Midnight releases were a hallmark of nerd culture. Besides Black Friday sales, what parts of the non-nerd world cared about midnight releases? Pretty much nobody.
As I covered vaguely in my post about camping out for the Wii U, I used to love this stuff. The shared sense of excitement and fandom for stuff that everyone loves. The staying up late pointlessly and getting kinda sleepy. The chance to be one of the first people in the world to experience something.
My Time With Midnight Releases
My first midnight release, a movie, was Harry Potter & The Deathy Hallows Part I. I had no plans for it, but a friend invited me that night and I decided to go on impulse. I’ve never been the biggest Harry Potter fan, but it was certainly a very fun experience!
After that, I didn’t go again until my town was hit by a tornado, and school was then canceled for weeks on end. Bored out of our minds, my Mom and brother and I saw Thor at midnight, with only one other dude in the audience. It was a fun time, but then my friend forced me to go see it at the drive-in the next night anyway. So… for some reason, I saw Thor twice in one day.
Then, for my most-hyped movie of all-time as a teen, Captain America: The First Avengers, I jumped at that one. I’d have seen it in IMAX with super special duper tickets if they did that kind of stuff back then.
Later on, I attended a few video game midnight releases as well, though those were never as exciting. Halo Reach, around the same time as Harry Potter 7, was more of a stressful experience; I had this game I couldn’t play until I got home the next day because it was so late! For Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I stayed up far too late playing regardless of the consequences. It was much better just to pre-order and pick it up the next day.
For movies, though? It became a stupid ritual with me and my friends to attend premieres all the dang time. We saw everything from the first Hobbit to The Phantom Menace 3D to The Amazing Spider-Man (on a Tuesday night, no less!). We watched the full Dark Knight Trilogy in theaters just as The Dark Knight Rises was coming out, which is one of my more memorable moviegoing experiences ever.
Then… it stopped.
The End of the Midnight Release
In 2013, midnight releases became a thing of the past. Iron Man 3 was the first movie I remember that did it; its first showing was at 10 PM, not midnight. Some of my friends saw it before me because I literally just did not know it had an earlier showing. Then pretty much every film I saw in the summer of 2013 did the same thing. Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, The Great Gatsby, Elysium, The Wolverine… They all showed at 10 PM. Kids’ movies like Monsters University and Epic (yes, I saw Epic on opening night) premiered as early as 7 PM.
The luster of the midnight premiere was instantly lost. When everyone could easily see it on a Thursday night without THAT much effort, it was so much less of an event.
I thought it’d just be for the summer, but the trend continued. In 2014 saw Lego Movie and (ironically) Thor 2 at 7 PM, same with Amazing Spider-Man 2 that summer.
By the time I realized it, midnight releases were already gone.
Video game midnight releases ended too. I went to one for Pokemon X & Y, but after that I went all-digital. Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. 4, etc. all downloaded instantly to my system at midnight when I bought them online.
I still went to movie premieres all the time, all the way up until I moved to Japan. But 7 PM premieres are just not the same. No camraderie. No community. Just going to see a movie on a Thursday night.