LOS ANGELES (AP) — Midnight movies are supposed to be fun.
They're supposed to be giddy gatherings of the most excited fans who can't wait to have the images flicker across their faces first — whether it's at a 12:01 a.m. showing of a wildly anticipated blockbuster or infamous schlock that's achieved a cult following and is best viewed during the weird, wee hours.
That thrill was shattered early Friday morning when a man unleashed his arsenal upon an audience at the first showing of the hotly awaited new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," at a theater in Aurora, Colo., killing at least 12 and injuring 58 others.
It's still unclear what the motive might have been for the suspect, 24-year-old James Holmes — whether the time or the content of the film itself might have been factors in this deadly spree. But for now, the purity of that sense of enthusiasm — both for moviegoing in general and for midnight showings specifically — seems to have been shaken.
And that's a shame. Because part of the enjoyment of a midnight movie is that you are at an actual movie theater with actual movie fans in the middle of the night — not by yourself at home on the couch, not watching on your iPad on a plane. That sense of community infuses the room with a buzz. Other people — people you've never met — similarly have dragged themselves from their homes at this dark, quiet hour to see the same thing you want to see.
Historically, more off-beat fare has played at midnight to a party-like atmosphere: B-movies, ones that encourage interactive participation like the long-running "Rocky Horror Picture Show," which is the mother of all midnight movies, or films that work best for crowds that are up for something strange and mind-altering at that time of night, like David Lynch's "Eraserhead." One of my favorite midnight experiences was discovering Eli Roth's 2002 debut film, the graphic horror flick "Cabin Fever," during the South by Southwest film festival and squirming and laughing along with a packed house.
But more and more, theaters will offer the first chance to see a blockbuster at that hour, with fans selling out those first shows through online ticket sales and often dressing in costume as their favorite characters. (This tradition is already changing: In response to the Colorado shooting, AMC Theatres, the nation's second-largest chain with more than 300 movie houses, said it won't allow people to wear costumes or face-covering masks into its theaters.)
The most hardcore people who are the most psyched up to see a movie are the ones who come out at midnight, said Evan Husney, creative director of the Austin, Texas-based Drafthouse Films, who previously worked on the release of the low-budget cult favorite "Birdemic: Shock and Terror."
"I think the midnight movie is great. It's lasted a long time and hopefully it'll always remain. It gets people out to a theater still — that sort of midnight movie experience is something you really can't replicate at home at all," he said. "Nothing compares to being part of a crowd of 300 people screaming and sharing the same thing."