I remember getting 12:01am tickets to The Phantom Menace.
It was the end of the business day for Thursday, but since it was one minute after midnight it was the earliest screening for what was officially a Friday release. I don’t necessarily think The Phantom Menace was the first time this had ever been done, but it was rare enough that it was a special event.
Now, note: I’m talking about situations when the official release date is Friday.
There have been examples of official Wednesday releases for expected blockbuster films to increase that “opening weekend” box office total, but the “Midnight Thursday” screening was a special kind of hype practice.
The midnight first screening was at first reserved for only highly anticipated releases.
Then they started doing it for just about anything (I noticed they were lowering their standards when The Three Stooges got a midnight release).
Now, you don’t even have to wait until midnight.
I saw Muppets Most Wanted at a 7:00pm Thursday screening the night before its official release. If I can see a screening at 7:00pm on Thursday, then that is a Thursday release in my book- not a Friday release.
Today, Thursday April 3rd, screenings of The Winter Soldier (in theaters Friday Apirl 4th!) start at 7:00pm.
I’m not exactly complaining. The 7:00pm Thursday screening of Muppets Most Wanted was the only screening that both my friend and I were available to make. I might still not have seen it if that were not the case.
I’m also perfectly happy that I’ll be able to go to a 10:00pm screening of The Winter Soldier tonight.
. . . but, it’s just not a “special event” like it used to be when it was reserved for only the most anticipated releases and they made you wait until after midnight.