By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Feb 23, 2007 at 5:24 AM

When the Times Cinema manager Eric Levin and WMSE ended the nine-year run of the Friday Night Freak show last July it was because attendance numbers were dropping.

Though tough, the decision to kill the weekly event seemed inevitable. But recently new Times owner Larry Widen, Levin and WSME have decided to revisit the issue and are happy to report that the Friday Night Freak Show might be dead, but the midnight movie tradition in Milwaukee is far from broken.

Making its debut this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23-24 is "WMSE's Last Weekend Midnight Movies" -- an improved reinvention of the cult classic movie night.

Rather than running films every Friday night consecutively, the Times will now be showing midnight movies on the last Friday and Saturday of each month. In an effort to make Last Weekend more of a special event, Levin says he's aiming to book things that have never before screened in Milwaukee and present the evening as a premiere.

"We did the Freak Show for nine years and I have a lot of faith in this new idea to do it less frequently, but with more unique programming," he says.

Although screenings of favorites like "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Princess Bride" often drew in the crowds that the Times needed to be able to continue the Freak Show, Levin says it was getting increasingly difficult to compete with the Blockbusters and Netflixes of the world.

"Those (films) were always successful in the past, but now people have too much access to them on DVD and don't want to bother seeing them in a theater. I'd like to be able to offer something a bit more special that you're unlikely to see anywhere else."

Last Weekend opens tonight with "Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation." No one under 18 will be admitted, although Levin says that this one is an exception and that the majority of his midnight movies will be open to all ages. Admission price is $5.

Levin and Widen have also revamped their concession stand to include bottled beer and wine, coffee and tea and more snacks.

Also new is the upcoming blues music series, Blues at the Times. Widen and Levin were looking to expand the theater's live show opportunities and, as adamant blues fans, they've established an impressive line up of blues legends to perform:

Corky Siegel
Saturday, April 28
8 p.m.
$22 advance, $25 door

Sam Lay
Friday, May 11
8 p.m.
$12 advance, $15 door

David "Honeyboy" Edwards
Friday, June 1
8 p.m.
$15 advance, $18 door


The near future of WMSE's Last Weekend Midnight Movies looks like this:

March 30 & 31: Don Hertzfeldt & Mike Judge present "The Animation Show"

May 25, 26 & 27: Sing-along "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Admission is $10 for this special event, which includes goodie bags for everyone & live festivities. Costumes are encouraged!)

Date TBA: "Rock The Bells": -- An inside look at what it took to bring the Wu-Tang Clan together for their final performance at the Rock the Bells Hip-Hop festival.



Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”