Midnight Madness

With the summer blockbuster season already in full swing, it’s time to get down to business here at Nerdy Girl Notes and talk about one of the most entertaining ways to experience a film: a midnight screening.

There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere at a midnight screening. If you want to be surrounded by people who are incredibly passionate about the movie they are about to see, there’s no better place to be. From the costumes to the discussions while waiting in line to the reactions during the film itself, a midnight screening is a reminder that going to the movies is a communal activity. There’s a sense of unity among the people you meet in line and in the theater while you’re waiting for the clock to strike 12:01. It gives you a feeling of belonging in a way that going to see the same movie at 7:30 on a random Saturday night can’t provide.

I’ve seen six popular movies at midnight screenings: The Hunger Games, three Harry Potter films (Half-Blood Prince and both Deathly Hallows installments), and even two parts of the Twilight Saga (the first film and Eclipse). This week will mark my seventh, as I line up for the 12:01 a.m. showing of Brave. If my schedule allowed it, I would see every movie that stirs some level of excitement in me at its midnight screening. I have more fond memories of these kinds of screenings than I can list with any sort of brevity, so I won’t even attempt.

Instead, I will present you with a different kind of list. If you’re planning on attending any midnight movie screenings this summer, here’s some advice for you:

Buy your tickets as soon as they become available. There’s no greater disappointment for a film nerd than finding out that the midnight screening for the movie you’ve been following from pre-production through its release is sold out. Oftentimes, Fandango will send email alerts for the day tickets for 12:01 a.m. showings of popular movies go on sale. I highly recommend making use of this alert system (or at least frequently checking their website or other entertainment news sources) and purchasing your tickets as soon as possible after they become available. Also, make sure that the day you purchase the tickets you know exactly how many people will be going with you. There are usually multiple theaters open for midnight screenings, and you don’t want anyone from your group exiled to a different theater just because they had to get their tickets at a different time.

Get as much rest/caffeine as your body needs before you drive to the theater. This tip differs for each person. Some people like to nap before attending a midnight screening; others prefer to load up on coffee beforehand. Just remember to do what works for you because you don’t want to start nodding off after the trailers like you’re in a boring 8 a.m. Calculus class (which, of course, never happened to me).

Bring your own food. The lines for concessions at midnight screenings are long. Insanely long. You’ll go for what you think is a quick trip to get popcorn and Sno-Caps at 10:45, and by the time you navigate through the mass of humanity to get back to your theater, the lights will already be dimmed and the trailers will have already begun. Don’t waste precious nerd-bonding time in line for overpriced concessions when you can bring in your own food if your purse is big enough. This will also give you something to snack on while waiting in line outside of the theater.

Make a night of it. It’s not every day you go see a movie at midnight, so if you have the time, you should celebrate the occasion. Have dinner with your group of fellow midnight screening attendees before heading to the theater, or, if you’re like my friends and I, just skip to the dessert. Before every midnight screening that we attend, we make a pit stop at The Cheesecake Factory. Whether we eat in or take our cheesecake to the theater with us, it’s a fun tradition that we’ve had for years now. Start your own midnight screening traditions because—trust me—once you go to one, there will be many more in your future.

Get to the theater early. How early is early enough? If you have your tickets, there is no need to arrive at 6 p.m. for a midnight screening like some of the girls I once saw waiting for Eclipse. The popularity of the movie or franchise usually dictates the time that you should arrive at the theater. For example, for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, my friends and I got to the theater around 9 p.m., and there was already a pretty substantial line. However, the line for The Hunger Games was so short that we were able to get food around 10 p.m., get into the theater around 11 p.m., and still get reasonably good seats. A good rule of thumb for movies in a series is that the first movie will have the smallest crowd, and they will get larger with each subsequent movie. You don’t have to spend your entire night in line, but if you’re unsure of what time to arrive, I’d shoot for between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

Dress the part. Midnight screenings are like Halloween parties throughout the year; take advantage of it. You don’t have to come in full costume (though it’s even more fun that way), but wearing something that connects you to the fandom around you is a great way to start conversations with other people in line and simply make the most of the experience. Where else would I have worn my Gryffindor cardigan or my “District 12 Tribute” shirt with a side braid and actually fit in? No one’s going to look at you strangely for embracing the nerdiness of the night through your wardrobe. You might even get people asking to take pictures with or of you if you really get into character.

Respect your fellow nerds. It’s important to remember that even the things that we think are awful or tasteless or good only for mocking mean a lot to some people. Midnight screenings should be fun occasions for everyone. Don’t get obnoxiously drunk beforehand (Why do people pay money for midnight screening tickets just to show up wasted?). Don’t be “that guy/girl” – the pessimistic one who is sure that the movie is going to be terrible and will tell that to everyone sitting around them. Don’t talk through the whole movie (this applies to texting, too). And, finally, keep the fangirl screaming to a minimum. A quick statement of approval the first time you see Taylor Lautner in a Twilight movie is acceptable, but it gets very annoying very fast if you scream every time he takes his shirt off.

And the most important piece of advice I can give you about midnight screenings is: Don’t be afraid to have fun. My favorite thing about midnight screenings is that there is no such thing as “too nerdy.” Dress up like an obscure character; carry a prop or wear a wig; take pictures with every movie poster you see; sing fandom-related songs; get into deep discussions about source material…I’ve seen all of these things happen and more at midnight screenings. Once the movie starts, let the fun continue. Applaud when the title card comes up.  Laugh and cheer in reaction to the things the characters say and the things the people in your theater will sometimes say back to them. Reach for your tissues, and share them with people around you who need them. Embrace the quirky, nerdy fun to the fullest extent possible. If you’re giving up valuable sleeping time for a movie, you might as well enjoy yourself.

If nothing else, I hope this encourages you to go out and enjoy a midnight screening of one of this summer’s big films, whether it’s The Dark Knight RisesThe Amazing Spider-Man, or even Magic Mike (I won’t judge you). I love activities that celebrate the nerd in all of us, and midnight screenings do just that. So put on your favorite fandom t-shirt, grab a latte to keep you caffeinated, and I’ll see you in line.

2 thoughts on “Midnight Madness

  1. Wow, reading this after the shooting in Aurora is almost sad. With some theaters cracking down on costumes, and some doing away with midnight showings, our nights will be different. Good thing we’ll always have cheesecake!

    • It’s so strange to read this now. It’s almost like a relic from a simpler time even though it was only a year or so ago. But at least we’ll always have cheesecake—and we make our own fun no matter the situation!

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