In my head, my year is separated into two halves—the holidays (October through April—Halloween through Easter) and geek season (April through September—Renaissance Festival through Dragon*Con). This isn’t a hard and fast rule; obviously, this December is going to be awesome. A subsection of geek season is the glory of summer movies, and another cinematic summer is upon us! (…summer has four months in the South. And, yes, The Hunger Games technically kicked off blockbuster season this year, but it lacked, you know, being released in summer.) It’s time, ladies and gentlemen—time for the midnight premiere.
In 1980, the first big midnight premiere happened in Seattle; The Empire Strikes Back was screened at 12:01 AM at the now demolished UA 150 Theater during the Fifth Seattle International Film Festival. Over eight hundred fans waited in line to be the very first to see the sequel to Star Wars. Reports sound familiar to the scene I experienced Thursday night at The Avengers; screaming, cheering, laughing, and girls swooning over heroic leads. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s article from the day of is a treat for those who enjoy fandom history. Since then, midnight premieres have been happening—I was first aware of them with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, when I heard about people lining up for days. It feels like midnight movie releases have been increasing in number over the years, though. Last summer, The Cinema Snob and friends went to every midnight release offered by their local cinema, and they saw some movies I was stunned to see even had midnight releases. They’re doing it again this summer, if you’re interested. (Language warning!)
Midnight book releases (oh, yeah, this is a book blog!) have a much more recent history, starting with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Fans were already so ravenous that they would import the UK edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before it was released in the US; releasing the book at midnight was a logical idea for bookstores both chain and local. I actually attended a release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as a wee lass, and didn’t realize that was kind of important until researching this post. Cool! Since then, midnight book releases have become a staple of young adult series with ravenous fanbases, from Twilight to The Hunger Games. These tend to, in my experience, happen after the first book, because publishers seem to want to be surer to have a fanbase on hand before diving in.
So, why midnight premieres? For a more cynical outlook, let’s look to David Weitzner, from USC’s School of Cinematic Art: “he thinks the midnight premiere came about as a result of the industry’s greed“. In a time when films (and books!) are looking for ways to compete against people budgeting and piracy, making midnight releases big events makes a lot of sense. When we arrived for The Avengers, the IMAX 3D line was packed. The numbers corresponded nationwide—currently, the film has earned the second biggest single day box office haul. It might be greedy, but it’s definitely working.
But, shockingly, I prefer the fannish approach. In Textual Poachers, Henry Jenkins describes first releases:
Group viewing situations are common in fandom; fans wait in long lines to see the first showings of hot summer releases, knowing that the initial audience will be full of fans like themselves who will vocally participate in the emotional experience of the film. (76)
Publishers and studios are just picking up on that; it’s no mistake that The Empire Strikes Back was the first blockbuster midnight release. It’s why midnight book releases are relatively rare, all things considered—it’s something done for something that has spawned a fandom, and that’s a strange alchemy I’ll talk about in another Sunday Salon.
Personally? There’s nothing like a packed house of people who love—or want to love—a movie as much as you do, prepared to stay up obscenely late for the privilege of being one of the first people to see it. It’s a sign of devotion, that you’re willing to sacrifice sleep and productivity for it, you know? (Although I caution you, if you can’t, you can’t; do not punish yourself.) But the real draw is the energy.
I met a little girl and her dad at the screening because she said, “Hi, Thor!” as I walked by. She was clearly super-excited to see the movie, and told me that if she had dressed up, she would have come as Hulk because he’s her favorite. (How adorable is it that her favorite superhero is the biggest, baddest dude on the team?) And that’s the reason I go to midnight premieres. I, and everyone else there, was just as excited and appreciative as this little girl was, and we were all there to watch actively and respectfully.To a geek, our minds were blown—but that’s a different post for a different tomorrow, eh? Patience!
Here, have a picture of me as Thor, because Memory asked for it:
The end of the semester always punches me right in the face! And it’s worse, because all my senior friends are leaving and I’m going to miss them. I plan on being pen pals to combat this silly notion of graduating college. I’ve been toiling on a paper on Evelina for the past two days, managed to scrape up a decent grade in my Economics class, and finished up my Introduction to Creative Writing portfolio. In the next two days, I have to pack and move, but I’ve got two internships lined up for the summer, so I’m super-excited.
Kristen at Fantasy Book Cafe as the Newsflesh trilogy until May 16th. HBO is giving away two crowns from Game of Thrones until Monday. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!
Tell me about your adventures in midnight releases and/or screenings! What’s been your favorite, if you have? What’s been keeping you, if you haven’t?