"The Great Gatsby" officially opens this Friday but, as has been the tradition for over a decade, this latest Hollywood blockbuster will screen first late Thursday night.
What's changed though is that the dozen or so area showings are not at midnight, as has been the custom, but at 10 p.m. And it's a national trend. Studios and theatre owners alike are shying away from midnight shows for big, mainstream movies.
The LA Times says some studio execs point to the Aurora, Colorado theatre shootings to explain the decline. It was at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" last July that James Holmes allegedly killed 12 moviegoers and injured 58 others.
After the massacre, 20th Century Fox's Chris Aronson says people just stopped going to the late night shows. He calls the attendance drop "hugely dramatic."
Not all studio heads agree with that assessment - they say they were moving away from midnight shows already. But no matter, everyone seems to agree the earlier "premieres" are good for business. Attendance is up, popcorn sales are better, and both theatre employers and moviegoers can get to bed at a reasonable hour.
So successful have these 10 p.m. shows been that earlier this month, Tom Cruise's blockbuster "Oblivion" actually premiered at 7 p.m. to much success. If these movies start any earlier, they might as well just consider Thursday the official Opening Day.