Can open as early as
7 p.m. June 27. Official release date is June 28.
"Despicable Me 2" and "The Lone Ranger" - Can open as early as 7 p.m. July 2. Official release date is July 3 for both.