in the midnight hour



Whatever happened to the midnight movie? Twenty years ago, you could see cult movies almost every weekend at Sarratt at the witching hour. Even commercial theaters such as the now-defunct Cinema South and the old Belle Meade Theatre hosted midnight shows of Wizards, Shame of the Jungle, Street Trash and other offbeat films, to large, rowdy audiences. Somewhere I've still got the surgical mask they handed out at Cinema South to everyone who saw Basket Case.

For many reasons, I understand why DVD and superior home-entertainment systems have eroded other areas of the moviegoing experience. But not midnight movies. The sheer fact of being out at midnight with a bunch of other crazies while the timid sleep, watching the kind of movies that rouse extremes of passion or hilarity or bloodlust, is something you can't duplicate at home watching Fight for Your Life on mute. I refuse to accept that contemporary audiences are that lily-livered.

Maybe somebody locally could take a page from this guy's playbook. Colin Geddes runs the Toronto International Film Festival's awesome "Midnight Madness" program—the launching pad for Saw, Cabin Fever, Hostel and the mighty Ong-Bak. A true connoisseur of exploitation cinema, he does weekly shows of cult movies and a killer "Kung Fu Fridays" program devoted to martial-arts films, and he has his own Ultra 8 distribution imprint. He's built a big audience of people either hungry or nostalgic for that untamed communal movie experience.

Where would midnight movies show around here? What movies would be shown? And if they were shown, how would a theater build an audience for them?

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