Midnight-Screenings: Magic, Memories and Marketing

The other night, whilst sipping a brew or two, a debate arose amongst my friends and me—a debate that will seemingly never end. We discuss it all the time, and we can never come to a consensus:

What is the greatest superhero movie of all time: “The Dark Knight” or “X-Men: First Class”? 

Because it is, of course, either/or. There is no (c) to this multiple choice question (sure, maybe “The Avengers”). My friends and I can’t seem to come to a decisive conclusion. No one wants to pit one movie against the other, but, as wayward, mentally adrift early-20’s males, it’s our duty to come up with some sort of conclusion to this mind-boggling question. Thus, that night, the debate carried on:


“Dark Knight” has the better acting, with Aaron Eckhart’s pinpointed, head-to-tails District Attorney overshadowed by Heath Ledger’s immortal, then-new-take on comic book’s most ink’d villain, The Joker. “First Class”, though, has the better action scenes. While Nolan’s Batman battles are lost in disjointed editing and a darker aesthetic, Vaughn’s superheroes shine in brightly colored a to b action sequences that showcase the stunts and special effects brilliantly. “First Class” features one of the most well-explored and flawlessly written character arcs in modern popular cinema in Magneto, but nothing may ever trump what Nolan had up his sleeve in “Dark Knight” with the decision to kill off our hero’s love-interest, Rachel Dawes. On the other hand, “First Class” has a way better score than whatever it was Hans Zimmer tried to accomplish with his “Dark Knight” background noise.

[youtube http://youtu.be/LDZTGTjnhBE]

After our discussion began to get no where at an incredibly fast rate, I decided to offer my final opinion into the mix. My final argument was this: while, on any given day, I’d probably rather watch “X-Men: First Class”, it was my initial experience seeing “The Dark Knight” that makes it a more memorable motion picture for me; that much of how our opinion of a film is molded depends on when we first saw it, whom we saw it with, and what was going on at our lives at that moment. 

This week, “The Wolverine” opens in theaters everywhere. And I’m really pumped to see it. I didn’t bother seeing that other one they made about Wolverine, but I am putting a lot of hope that they’ll get it right this time. The thing is, I won’t be able to see it the way I’d prefer to see it, and I’m afraid that perhaps my overall opinion of it won’t be as high as a result of it. I’ll be working late this Thursday, and will be unable to view the movie at midnight with all of my friends. 

Ya see, somewhere along the line, it became all the rage to go see the next big movie at midnight. I suppose this trend began to happen back in the spring of 1999, when a little film called “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” was released, and crazy Star Wars fans came out in droves to see the film at the exact first minute of its release date, at midnight. I guess I can’t vouch for this, I wasn’t really in the market for seeing midnight movies before 1999, but I don’t really think there was really any sort of real market for that before Ep. 1 came out. Which is crazy to think, since nowadays, a lot of productions aim to make most of their money on the night before the actual release date. And I suppose some of the magic has been lost in its overpopulation, but I’ll try not to be a Scrooge about it, because seeing a movie at midnight is damn awesome. It’s the kind of moving going experience that gives me a reason to get up and go out and see a movie in theaters, as opposed to waiting for it on Netflix or HBO. 

[youtube http://youtu.be/DY4GJRVaf40]

If you’re a fan of a franchise, and you’re excited for a movie to be release, do yourself a favor and go see it at midnight if you haven’t already done so. At a midnight screening, only the biggest of fans come, so you’re sure to be a part of a special atmosphere. The first film I ever saw at midnight was “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”, and I am sure that the experience I had seeing it that night has skewed my opinion of that film forever. Let me preface by saying that even as an eight year old, I hated and wanted nothing to do with “Episode I”. As a huge Star Wars fan from my first steps, I wanted nothing to do with a Luke-less Star Wars film. Especially one without X-Wings or TIE Fighters, or anything that was good in what I loved about the Original Trilogy. To be honest with you, I was being a senior citizen curmudgeon in an eight year old body. Stubborn, and absolute, like the Sith.

By the time I was in sixth grade and eleven years old, had grown a little more mature, and had played my fair share of “Star Wars: Episode I – Racer” on N64, my mother handed me a TIME Magazine article about the second Star Wars prequel movie that I had, until that point, wanted nothing to do with. Seeing images of Yoda and Clone Troopers, which looked like Stormtrooopers, made me decide that as a Star Wars fan, I would be foolish to deny myself being a part of it all. I told my mom and my dad that I wanted to go see the new film when it came out at midnight. After much discussion, they decided that if I agreed to go to school the next morning, they would, along with my brother, join me in seeing the new Star Wars film at 12:00am. The day of the premiere arrived. I got home from school, and to my surprise, on my TV stand rested one of those new DVD players. My mom had just decided to finally buy one and see what all of the hype was about. She, of course, had no idea what DVD to buy, and bought “Star Wars: Episode I”, thinking it would be something I would enjoy. It was then that I realized I had not watched the film since I saw it in 1999. I knew what I had to do, so I watched it. And ya know what? At eleven years old, I still hated it. Which is funny now, because now I think, with Liam Neeson and all, “Phantom Menace” might be my favorite of the three Star Wars prequels. 

[youtube http://youtu.be/JQkFriEZAeE]

From 1999 to 2002, this is what I thought of when I thought of “Episode I”

Alas, I didn’t like “Menace”, but I was gonna give “Clones” a try. My family nor I, had any idea what to expect when we went to go see this film at midnight. We expected long lines, and weird single men with Cheeto-stained costumes. To our surprise, there was no long line to buy tickets, and no Cheeto-stained, creepy men. Instead, there was a cheerful movie theater full of people just like us, who just wanted to be a part of seeing the newest film from A Galaxy Far, Far Away. 

Instantly, the film rocked my socks off. In a big part to the atmosphere. I had never been to a movie theater with this kind of spirit within it. With the first snare hits of the 20th Century Fox Fanfare came a loud, energetic series of claps and cheers, followed by a valley of silence that erupted into a roar of Force-dwelling, emotional screams of joy as the famous Star Wars opening crawl and John Williams music hit our eyes and ears. This. This experience. This adventure. This was the Star Wars I had always imagined. And the fun didn’t stop, with Jango and Clone Troopers and Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber. (At the time, I was eleven, so I couldn’t see the crappy romance being played out in front of my eyes between Anakin and Padme. I suppose, at that age, Padme being hot and Anakin being a dude were enough for me to believe that they would fall in love. Actually, as I’m writing this, I realize the film probably gave me unrealistic relationship expectations, seeing a character like Padme falling for a whiny 19 year old such as Anakin). 


The TIME Magazine issue that brought me back to mainstream Star Wars fandom

Most memorable, for me, was seeing the shadow of Yoda come to the scene to help Anakin and Obi-Wan take down Count Dooku. When those floppy ears came onscreen, everyone cheered. Because we knew we were gonna finally see our great warrior in action; yes, Yoda wielding a lightsaber. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life at the time, to see it with all of those Star Wars loving people. The best part may have been showing up to first hour at school the next day to brag to everyone that I had already seen the Star Wars movie they were all aching to see later that evening. Man, did I feel awesome. For this reason, I am sure, I will always watch “Episode II” in a different, more positive light than most people. 

It’s not so dissimilar to “The Dark Knight” and I. It was 2008. That was a tough summer for me—no need to go deep into it, but, uh, simply: I was turning into an adult a lot quicker than I wanted to admit I could handle. It wasn’t exactly the summer going into freshmen year of college that I was hoping to have, and I wasn’t getting a lot of time to hang out with my friends. That summer was my first job/internship in a film production office. Back then, I was only working two or three days a week. My schedule was kind of all over the place, but I had been planning to go to see the newest Batman movie with my friends, at midnight, in Novi, since the beginning of summer. I was working in Madison Heights (which is about a 40 minute drive away from Novi), and, of course, with my Summer of ’08 luck, the Thursday of the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight” was a night shoot and I was scheduled to work from noon to midnight. I don’t know how I mustered up the confidence to do this, but I ended up begging and pleading to my boss, and because there wasn’t really a lot going on at our office, she allowed me to leave around 10:30 and head to Novi for the premiere. 

What followed was, hands down, the greatest night of that summer. I got there, and every one of my friends had matching “The Dark Knight” shirts that they had bought at Target earlier in the day. I felt out of place and disappointed I didn’t have Batman swag on, but I was happy and grateful to just be there. We all got in the theater around 11. We were amazed at how many people were there. Inside the theater, it was nuts. We started Batman trivia with those around us, and discussions began about whether or not Heath Ledger could surpass Jack Nicholson in his Joker performance—man, were we about to find out. At one point, the crowd was so pumped to see the film, that my friends and I got the whole theater to do “the wave”. Yes, THE wave! It seriously had the energy of a sporting event—just a bunch of geeks, nerding out. And we weren’t disappointed. The film was everything we could have hoped for, as Batman fans, and more. I was a fan of “Batman Begins”, but I thought it felt like every other Superhero movie at the time. Whereas “The Dark Knight” took every opportunity to be cutting edge and different. The whole city of Novi, it seemed, was blown away as discussion of the film carried throughout the theater, into the halls and out into the parking lot.

I still have never been to a midnight premiere quite like “The Dark Knight”. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose opinion of this movie is skewed because I saw it at midnight. That night seemed different, like everyone else in the world—Batman fan or not—got the memo that seeing this movie at the first possible chance would be as much fun as I have hopefully described it in this post. I wish I could experience a movie premiere like that again. Maybe in a couple of years, because—let’s be honest, if I could get in line for “Star Wars: Episode VII” right now, I probably would. 

Here is a picture from the premiere of “The Dark Knight” with my friends. Not pictured? Yours truly. There is a picture that exists with me in it, but I couldn’t find it. The point is, we all knew this was a special moment in our lives, so we took a picture of it! How often does that happen outside of a movie theater? Great times, great memories. 


Midnight Bests:

  • “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”
  • “The Matrix Reloaded” – After seeing “Ep II” at midnight, I decided to get into “The Matrix” just so I could see “Reloaded” at midnight and enjoy it. I did. 
  • “The Dark Knight”

Midnight Disappointments:

  • “Indiana Jones 4” – This is the most disappointed I’ve ever been in my life. Part of the reason the summer of 2008 was so terrible, I was still thinking about this film. 
  • “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” – Why is the fun gone?
  • “Quantum of Solace” – The fact that this movie was disappointing to me, is testament to how good “Casino Royale” was. 

Most Random Midnights:

  • “I, Robot” 
  • “Austin Powers: Goldmember” – My dad and I were sitting at home on a Thursday night and he was like, “Wanna go see Austin Powers?” Sure!
  • “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3”
  • “The Dark Knight Rises” – Not a random film to see at midnight, obviously, but I saw it alone at midnight, so I wanted to throw it in here. 
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About Kale

Kale is a proud MSU Detroiter with filmmaking and social media aspirations. Currently in Production Assisting Purgatory, Kale has two goals in life: (1) Have a million followers on twitter and (2) Never pay a mortgage. So help Kale reach one of those goals, follow him @kaledavidoff

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