Midnight movies feel as though they've become a pretty significant driver of business and hype over the past few years. For the life of me, I can't remember anyone going to the movies at midnight when I was growing up; I think I managed to hit a midnight movie when I was in high school (a free showing of Mars Attacks), but beyond stuff like the Star Wars prequels, it simply wasn't an option in most cases. Even after I moved to San Francisco, it wasn't something that was done, unless you wanted to get a big group of friends together and drunkenly heckle Snakes On A Plane (which happened).
Maybe I'm simply more aware of midnight movies now, but it definitely seems like they get more attention from theater owners and the box office press sites than they used to, with reporting on ticket pre-sales and midnight grosses allowing journalists to proclaim a movie to be bombing before most of the country has even had a chance to see it. That's not going to change with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, which seems likely to break all kinds of records when it comes out in June. Even though June is five months away, some bright fellow at AMC seems to have wanted to jump-start the hype machine for the film, and, as such, you might be able to actually buy tickets to a midnight screening of it already. In January.
That's according to slashfilm, which dug up links to pre-order tickets in NY, SF, and LA, although two of the cities are already apparently sold out. Tickets were also apparently on sale in the theater during the first few days of the Ghost Protocol showings, with the Dark Knight Rises prologue attached to them. LA still looks like tickets are up for sale, at the Citywalk Stadium theater (which happens to be where I caught a sold-out show of The Dark Knight a couple years ago).
No one particularly needs to have a ticket five months in advance, of course; this seems an effort on the part of AMC to kowtow to the people who absolutely need to be "first." That said, many of the pre-sales are for the IMAX screens, of which there's generally only one per location, so once that screen is sold out, you're going to have to make do with a regular digital showing instead of the IMAX screen. Here in San Francisco, the biggest AMC theater will usually dedicate as many screens as they can plausibly sell out to a single movie when it opens; there were 13 or 14 screens showing the latest Twilight movie or Deathly Hallows, Part II, for instance. But there's only one IMAX screen, and once that's sold out, you're going to probably have to wait a couple of days to find a screening that is anything less than filled to capacity.
If you had to choose between a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises on a regular screen and waiting until, say, the Monday after it came out to catch it in IMAX, which would you prefer? Would you ever buy tickets to a movie five months ahead of time?