Midnight movie

In the United States, a midnight movie is a B movie or cult movie shown at midnight, or at a cinema or on television.

The practice started in the 1950s with local television stations around the United States airing low-budget genre movies as late-night programming, often with a host delivering sardonic asides. As a cinematic phenomenon, the midnight screening of offbeat movies began in the early 1970s in a few urban centers, particularly New York City , eventually spreading across the country. The screening of nonmainstream pictures at midnight was aimed at building a cult film audience, encouraging repeated viewing and social interaction in what was originally a countercultural setting.

The success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the changing economics of the film exhibition industry altered the nature of the midnight movie phenomenon; In the 1980s, the midnight movie became a more pure camp experience-in-effect, bringing it closer to the television form that shares its name. The term midnight movie is now often used in two different, though related, ways: a synonym for B movie , reflecting the relative cheapness characteristic of late-night movies both theatrically and on TV, and a synonym for cult film . [2]


On television

In 1953, the Screen Actors Guild agreed to a residuals payment plan that greatly facilitated the distribution of B movies to television. [3] A number of local television stations around the United States soon showing inexpensive genre movies in late-night slots; these late-night slots were after the safe-harbor time , they were largely free from Federal Communications Commission regulations on indecent content. In the spring of 1954, Los Angeles TV station KABC expanded on the concept by having an appropriately offbeat host introduces the movies: for a year on Saturday nights, The Vampira Show , with Maila Nurmiin the face of a sexy bloodsucker (“Your pin-down girl”), presented low-budget movies with black humor and a low-cut black dress. The show-which ran at midnight for four weeks before shifting to 11 pm and, later, 10: 30-aired horror pictures like Devil Bat’s Daughter and Strangler of the Swamp and suspense films such as Murder by Invitation , The Charge Is Murder , and Apology for Murder . [4] The size Was echoed by stations across the country, Who Began showing Their late-night B movies with in-character hosts Such As Zacherley and Morgus the Magnificentoffering ironic interjections. A quarter-century later, Cassandra Peterson established a persona that was essentially a ditzier, more buxom version of Vampira. As Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Peterson became the most popular TV host in the midnight movie. Starting at LA’s KHJ-TV in 1981, Elvira’s Movie Macabre was soon being syndicated nationally; Peterson presents mostly cut-rate horror films, which is broken down into a regular commentary. [5] Some local stations aired the Macabre Movie package in late-night slots. Others showed it during prime timeon weekend nights; after a break for the local news, another genre movie-a literal midnight movie-might follow, resulting in such virtual double bills as Dr. Heckyl & Mr. Hype and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave . [6] USA Network launched a midnight movie package in 1989- Up All Night , which shows mainly horror and soft-core sexploitation movies, ran until 1998. In 1993, Buffalo’s WKBW-TV began airing a late-night hosted mix of low- budget genre movies, foreign art movies and well-known classic films; Off Beat Cinema later became nationally syndicated (currently through Retro Television Network) and, as of 2013, originates from WBBZ-TV . In the 2000s, horror-oriented late-night movies have been broadcast, although B pictures, mostly of a melodramatic nature, are still widely used in post-prime time slots. The small America One broadcast network distributes the Macabre Theater movie package hosted by Patrick Butch , known for his portrayal of Eddie Munster on the 1960s show The Munsters . In 2006, Turner Classic Movies began airing cult films as part of its new late-night series, TCM Underground . [7]

In the cinema

Since at least as far back as the 1930s, exploitation films had sometimes been presented at midnight screenings, usually as part of independent roadshow operations. [8] In 1957, Hammer Films ‘ The Curse of Frankenstein set off a spate of midnight presentations. [9] What film qualifies as the first true midnight movie in the sense that the 1970s remains an open question. Critic Jennifer M. Wood points to the Palace Theater in San Francisco’s North BeachDistrict where, in 1968, San Francisco Art Institute graduates Steven Arnold and Michael Wiese, after a screening of their Dalí-some movie thesis Messages, Messages , were invited to the movies at midnight. [10] Author Gary Lachman claims that Kenneth Anger’s short Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), has a mixture of occult symbology and intercession of images from a Rolling Stones concert, “inauguration [ed] the midnight movie cult at the Elgin Theater . ” [11] The Elgin, in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, would soon become a midnight guest when it gave the first impression of a Mexican film directed by Dalí-esque Chilean.

The movie generally recognized as igniting the midnight movie theatrical movement is Alejandro Jodorowsky ‘s surrealist El Topo , qui ouvert in December 1970 at the Elgin. Playing with the conventions of the Western spaghetti , the film was described by one newspaper critic as “full of tests and riddles” and “more than 20 years of the Wild Bunch .” [12] El Topo regularly sold out every night, with many fans returning on a weekly basis. It ran at the theater through June 1971, at the prompting of John Lennon -who was reported at the movie at least three times-Beatles manager Allen Kleinbought the film through his ABKCO film company and gave it a relatively orthodox rerelease. [13] The Elgin soon came up with another midnight hit in Peter Bogdanovich’s thriller-thriller Targets (1968), featuring one of the last performances by horror movie and Boris Karloff’s headline and resonated with the murders and other political violence of recent years. By November 1971, the Manhattan theaters beside the Elgin were featured in the St. Marks ( Viva la muerte , a blast of surrealism in the Franco-Spanish tradition of Luis Buñuel and another favorite Lennon), the Waverly ( Equinox, which had just replaced Night of the Living Dead ), the Jewel (both Freaks and Night of the Living Dead ), and the Olympia ( Macunaíma , a Brazilian political black comedy ). [14] Equinox(1970) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), both low-budget horror pictures, TV shows of the midnight movie and the newer phenomenon. George A. Romero’s zombie masterpiece, in particular, highlights the differences: a completely different form of subversive posture, and especially in its conclusion, a unmistakable allegory of a racist lynching.[15]

Shot over the winter of 1971-72, John Waters ‘ filth epic Pink Flamingos , featuring incest and coprophagia , became the best known of a group of campy midnight films focusing on sexual perversions and fetishism . [16] Filmed on weekends in Baltimore, hometown of Baltimore, with a mile-long extension of power, it was also crucial in inspiring the growth of the independent film movement. [17] In 1973, the Elgin Theater started midnight screenings of both Pink Flamingos and a crime drama from Jamaica with a remarkable soundtrack. In its mainstream release, The Harder They Come(1972) has beens HAD flop panned by critics after-ict US distributor, Roger Corman ‘s New World Pictures , Marketed as it has blaxploitation picture. Rereleased as a midnight movie, it screened around the country for six years, helping the popularity of reggae in the United States. While the midnight-movie potential of certain films was made, 1973, for instance, Broken Goddess , Dragula , The White Whore the Bit Player , and Girls in Bondage Elevator (also known as Pink Flamingos)) had their New York premieres at midnight screenings. [18] In 1974 midnight opener Flesh Gordon Evidenced how slow the phenomenon Itself to flirtations with pornography .

Around this time, the black comedy Harold and Maude (1971) became the first major Hollywood studio movie of the era to develop a substantial cult audience of repeat viewers; although apparently it was not picked up by much of the midnight movie circuit during the 1970s, it was becoming a late show staple to the phenomenon turned over to the revivals. [19] The midnight screening phenomenon was spreading around the country. In Milwaukee , it began in May 1974, with the local manager of a local radio station in St. Louis . By the following February, four Milwaukee theaters were regularly showing midnight movies, and the Marcus chainMidwestern cities, the owner of one. “Movies that feature rock concerts draw big,” Boxoffice reported, “Doing those dealing with outer space and fantasy.” The trade paper noted one popular midnight movie by name: Alice’s Restaurant (1969), a comedy with political overtones starring folk singer Arlo Guthrie . [20]

On the midnight following April Fool’s Day 1976, The Rocky Horror Picture Show , which premiered at the Waverly Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village . Midnight screenings of the film became a national sensation, amassing a cult following all over the United States. Every Friday and Saturday night, audience members would talk back to the screen, dress up as characters in the movie, and act out scenes complete with props. [21] Where the appearance social HAD always-been apart of the midnight movie’s attraction, with Rocky Horror in an exaggerated way it est devenu theattraction. By summer 1979, the movie was playing on the weekend in New York region alone; 20th Century Fox had about two hundred prints of the movie in circulation for midnight shows around the country. [18] Beginning in 1978, The Waverly Developed another midnight success, which was much smaller commercially, but more importantly artistically: Eraserhead , originally distributed the previous year. David Lynch’s feature debut, a model of surrealism shoestring, reaffirmed the midnight movie’s most central traditions.

The commercial viability of the spell of big-city arthritis that launched in the late 1970s as broadcaster and economic shifts weakened their countercultural basis. Leading midnight movie comers were beginning to fall as early as 1977-that year, New York’s Jewelery was back to live for the first time ever, and the Elgin, after a brief run with gay porn, shut down completely. [22] In succeeding years, the popularization of the VCR and the expansion of movieviewing possibilities on cable television meant the death of many additional independent theaters. While Rocky Horror soldiered on, by a phenomenon to itself, and new movies likeThe Warriors (1979), The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), The Evil Dead (1981), Heavy Metal (1981), and Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982) -all from mainstream distributors-we picked up by the midnight movie circuit, the core of exhibitors that energize the movement was disappearing. By the time the fabled Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shut doors after-ict has fire in 1986, the days of the midnight movie theatrical have a significant countercultural phenomenon Were already past.

In 1988, the midnight movie has been institutionalized in a new way with the introduction of the Toronto International Film Festival’s nightly Midnight Madness section. [23] In the years since, new or recent movies still occasionally emerge as midnight movie “hits” on the circuit of theaters that continues to show them. The most successful of the 1990s is the Australian drag queen road saga The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). New York’s Waverly (also now closed), where Rocky Horror played for a record ninety-five weeks. A television episode of The Drew Carey Showfeatures a song-and-dance battle entre Rocky Horror fans (led by Drew Carey ) and Priscilla fans (led by Mimi Bobeck ).

Since the turn of the millennium, Donnie Darko (2001). Older movies sont également popular on the circuit, appreciated Largely Imposed year in camp fashion-a midnight movie tradition That goes back to the 1972 revival of the hectoring anti-drug movie Reefer Madness (1938). [24] ( Tod Browning’s 1932 horror classic Freaks , the original midnight movie revival, is both too dark and too socially acute to consume as camp.) Where the irony with which Reefer Madnesswas adopted as a midnight favorite had its roots in a countercultural sensibility, in the latter is now the parodoxical element of nostalgia : the leading revivals on the circuit currently include the cream of the cream of the John Hughes artwork- The Breakfast Club ( 1985), Pretty in Pink (1986) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and the preteen adventure film The Goonies (1985). [25] As of late 2006, Rocky Horror itself continues to play on a weekly basis for at least 30 people, and at least twice a month. [26]

Two popular midnight movies made During the phenomenon’s heyday-have-been selected to the National Film Registry : Eraserhead (inducted 2004) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (inducted 2005). Midnight movie staples Freaks (1932) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) were inducted in 1994 and 1997 respectively. Harold and Maude , a cult film before it was adopted as a midnight movie, was also inducted in 1997.

See also

  • Movie exploitation
  • Nasty video
  • Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000


  1. Jump up^ Patterson (2007).
  2. Jump up^ See, eg, Conrich (2006).
  3. Jump up^ Heffernan (2004), p. 161.
  4. Jump up^ The Vampira Show ArchivedPost Comment 2006-08-18 at theWayback Machine.. Retrieved 11/14/06.
  5. Jump up^ See Gibron (2006) for a detailed analysis of the Elvira persona andMovie Macabre.
  6. Jump up^ See, eg,Elvira’s Movie Macabre ArchivedPost Comment2006-11-12 at theWayback Machine.. Retrieved 11/14/06.
  7. Jump up^ SeeTCM Underground: ArchivedMovies-Archive2007-04-10 at theWayback Machine.. Retrieved 12/19/06.
  8. Jump up^ Schaefer (1999), pp. 124-125.
  9. Jump up^ Heffernan (2004), p. 61.
  10. Jump up^ Wood (2004).
  11. Jump up^ Lachman (2001), p. 305.
  12. Jump up^ Greenspun (1971).
  13. Jump up^ Hoberman and Rosenbaum (1983), pp. 80, 95. For a detailed synopsis of the movie, seeEl Topo Archived2006-04-27 at theWayback Machine. (note the movie’s Elgin premiere is misdated).
  14. Jump up^ Hoberman and Rosenbaum (1983), p. 95.
  15. Jump up^ Hutchings (2004), p. 112.
  16. Jump up^ Waters (2006).
  17. Jump up^ Pink Flamingos Production Notes. Retrieved 11/15/06.
  18. ^ Jump up to:b Hoberman and Rosenbaum (1983), p. 13.
  19. Jump up^ See Hoberman and Rosenbaum (1983), p. 298.
  20. Jump up^ “Midnight Shows a Big Success in Milwaukee.” Boxoffice Feb. 3, 1975, p. NC-3
  21. Jump up^ SeeHistory of the Rocky Horror Picture ShowandRocky Horror Timeline. Retrieved 11/14/06.
  22. Jump up^ Jewel Theater; Elgin Theater. Retrieved 11/15/06.
  23. Jump up^ Corliss and Catto (2007).
  24. Jump up^ See Hoberman and Rosenbaum (1983), pp. 261-262. For their consideration ofFreaksas part of the early midnight movie phenomenon, see pp. 3, 95, 99, 295-297.
  25. Jump up^ Beale (2005).
  26. Jump up^ Rocky Horror Showings List. Retrieved 06/27/08.