The importance of midnight movies.

Popcorn © by TinyTall

I went to a 12:02 a.m. screening of “Prometheus,” one of the most unsettling films I’ve seen in a long time. Not horror-movie scary, sci-fi-movie creepy. It left me so jittery that when we got home at about 2:45 a.m. I couldn’t go right to sleep.

Instead I added video codes to today’s MSN Money post, cleaned up my e-mail inbox and finished tidying the scene of an earlier kitchen mishap involving overboiled blueberries (apparently I have something against my friend’s stove).

It was 4 a.m. before I finally went to bed, which probably isn’t the healthiest sleep habit. The kettle corn consumed at the theater wasn’t so smart, either, no matter how much I try to convince myself that popcorn = corn = daily vegetable intake.

But damn, it was fun. My friend’s got me hooked on midnight screenings. We’ve seen five since I got here.

Yep, five full-price shows. While I rarely go to the movies in Seattle (and then usually with a free movie ticket) and never buy popcorn, up here I pay full price for a late-night show and get both kettle corn and a beverage.

There’s something delightfully illicit about being in the theater when I should be in bed.


Out of character

I flash back to my childhood, when an aunt would take my siblings and me to the drive-in. She’d put blankets and pillows in the back of her station wagon in case we conked out.

I barely remember the movies except that they were Disney flicks (“The Three Lives of Thomasina,” “The Parent Trap,” et al.). What I remember is feeling daring and wicked – out past my bedtime, and wearing pajamas in a public place! (Even if we were confined to the vehicle – no drive-in playground for us.)

Of course, my aunt wasn’t dropping $10 per person for snacks. She brought along Kool-Aid in an insulated jug and, if I recall correctly, home-popped popcorn in a brown grocery bag. And she paid by the carload, so admission was probably a dollar for all five of us.

Midnight movies are fun, not frugal. I enjoy being out with my friend, eating something I don’t eat back in Seattle and seeing the film before almost everybody else. At that hour there’s a feeling of holiday, of getting away from what we should do (go to bed at a decent hour, eat fat-free and unsugared vegetables) and choosing something totally out of character.

Out of character for me, anyway. Maybe some people go to midnight movies all the time. If so, beats me how they get up for work in the morning. My eyes are pretty heavy the next day even if I go to bed right at 2:30 and sleep until 10 a.m. Seven and a half hours of sleep that start at that time of day remind me of the old saying, “It’s never late until it’s two, and then it’s two late.”


Guilty pleasures: The best kind?

That next-day grogginess is a small price to pay for the experience. Midnight movies are another example of my “I save where I can so I can spend where I want” mantra: The money I don’t spend buying wine, shopping recreationally or paying for car insurance is money I can spend on a first look at “Men in Black 3.”

For you that might mean doing without a second vehicle so you be an at-home parent for a few years, or having roommates in order to live in a downtown apartment. We all have different entries for the “not that important” and “totally worth it” columns in life’s ledger.

Driving home with my friend at 2:30 in the morning and rehashing sight gags from “Dark Shadows” is just fun. Sure, I could see the movie for $6.25 at 11:30 a.m., but I choose to do it this way.

Finally I’ve reached the place where I can allow myself a little diversion even if it doesn’t make absolute financial sense. At least I’m getting plenty of mileage out of the $3 refillable soft-drink cup that I bought last November.

Readers: What’s your favorite form of non-frugal escapism? Do you find you have to justify a guilty pleasure or do you just roll with it?

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  1. You’re such a great story teller. This makes me want to go to a midnight movie, you make it sound so fun.

    Mayor Bloomberg would want to have words with you about your refillable soda. Coming from someone who inhales a box of whoppers like nobody’s business at the movies (me).

    • Donna Freedman

      Mayor Bloomberg can have my refillable cup when he pries it from my cold, dead fingers.
      Will I be seeing you at FinCon12 in Denver, do you think?

      • Mayor Bloomberg is fine with refillable cups. He just wants people to realize that if they want to drink 64 oz, that that is equivalent to four 16oz cups. The idea is that people are making rational decisions about their sugary beverage intake, as there’s plenty of evidence that the body doesn’t interpret beverages the same way it interprets solid food, and people tend to consume more calories when they have one large portion. You can have your 64 oz if that’s what you want, just not in one cup.

        • Donna Freedman

          Yep. I was just being sarcastical.
          Mine was diet Coke anyway.

        • Lee Ann

          Please pardon this and don’t flame me but Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t need to know how much soda I or anyone else drinks. It is great to bring up the subject of health and sugar and what society can do to prevent said problems but the government needs to stay out of this. I have a co worker who grew up in Romania and she has constantly said that this is how things begin when the govt wants to take control.

          • He isn’t asking how much soda you’re drinking. You can still get 64 oz if you want. Just in 4 cups.

            What would be more effective and a bigger gov’t intervention would be to put a tax on sugary soda drinks or a tax on 64oz sugary soda drinks.

            Oddly, people would be less up in arms about that kind of gov’t intervention. We have junk food taxes all over the place and nobody even notices. This particular intervention is not much of an intervention at all– you can still drink 64 oz, you just have to be aware that 64oz is the same as four 16 oz cups. If you still want to drink 64 oz after that, you have the ability and the right to do so. Nobody is stopping you. Unlike a tax, it isn’t even that costly.

            The media is just going stupidly crazy with this because it *feels* like heavy-handed gov’t intervention. It isn’t– it is the opposite. A small change in your framing of a lot of a sugary beverage so that you can have an easier time figuring out how many calories you’re actually drinking because people don’t process liquids the way they do solids. If you still want 64 oz, you can have it, just not all from the same cup. (And, as Donna noted, she can still have 64oz of diet in one cup if she wants.)

            And no, this is nothing like Romania. Libertarian paternalism hadn’t even been thought of back in the Eastern Block (it is a relatively new concept– the book Nudge is a great read). She may be thinking of actual bans, not things that just change your framing but don’t prevent you from doing want you want.

            There’s so much misinformation on this topic it’s ridiculous. What it does and what it *feels* like it does are two totally diametrically opposed things. I’m disappointed in Jon Stewart for acting like Fox News on the topic and not actually thinking about it.

      • Seriously. Bloomberg must be really bored at work to come up with this one.

        Yes I will be there for sure!

  2. priskill

    Ahh, good times! I remember seeing “King of Kings” in the back of the station wagon in my footie pajamas, exactly as you described — or really, just waking up to see the red sea part — really red if I remember. I love your description and now I want to see Prometheus. Good for you for having slightly less frugal fun in the great white north!! That is what makes life bearable!

    My not so frugal treat when school is out –Hill walk early to beat the heat, then Starbucks Iced coffee, in my reusable cup with watermelon or summer fruit du jour. I know — $2.85 a pop, but dang, I sit, read the various newspapers that more profligate spenders have abandoned or magazines or whatever and just relax. I have my shady favorite seat on the patio, breathing in the heavy metals swirling off the 101 Freeway passing within yards of me on the other side of the bougainvillea and I am sooo happy. I figure I don’t do manicures, makeup, fancy new car, cable, etc. — so overpriced coffee is okay.
    I also decided that I only buy Starbucks when I have time to enjoy loafing around with it, which cut my habit a lot. Frugal, er, probably not! But definitely a conscious choice. Thanks for the walk down memory (what’s left of it) Lane. I would so go to midnight films if I could stay awake!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Priskill: That sounds like a lovely little respite. I, too, don’t spend much on things some folks find indispensable (the same things you eschew, in fact) so I can have the kind of fun I prefer.
      Staying awake during the movie isn’t a problem. The next day? Yep.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  3. Midnight showings … fun! I can’t wait to see Prometheus!!! A midnight showing would’ve been in the cards if my daughter had been home from school but we promised not to see it without the other, being scifi movie fans and all. Next Saturday is the night when everyone will be here so that’s the night we’ll go. In the meantime, I’m avoiding reviews like the plague LOL

    Favorite escapism: dinner and a movie with the whole family for which I pay the tab and treat everyone. Don’t do it too much any more but I will spring for next saturday. I roll with it.

  4. RHPS is usually a pretty frugal midnight showing. Just sayin’…

    Letttt’s do the timewarp again!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nicoleandmaggie: It’s just a jump to the left.

  5. I’ve never been to a midnight screening! Want to, though. I may even see Prometheus at the cinema.

    A very rare but very much enjoyed treat for me is a night at a hotel – we do this occasionally as a staycation and pick up a cheap rate online.

  6. Sarah L

    I’ve never done midnight showings, I hate the prices of movies, people with their phones out or talking, and too tall people’s heads in my way, so just go on occasion, for something we REALLY want to see on the big screen.

    My favorite escapeish things (besides how I try to get some time each night to play video games!) are Sonic’s before 11am 99 cent large drinks, or their half price drinks in the afternoon, (especially during the HOT Houston summers!!!) lunch with my 4 year old on Thursday’s aftre yard sales and grocery shopping, and the Taco Bell on Friday’s after our yard sale and Library trips. Lunch on Thursdays is usually under $9, and Taco Bell under 5, but we’ve been doing it for about 2 years now, and I love to both spend that time with him while I can, and also feel a bit rewarded for making it through a long week.

  7. I can’t believe the wild woman that you have turned into!

  8. Well as a midnight movie AND Alien addict, let me say that I loved the movie-although it didnt have all the answers and the rehead ws not sigourney weaver. It leaves me hope for the sequel to blade runner, and I got to see the full preview of the don winslow book to movie, savages.

    That said, at the bottom of Mayor bloombergs nanny gate plan, its all about the money. Im willing to be dollars to donuts that four small drinks will be MUCH more expensive than the larger options. And really, WHY should I have to get up more than once during a movie to go get an ever loving drink refill. My own weakness for midnight movies is buying popcorn and having them not fill it to the top and pouring in mandms. My own version of trail mix, if you will.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Barb: Oh my gosh…kettle corn and M&Ms…stop!!!
      I like pretzels and M&Ms, too.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  9. I am so glad that you have written about the flip side of frugality–having the money and freedom to experience the great joys of life. I too enjoy the sense of playing hookey from my regular life, although where I live, it’s more about going to Walmart at night rather than the movies! The point once again is that spending your money with intention and mindfulness means that you have it for the things both big and small that make life an adventure. Thanks for the reminder, Donna.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Jean: Thanks for your supportive comment. I like your thought about spending with intention and mindfulness resulting in being able to obtain “the things both big and small that make life an adventure.” Too true.

  10. WWII Kid

    Four magic words:

    Rocky Horror Picture Show

    Bring your own toast

    • Donna Freedman

      @WWII Kid: Oh, I’ve seen RHPS more than once. I’ve written about it for two different newspapers, too.

  11. CandiO

    I’m a nachos girl myself! We saw it on Sunday as we like 1st Sunday showings because they can be a little less crowded. I LOVED it. It wasn’t as good as Aliens but I’ll take it. And I got to wear my dorky Weyland Yutani LV426 Inhabitants Wanted t-shirt!

  12. My favorite non-frugal splurge lately has been craft supplies. Because first I get the fun of picking them out (and petting them) and then I get the fun of working with them! Two types of fun for one expenditure.

    Um wait… is that frugal after all?

    P.S. How was MIB3???

    • Donna Freedman

      @Cathy R: It’s frugal if you do that instead of something more expensive. (And even more frugal if you use a JoAnn or Michael’s coupon.)
      MIB3 was kind of dutiful. Everyone hit his mark, and the effects were OK, but there was no heart to the movie. Josh Brolin was a stitch as the young Tommy Lee Jones, though.

  13. Funny you say that #3 was more mechanical, I read an article saying that it was meant I get back to the roots of the first.

    I normally skip movies in the theatres 95% of the time or more, but we will splurge on a new Marvel movie once in a long while. I didn’t let the guilt over paying full price for seeing Avengers without using a discount ticket fester long – it’s been a very long time since we did that.

    I’m getting better overall at this too, like you, we can afford some small indulgences because we’re generally careful in most other ways. So I indulge myself in hot and sour soup to go with my pain treatment massages once in a while and don’t feel guilt over it. And I cherish the comics I own or borrow to read without qualms once I commit to the buy.

    There aren’t just enough pleasures in life yet to feel bad about them.

  14. (ok, I do feel guilty over the money if I didn’t expect to spend it. But I have learned to tell myself to let it go. Within 24 hours.)


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