In 2007, Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures was still operating at Warner Bros, and a year removed from the box office windfall of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” The studio might not have known what to make of “Trick ‘r Treat,” but Legendary believed in it, so, to nudge their parent company in the direction of a theatrical release, they brought the movie to Harry Knowles’ annual 24-hour film festival Butt-Numb-a-Thon. Held in early December, timed to coincide with the Ain’t It Cool News webmaster’s birthday, they knew the movie would play well with an ultra-geeky audience.
What they didn’t know was that Knowles wanted the movie to close the festival. They had the goods, but could the film work its mirthfully malevolent magic on a theater packed with bleary-eyed viewers?
I went to six BNATs, and if they were properly programmed, the films flowed naturally into one another. If you needed to, you could squeeze in a nap or two between midnight and 6 AM, which left you fresh for the last two movies, which tended to be premieres. So while being the last film of a day-long movie orgy sounds like a death sentence, it could also be the perfect capper to an exhilarating run of cinema.
I was not present for the BNAT debut of “Trick ‘r Treat,” but I vividly recall my janky flip-phone blowing up with texts from friends who were in attendance. Dougherty’s film had won the crowd and then some. People were declaring it an instant Halloween standard. The challenge before Legendary now was to build momentum off the enthusiasm of a few hundred hardcore cinephiles.