Christopher Campbell's The Moviegoer - Ushering in the New Year
by Christopher Campbell
December 29, 2008
Imagine going to see a film so long that you enter the cinema one year and exit the next. No, I'm not making a joke about the running time of Che nor the seemed length of Synecdoche, New York. I am being playful about the issue of length, though, because I'm simply bringing up the topic of attending a late night screening on New Year's Eve. Yes, such showtimes exist, although as a longtime movie theater employee I never understood why. Well, I do I know the logical reason: enough tickets will be sold for all those late shows this Wednesday night to make it worthwhile to keep the projectors running through the night.
But who are these few moviegoers who pick this odd moment to watch a film? Are they merely unconcerned with the Gregorian calendar? Are they upset about being dateless on New Year's and wish to forget their loneliness by watching Marley & Me? Could they find no other time in their busy schedule in which to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? That film, I noticed, is playing in some cinemas with a start time of 11:30pm. That means some moviegoers won't be leaving the theater until 2:30am. Not only will they have ignored the birth of 2009, they'll still be watching their movie well into its first day.
The funny thing about my wondering about these people is that I was once one of them. That is, at least once. I tried to corroborate this fact with my brother the other day, and he has no recollection. But I know for certain that he and I spent the beginning of 1993 watching the latter half of The Distinguished Gentleman. I know, not the best start to a new year, but we were young and would go see just about any comedy we could get into (and back then, R-rated fare like Gentleman wasn't hard to get into). As for other New Year's Eves spent at the movies, I could swear there were more. I thought Fantasia was one film seen on such an occasion, yet as far as I can tell it was never playing on any New Year's Eve of my lifetime.
Looking at the situation now, it seems like a good idea for any trusting parents to drop their kids off at the movies while they attend a New Year's party. As a matter of fact, that Benjamin Button screening seems like the best opportunity to get in an extra hour of celebration in. This was not actually the circumstance of my own New Year's moviegoing. My parents must not have been much into partying, because while my brother and I were watching The Distinguished Gentleman, they would be in another auditorium watching another film (given the time, perhaps it was A Few Good Men). I guess the only explanation for our lack of New Year's spirit is just that we were an odd family. Also, we just really love movies.
I can't imagine that the staff loved us, though, because what sort of person would rather be selling popcorn to an odd family on such an evening than ringing in the New Year with friends? Having later been on the other side of the fence, I know that I was not that sort of person. In fact, as a young man I would volunteer to work double shifts on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday in order to ensure that I would have both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day off (the latter because nobody wants to work around a hot dog grill and butter pumps when they're hungover). So, even when I was a cinema employee I never became familiar with the kind of moviegoer that goes to a late show on New Year's Eve.
But if there are any of you out there reading this, I'd love to hear your defense for keeping cinemas open so late on Wednesday night, causing the poor employees to usher in the New Year literally.