The making of... My movie night tradition!
October 23, 2007 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I have lived in a studio apartment for the past several years and avoided having people over to hang out. Now that I've graduated to a one-bedroom apartment, I'm more comfortable having comany over again. My apartment is still pretty small, but I'm working on making it inviting. My idea: First Friday movie night. Now what?

I'd like your suggestions on two specifics:

1. Friends and family are a good start for the first month. Is it cheesy to encourage each of them to invite someone new next time? Or should I let this happen if it's going to happen? Any ideas on how to move this along (other than inviting the neighbors right off)? I have room for 10-15 people. It's still just a living room after all...

2. Movies! Suggestions so far have been: Brigadoon, Crash, Little Mermaid, Amelie and a few others. I'd like to avoid subtitles, blood, date movies or anything that might cause people to fall asleep. (I'm thinking that the second part of the tradition might be going out for drinks after.) Age range: 25-40. Men and women. Gay and straight. Liberal to not-as-liberal-but-still-welcome-in-my-home. Any suggestions for a mixed crowd?
posted by meindee to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I would encourage you to begin the tradition with some very good food (excellent appetizers/finger foods). Once word gets out that "you must go to meindee's Friday movie nights, the food she serves there is incredible," you will have a reliable group of people showing up. Sorry to say, it is very hard to get 25-40 year olds to reliably show up for anything, so the better your food, the better your chances of having a successful event.
posted by jayder at 6:35 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: i like the idea of asking a few good friends to each bring a friend. i think a lot of people would like to meet new people but don't know how. i expect it will go over well. you might want to experiment at first with combining your own disparate groups of friends, then expand the next time.

it might help to have a theme for the night, just to give everyone something to talk about. asking them to bring a snack or drink that goes with the theme will also help. anything that will make someone feel included will help them feel more open and chatty.

it's like a "used boyfriend" party--everyone brings a single ex (that they still like and respect) in order to introduce them to new mates. ;)
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:43 PM on October 23, 2007

The thing about movie nights is that you all sit in a darkened room not talking to each other. you need something more to make it a fun social event. Such as drinks afterwards, yes, or maybe coffee/snacks/discussion like a book club.

Or, I just had the best idea, make it a dinner party/movie night! Potluck, even. Then you get a delicious meal where you can all socialize, and you get to relax for two hours digesting. And any couples who were eyeing each other over dinner get to snuggle together on the couch. Oh wow, I'm a genius.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:44 PM on October 23, 2007

You are wise to avoid anything with subtitles, controversy, date movies, and anything too "slow".

I wouldn't choose anything too complicated or confusing. Your guests are going to be talking, getting up for bathroom breaks and snacks. It can't be anything too smart. The good old action and adventure blockbuster is what I would choose.

Spiderman 3 comes out next Tuesday on DVD.

Casino Royale is surprisingly good. There is violence of course and some blood. There is a graphic stabbing, a woman shown beat to death, and a man is tortured. If the crowd is all adult I would recommend this one for non-stop action with lots of eye candy and beautiful scenery.

The first Pirates of the Caribbean is a great movie. A big people pleaser I would say.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great movie for a group. People get into it and cheer.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:49 PM on October 23, 2007

I differ with LoriFLA's advice on picking movies. Pick movies you want to see and you think other people want to see. If that's some bizarre subtitled movie with a subtext that you have to have a degree in history to fully understand, well, that's the movie you want to see, right? I actually like those best because you can talk about them more afterwards (during the "and drinks" phase of the evening, say). But if it's the mindless action blockbuster you didn't get around to seeing in the theaters last summer, or a classic that everyone's probably seen but maybe not recently, that's good too. The point is to enjoy watching the movie. I think theme nights work well— better if you have time for two movies.

You're presumably inviting people via email (or evite or something), so mention in the invites that extra friends are welcome. People will bring other people along, and some of those other people will get added to your invite list next time. Repeat until your apartment gets too full.
posted by hattifattener at 7:18 PM on October 23, 2007

One of my friends/coworkers has a movie night, and he usually attempts to find movies that no one has seen. It works really well for the group, but it's kind of a movie-nerd move, and it might not play so well with a less obsessed crowd.
posted by box at 7:20 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: Regarding the subtitles thing, i'm a little hard of hearing (not so's you'd notice) and I find the English subtitles on DVD to be a huge improvement on interrupting everyone else by saying "What did he say? What was that?" Of course, it also means I see the joke before I hear it - but worth considering if you think some people might talk during the movie.

Regarding the movies themselves, what about a Cheese night, where you serve fondue, a cheese and fruit platter, and a bunch of 80s movies, Breakfast Club, St Elmo's Fire, Electric Dreams, that sort of thing. The 25 year olds may get to enjoy these for the first time, the 40 year olds get to talk about how they wore leg warmers and fluoro colours.

Or what about musicals - pick well known ones (Oklahoma, anything by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Sound of Music), and everyone can sing along during those bits.

Regarding food, I seriously dislike it when my host has to leave to go to the kitchen to sort it out. So try and pre-prepare. I like to order mixed platters from my local supermarket (okay, so sue me, I'm low class).

Regarding drinks, perhaps be adventurous by providing a range of cocktails, otherwise, a white wine, a red, and maybe a good scotch, and some vodka.

Have fun.
posted by b33j at 7:32 PM on October 23, 2007

Depending how hip your friends are, Friday nights might be difficult to get people to commit to. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday movie nights sound more appealing to me.

Also, skip The Little Mermaid, and show Pink Flamingos instead.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:34 PM on October 23, 2007

I recommend, at the outset, something that people in this age group would find nostalgic. What springs to mind for me is stuff like The Princess Bride, Sixteen Candles, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack... you get the picture. Something that's light and that people have seen before, so that conversation and interruptions won't be quite as obtrusive. Once you've established movie night as a tradition, you can seek out headier fare that requires more concentration. Oh and nthing food. Have fun!
posted by louche mustachio at 7:35 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: In San Francisco, we have movies in the park(s), which are pretty cool and crowd pleasers -- see this schedule and that schedule. This year I saw 16 Candles and Sunset Boulevard. In past years, I've seen Harold & Maude, Some Like it Hot, and various SF-themed movies.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:56 PM on October 23, 2007

Easy yummy snack: seeded flatbread crackers; soft goat cheese; fig spread; walnuts.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:57 PM on October 23, 2007

I actually met my husband at a movie night. I was the host's long time friend from high school and my husband was the host's friend from work. The movie was "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." I brought a big tube of green frosting and my future husband brought a plate of freshly baked cookies. I frosted his cookies, and we wooed each other with witty commentary during the movie.

You might get tired of shelling out cash for good food and beverages every month, so try to keep it simple or suggest that people bring some stuff. Sometimes a case of beer and chips and salsa can be just fine.

"Spinal Tap" is a great movie to watch with a group of friends and also a good funny film to watch to take everyone's minds off depressing stuff.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:15 PM on October 23, 2007

Have a good concert DVD on for when people arrive. It's good for atmosphere, it gives people something to watch and possibly talk about while they mingle, without requiring full attention, and no one will miss anything if the talking is loud. I don't know your taste, but some good concerts with high amount of visual interest are the best. My favorites:

Pink Floyd PULSE
U2 PopMart and Zooropa (later ones are good, but less spectacle)
Coldplay Live 2003
Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
David Gilmour Remember That Night
Fleetwood Mac The Dance
David Byrne Live at Union Chapel

As far as movies themselves... obviously there are tons to choose from. Although Crash is one of my faves, it really needs the proper attention, and a house party is probably not the right setting unless people are coming specifically to focus on a movie. In fact, I tend to get annoyed when I am showing a great movie and feel my guests are not paying attention. I want them to enjoy as much as I do, but that's not the right setting.

I'd go more for the popcorn movies suggested above. People can drift in and out, chat, get food, and then pay attention when all the 'splosions and chases start.

Also, I am a convert now so I have to recommend fondue. It's my favorite way to entertain lately and people love it and remember it. Have fun!
posted by The Deej at 8:19 PM on October 23, 2007

My most successful movie nights have always been: Cheeseball science fiction, with the understanding that vocal heckling is encouraged. You will know whether this will go over well with your crowd.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:17 PM on October 23, 2007

Cheeseball science fiction, with the understanding that vocal heckling is encouraged.
How about MST3K?

Some guys at work try to do movie nights, but they watch stuff like 3-hour director's cuts of 1980s sci-fi films, and, yeah.. that limits their audience, I think. So, don't do that.
posted by blenderfish at 10:36 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: I tend to think of movie nights as starting with a group trip to the video store, but YMMV. :) You won't have time for more than three or four movies, so pick six you want to watch and let the crowd choose the order. Or you could just ask each guest to bring a DVD, and choose the order yourself (subject to crowd approval).

I'm thinking that the second part of the tradition might be going out for drinks after. s

Again YMMV, but this has never worked for me - my friends and I have always started the night "out" (restaurant, pub, whatever) and ended with videos. Video-watching is very undemanding in terms of energy, and can even have a draining effect in terms of desire to undertake other activity. If you start at 7pm and put two movies on, that's 10:00; if you then say "we're going out", you'll probably get a few people coming and the rest flake, especially if it's a weeknight. But if you put two more movies on, some people will flake at 11:30 and some will stay 'til 1am.

On that point, it's nice to offer comfortable couches for sleepy guests (driving sleepy is almost as bad as driving drunk). So some cushions, guest pillows, guest blankets and guest towels are worth looking into if you're going to be doing this often.

If you're still looking into how to set up the venue, a data projector is much cheaper than a comparable TV and much easier to store away. The only downside is that they tend not to work well with light sources and barely at all during daytime. They are fairly cheap these days; ask your intended guests if anyone has one or can borrow one from work or whatever. You may need a laptop or computer to run it, and you will need decent speakers or a stereo with an AUX input for sound.

As for food and snacks, depends on your and your friends' expectations but we've always asked the guests to bring munchies and the host supplies the very basics (Coke, chocolate, and chips). ClaudiaCenter's snack ideas are great, and likely to be just as cheap.

Here's a (small, suggested) selection of movies that will go over well with that crowd: Blast From The Past; In Her Shoes; Stranger than Fiction; Hi Fidelity; Aliens; The Ring; and a DVD of an episodic comedy TV show such as Wonderfalls, Invader Zim, Venture Bros, or My Name is Earl.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:10 PM on October 23, 2007

And Amelie. If you haven't seen it, get it. It's awesome. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:15 PM on October 23, 2007

okay, sorry to hijack, but it must be asked.

In this world of gigantic flat-screen televisions and thousand-watt home theatre systems, is it still socially acceptable to invite people over to watch movies/shows on our (seemingly) archaic 27-inch CRT television?

Mrs. green and I have finally moved into an apartment that begs to invite company over, but are unsure that we can compete with those who have amazing systems that we just can't bear to purchase, considering that we just don't use the TV enough to justify the cost.
posted by phredgreen at 11:30 PM on October 23, 2007

In this world of gigantic flat-screen televisions and thousand-watt home theatre systems, is it still socially acceptable to invite people over to watch movies/shows on our (seemingly) archaic 27-inch CRT television?

Sure. No-one who likes you would be offended, and why invite anyone who doesn't like you? :)

(That said, data projectors still rule ... )
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:38 PM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great ideas. I'm leaning toward a cheese night. Sounds memorable and easy. Plus, it's a great excuse to buy a fondue pot. :)

I'd planned on the laptop and data projector, but hadn't thought about added audio. Excellent point!
posted by meindee at 5:13 AM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: I used to do a Summer Movie Night on my patio. I don't know why, but there's just something about watching movies outside that I love. I'd bring my laptop outside, plug it into a bigger movie screen & hook it up to speakers. I asked people for suggestions, but I picked iconic movies that I'd always wanted to see or that I hadn't seen in years. Then I did a cool themed evite for each. I would do a google search and include the original movie poster and a brief description of the movie and anything unique about it, with links for people who wanted to learn more. During the movie night we would also look up other facts about the filming of it.

I provided some alcohol and food, also themed. For Chinatown, we had chinese food, etc. A few nights, we potlucked or someone else provided, though. Since I was providing the movie & the place. Sometimes I also showed a cartoon or two beforehand, like they used to do.

Also, plan for one short ten-minute intermission, halfway through the film. People often want one. They want a minute to use the restroom, refresh their drinks, get more food or stretch their legs. Sometimes it's also a fun time to discuss what's going on in the film before seeing the ending.

The movies I remember being the biggest hits were things like the Thin Man films (!), Chinatown, Valley of the Dolls (!), Harold & Maude, and House on Haunted Hill. I had started out with current films but found that classic beloved films made a FAR more fun and special evening for everyone.

After a few weeks, I actually had to make a cutoff of people on the patio because it got too crowded. But I found that's a really good thing to announce anyhow. First off, you'll find that there's a perfect number of attendees for the best movie watching in your place. I have a small patio and found that eight people was too many to be comfortable on it. When I made the cutoff, another thing that happened was it forced people to rsvp and it made life easier that way. If you say, "The theatre has a __ person capacity, so rsvp now! First come first seated!" or something, then people don't want to put off confirming because they're afraid they won't have a seat. Then when I hit the desired capacity I'd sent out an e-mail saying the seating status, that rsvps are currently taken but if there are any cancellations you're creating a list. Not only does it make people less flaky, but it helps you know how the minimum of food and drink to expect to need. You don't find yourself surprised by a full house and not enough food or an empty house with leftovers.

Have fun.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:23 AM on October 24, 2007

By the way, my biggest failure night was Amelie. Everyone had already seen it but me and apparently didn't feel they needed to see it again. It had the lowest rsvps of any movie night so I had to cancel that week. YMMV of course.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:27 AM on October 24, 2007

The first suggestions that came to mind were Big Trouble in Little China, and the Freaks and Geeks TV series. Nostalgic, but not so popular that everyone would have seen 'em a million times.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 6:43 AM on October 24, 2007

i'm late to the party, but we're trying to start something like this, but with a sci-fi theme.

anyway. we're trying to pick stuff that is fun, that some people have probably seen, some have not, and classics. we don't want to sit in a dark room, we want to interact while the movie is going on (mocking the characters, etc).

so crowd pleasers like pirates of the carribean or some like it hot (or whatever) are probably good.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:49 AM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: Hey Miss Lynnster, I just came down here to recommend The Thin Man. But you wrecked it.

Anyway, how about The Thin Man? Funny smart drunken wisecracking complicated murder mystery. With a cute dog. And seemingly half of the movie takes place at crowded parties full of fabulous people and hoods, so all your guests (who you have coached to come looking fabulous, and you have served champagne cocktails, highballs, and cucumber sandwiches) feel like THEY are fabulous and attending a fabulous party like the one in the picture.

The plot is good enough that you can watch it for the plot, but complicated enough that your guests can have fun saying "NO! She's the OTHER guy's daughter!" and stuff to catch up those who weren't paying attention.

It's really a charming, cool, crowd-pleasing movie.

Made in the '30s so it'll look great in full-screen on your TV.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:54 AM on October 24, 2007

If you want to encourage socializing, and not just sociability, you want a movie where your guests feel free to talk over/back at it. So something intentionally or unintentionally outlandish. Something like Kingpin or Slapshot (the former), or Red Dawn or Clash of the Titans (the latter, both especially funny for the well-known stars in them).

Are your friends good cooks? If so, make it a pot-luck and give each one a general idea of what to bring. If not, have them bring the booze. They'll probably want to pitch in with something either way.
posted by adamrice at 7:56 AM on October 24, 2007

If I were to attend a big attraction would be movies that I haven't seen, but was supposed to. E.g Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With The Wind, West Side Story... cultural touchstones.
posted by Gungho at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2007

BTW, there are six or so movies in the Thin Man series. The second one is possibly better than the first (with cameo by Jimmie Stewart!) and a lot of people haven't seen it. So if your friends have seen the first one, be different & show the second. (The later films started to lose steam, but people just loved seeing William Powell & Myrna Loy together so they kept making them reprise the roles.)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2007

I should correct myself and clarify... it wasn't a cameo by Jimmie Stewart. He was super young and it was one of his first roles.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:47 AM on October 24, 2007

I recommend using subtitles - even on English films. Nothing is worse than everyone asking "what just happened?" "what did he say??"

We have movie night regularly at my place.. and everyone is always very grateful for the subtitles. It's taken a few films to get our group of friends used to it - but it helps in the post-film discussion.

YMMV of course.
posted by Lizc at 9:40 AM on October 24, 2007

« Older Where have all the Dashboard stickies gone?   |   Clipless pedals clip in? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.