Midnight movies are a rarity in the Harrisonburg, VA area, despite the presence of one enormous university and one smaller one within the city limits, and yet another small college within spitting distance. That’s right, even James Madison University’s 17,000 students, Eastern Mennonite University’s 1,600 students, and Bridgewater College’s 1,500 in addition to Harrisonburg, VA’s regular population can’t – or won’t – support a midnight movie program in the area.
It’s not as if it hasn’t been done in the past. Research on the subject digs up that the Zeus Theatre in Waynesboro, VA, just down the interstate, screened the newest “Harry Potter” movies at midnight recently. And on a site devoted to JMU campus activities, University Program Board, mention is made of an “occasional” midnight movie screening, although none are listed as upcoming. Perhaps they were just speaking of capability as opposed to actual screening.
Sadly, the most activity I’ve been able to locate regarding midnight movies in Harrisonburg, is a grant proposal and submission by Dave Barnes for Student Union activities to possibly include such entertainments at James Madison University’s campus Grafton-Stovall Theatre.
Again, the background cultural history of the community may be one reason for this gaping entertainment hole. Harrisonburg was founded by pioneers whose primary activity involved agriculture. Twenty percent of modern Harrisonburg residents cite their ancestry as German with Irish and English following at half that rate each. Apparently, the majority of the German settling in the area were German Anabaptists, specifically the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites and Mennonite.
Further, the recent history of JMU student’s and the community has not been good. Student riots and collapsed apartment buildings from over-attended parties would not make a community actively look for ways to keep these students awake and active past the midnight hour.
Hunt, Jeremy. “Breaking Out of ‘The JMU Bubble:’ City Summit Aims to Bring Students, Community Together.” Daily News Record, 09-22-10
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