Two of the better movie theater experiences I’ve had in the last few years were when I saw Hereditary in June 2018, and when I saw Avengers: Endgame in April. Hereditary was weird and terrifying and I loved it; Endgame was overlong and mostly bored me to death. What those theater-going experiences had in common is that I saw both movies bright and early in the morning, which may not be the “right” or “correct” or “only good” way to see movies, but is for sure the best.
The most obvious benefit of going to the movies in the morning is that almost no one else will be there, and so you will have an entire screening mostly if not entirely to yourself. For reasons that should be perfectly plain, this rules. You will not have to deal with rude people chatting or moving around or chewing noisily or texting. There will not be annoying silhouettes marching across the screen. There will be no line at concessions, and the bathrooms will be clean and unoccupied. You will have absolute freedom to put your feet wherever the hell you want them. Morning moviegoing isn’t the only way to get a theater to yourself, but the only other dependable ways involve seeing extremely lousy movies, or waiting several weeks to see good ones. Bullcrap.
And the experience of watching a movie in a silent theater can be vastly different from the experience of watching it in a loaded one. In the empty, silent theater, the scene in Hereditary [spoiler alert] where Gabriel Byrne’s character bursts into flames and suffers a howling death was shocking and horrifying and even a little bit sad? A week later I saw the movie again with the dreaded Albert Burneko, at night, at a full and lively Regal theater, full of giggling teens, and when old man Byrne went up like a roman candle, everyone in the theater was dying. Even I was laughing! Which is fine—I enjoyed it nearly as much as a moment of dark, absurdist comedy as I did as one of unbearable horror—but it’s eerie to think you might never know how you’d feel about a movie if your first experience of it hadn’t been influenced by a bunch of nervous teenagers, or dipshit MST3K wannabes, or Marvel fangirls and fanboys. The empty theater experience is a far less polluted viewing experience than the unspoiled one, in my correct opinion.
There are other, unexpected benefits to seeing a movie in the morning. At the Alamo theater where I saw Avengers: Endgame, the theater was serving brunch items during the showing. I wimped out and stayed clear of their tempting selections—just popcorn and booze for me, thanks—but I should’ve gone for it! Imagine tearing into blueberry waffles while, for example, Ethan Hunt does badass action stuff across the rooftops of Paris! A breakfast sandwich would’ve for sure made the 19 Endgame hours of fat Thor mewling about his career choices vastly more interesting. More importantly, it would’ve driven home the thrill of sitting in a theater and watching a blockbuster comic book movie on a big movie screen with Dolby surround sound before lunchtime.
That’s the biggest benefit of all. When the movie is over, whether it ruled (Hereditary) or blew (Avengers: Endgame), you get to walk out of the theater into the bright sunlight and suddenly remember that your day has just begun! It’s noon and you’ve brushed your teeth and showered and bathed and showered again, and gone out into the world and seen a damn movie in a movie theater. It’s a weirdly triumphant feeling. If you’d been sitting in your living room watching Avengers: Infinity War on your laptop for the 31st time, you’d feel like an asshole for how your day was shaping up. Or, anyway, you should. But when the pre-lunch movie-watching takes place in public, in a movie theater, you will feel weirdly and undeservedly productive, like a go-getter whose day is filled with plans and purpose.
There are potential pitfalls. Two of my local theaters set aside one day a week where early movies are tailored to parents with toddlers or babies, which means the sound is softened and the lights are dimmed but not extinguished. I blew it and saw Annihilation during one of those days, and it was a bummer, especially since obviously not a single parent chose to bring their small child to a showing of Annihilation, which is a violent and terrifying science fiction movie. So I was a 37-year-old man sitting alone in a theater calibrated to the sensory needs of a damn baby. This was less than ideal, but the truth is it was still a very good moviegoing experience, because there were no teens anywhere in sight. Just me, a quiet movie, some mood lighting, and a large soda.
This is an especially useful bit of advice for huge blockbuster releases. You are excited to see them, and you want to skip spoilers, because you are a goof. You could go to a midnight showing Thursday night, come out buzzed with caffeine and excitement, trek home, stay up too late, and wake up Friday morning feeling like hammered shit. Or! You could go to bed at a sensible hour Thursday night, wake up bright and early Friday morning, catch a 10 a.m. showing, and be right on schedule, having avoided spoilers and also gotten a full night’s sleep. By lunchtime you’ll be the one doing the spoiling, and after all isn’t that the point.
I realize that most of us have responsibilities, including jobs, which require most of our daylight hours. First of all this is definitely bullshit, and is a reason to throw off the yoke of capitalist oppression and take to the streets. And morning movies aren’t quite the same on the weekend—you are likely to run into many more people at the Saturday morning showing of Avengers: ReAvenging than you would on a weekday morning, which will go part of the way toward defeating the purpose. Still better than a Friday night movie! Also I urge you to search for workarounds. Maybe you’re home sick from work? Can’t you be just as sick in an empty movie theater, crushed beneath a massive tub of popcorn? Point is, whether you are experiencing this yourself, the fact is morning movies are the best. Have a good weekend.