It’s been exactly eight years since the horrific movie theater massacre in Aurora, CO at the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”. Within a few months, all the major movie studios and theater chains began eliminating 12AM (Thursday night into Friday morning) debut showings, instead moving them up. I attended a 10pm “Fast & Furious 6” showing in May 2013, and over the next several years, studios were making these “day/night before” preview shows earlier and earlier.
7pm seemed to be the Thursday night standard for fans to take advantage of new releases a little bit early. For family fare, 6, 5 & 4pm started to become common. There were even a few cases where I went to a Thursday 4 or 5pm showing of a new film – and then walked down the hall to a 7pm showing of another new film.
Box Office analysts and the studios agreed to publish “Thursday Night Report” pieces with stats on how the films did BUT all of that money would be rolled into the film’s Friday gross. I never fully agreed with that philosophy, especially as the times began getting earlier and earlier (there were even a few films that technically opened on Thursday at 3pm). But from the beginning I completely agreed with the idea of not endangering the lives of millions of moviegoers by making them wait until a Midnight start time and possibly not leaving the multiplex until 3am or later.
Safety went hand-in-hand with strategy, as studios began to embrace this “Thursday opening” in the TV and social media marketing, especially from mid-2018 to early 2020. Of course, the final Thursday night preview opportunities for new releases was on March 12th (ironically – the night before a Friday the 13th) before movie theaters shut down nationwide.
Now with U.S. theater re-opening plans on the horizon, it begs the question, “Will ‘Day Before’ Showings Return?'” The answer is probably “Yes” – and maybe even more so than before. Not only is it smarter from a safety (and financial) standpoint, but do movie theater employees and moviegoers really want to stay up past Midnight and into the early hours of the morning if they don’t have to? You kind of have to wonder if there will actually be a cut-off. For example, maybe a film’s final showing of the day has to be at 7pm. The staggering of showtimes will be trickier than ever, and it’s just one element that those of us willing to be a part of the “new normal” of the indoor moviegoing experience will have to adjust to.