By Samantha Wilson
City on a Hill Press Reporter
Traditional lore juxtaposes the midnight witching hour with chaos, death, and creatures that go bump in the night.
In Santa Cruz, however, midnight takes on a different association: every Friday and Saturday night UC Santa Cruz students and non-students alike line Pacific Avenue, tickets in hand, for the Del Mar Theatre’s popular midnight movies.
This weekend tradition is a fairly new one for the Santa Cruz community, bringing together everyone from the nostalgic, the film buffs, and the “Rocky Horror” fans each week. Started in 2003 by the Del Mar’s owner, Scott Griffin, the popular midnight movies represent a staple of Santa Cruz entertainment.
It all started with Corey Feldman, child star of “The Goonies.” Griffin originally began midnight showings in October 2003 at the Nickelodeon Theater on Lincoln Street in downtown Santa Cruz. He first screened the complete “Evil Dead” series and “The Goonies,” which Feldman, the infamous star of the cult hit, attended.
Soon, the audience grew too large for the venue. Griffin recognized the growing phenomenon of the midnight movie practice and took the crowds to the larger, more accommodating Del Mar Theatre.
“The typical movie usually consists of something nostalgic or pulp-driven, movies people want to see but generally aren’t able to,” Del Mar employee Bryn Phillips said. “It’s films like ‘Fight Club,’ ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘The Goonies’ — even [Teenage Mutant] ‘Ninja Turtles’ – that keep the audiences coming back.”
For fourth-year UCSC student Robby Sumner, Phillips’s reasoning holds true.
“Even though most of the movies shown at midnight showings are easily found on DVD, the Del Mar offers a feeling of community,” Sumner said. “It’s usually films with cult followings, so fans of the movie can sit in a room filled with fellow fans and really tear it up. It’s a lot of fun.”
Audience size depends greatly on the UCSC student population; during UCSC’s winter break the production shuts down and takes a break in correlation with the dramatically smaller audiences.
The midnight movie has become a tradition for UCSC students who want that ‘Rocky Horror’ dynamic of going to the movies late at night, but maybe also want to avoid the toilet paper and lingerie.
“I’ve gone to probably about half a dozen shows at the Del Mar. [At the screening of] ‘The Princess Bride’ the atmosphere was just so lively, a bunch of nerdy fans of the movie shouting out the lines and having a good time,” Sumner said.
For fans of the midnight movies, the tradition remains a favorite and constant force in their lives. Griffin has seen a consistent flux of audiences attend every week, along with new faces attending every school year. Students may graduate or switch schools, but because of the university’s close proximity, there will always be a new crowd to replace them at the Del Mar.
“My goal is to keep finding ways to get audiences involved,” Griffin said. “Our scavenger hunt each year before ‘The Goonies’ always expands and we want to continue that dynamic with future showings.”