Revisiting Hollywood’s bygone era of extravagant mediocrity

Speaking to the person behind Twitter account Movie Premieres Unlimited – a red carpet archive of cinema’s Blockbuster years

There’s a good chance the 2007 movie Wild Hogs wound its way into my brain through Twitter. The John Travolta and Tim Allen movie about middle-aged men riding Harley-Davidsons carried the tagline: “four guys from the suburbs hit the road” – capturing the pre-financial crisis attitude prevalent in moviemaking of “literally any fucking plot will do”. Studio movies like this – comeback vehicles for late-era comedians, brazen humour, romantic partners with no dialogue, low budget, critical panning – leave the public consciousness as fast as they fall off at the box office. Yet, inexplicably, they share the ability to retain real estate in your memories for a lifetime, shorn of all detail, cohesiveness, shape and story.

Somewhere on the continuum of the underperforming Speed 2 to the studio drama The Butterfly Effect, they all feel like hallucinations. Not memorable enough to land cult status and not sufficiently lucrative to become a franchise. Their raunchy posters multiply in VHS shops and bargain bins to the point where the words Kangaroo Jack scroll across a moving bus and your eyes capture but in no way process what those words mean. However, since March of this year, the Twitter account Movie Premieres Unlimited has been collecting these non-phenomenons and bringing them back to life in the most corporeal reference point possible: red carpet premieres.

In one tweet, a four-image collage of the red carpet premiere of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story has shots of Ben Stiller signing dodgeballs, a bikini model holding pom-poms and Vince Vaughn performing a fake smile. Gene Simmons greets you at the Scooby-Doo premiere with his tongue out, flaunting an adult magazine. Matthew McConaughey’s lips clasp an unlit cigar at the 2 Fast 2 Furious premiere. Kevin Smith looks uncomfortable propping up a Chasing Amy poster. And, Sinbad in casual day-wear, gives us simple a thumbs-up. It’s total 90s.

Julio, the creator of Movie Premieres Unlimited, only started posting in March and has already amassed over seventy-thousand followers thanks to the power of nostalgia and celebrities retweeting their own faces as throwbacks. “When I saw The Phantom Menace premiere and saw that it had everybody from Ben Savage to Drew Carey to Rob Lowe, I was like ‘these people are pumped!’” says Julio.

The images feel uncanny and filled with contradictions. The title alone – Movie Premieres Unlimited – evokes a virus-heavy website where you download a movie in 2004 (Without a Paddle, maybe) with the watermarked site logo taking up half of the screen.

Both feral and sarcastic towards Hollywood and the culture it produces, Movie Premieres Unlimited holds an appreciation for pre-social media behaviour, the audacity of lowbrow cinema and Jason Alexander’s oeuvre. A release for all of us who watched one too many Val Kilmer joints. In a particularly confounding tweet, Julio announced to his audience that he received a takedown notice over copyright infringement. A day later, he posted the red carpet for The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea with Jason Alexander present in a denim-on-denim look. But what’s more bewildering – the takedown notice or the recollection that there even was a sequel to The Little Mermaid?

Hi Julio, what’s your life like outside the internet?

Julio: I’m a 6th Grade U.S. history teacher. It’s a shame movie premieres are not on our curriculum cause some of them are truly historic. I’d love to show my class the night two Gary Buseys attended one screening of Under Siege. My hobbies are pretty basic – I enjoy watching Star Wars fan theory videos, it’s a wormhole I’ve gone deep into as of late. That’s why it was such a thrill when Rian Johnson (director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi) followed me. There’s a small part of me that wants to send him a laundry list of ideas that include making prequels to the prequels.

What inspired you to start Movie Premieres Unlimited?

Julio: For years now I’d post movie premieres on my personal handles cause I loved the absurdity of the event. It wasn’t til my buddy the @shampoodler suggested I put them all in one place. It’s just funny to see a talented actor stand in front of a poster of their movie, almost imploring us to go see it.

What is the routine like for running the account?

Julio: At first, I just sought out my favorite films. Being an appreciator of the fine arts and having only the most refined taste in film, the first movies I searched for were the likes of American Pie and Starship Troopers. Then my routine became focussed around the star, the movies no longer made the premiere – Hollywood’s finest do that and they don’t come any finer than Val Kilmer, so he became a big focal point. Basically I focus on my power players like Jerry O’Connell and Carmen Electra. If they were attending then I know it was a classy event.

I’d like to believe there’s a theme to the movie choices.

Julio: There’s not so much of a theme as much as it’s me trying to find the story within the premiere. The narrative changes, but there’s always a story. An example would be Nicolas Cage at a Terminator 2 screening. His photos tell a story in his loosely fitted suit and cigarette in hand, looking to be having a great time. In that same premiere, Ice-T is wearing a hat for his movie Ricochet. In that case, the story is self-promotion.

Art speaks to you and I browse for a while waiting to be spoken to. It could be in the expression of Tim Allen grunting at Toy Story 2, or a bold fashion statement by Olivia D’Abo of The Wonder Years wearing her belt in an absurd manner. It could be Carmen Electra showing up to Good Burger – a children’s movie – dressed in a skin tight outfit with Sumner Redstone off in the distance. Honestly I just browse and wait to be captivated as pretentious as it all sounds, but I mostly just look to see if Sinbad’s there.

Are there any specific movies you feel summarise this moment in history the best?

Julio: Everybody looks great at premieres, we’re not gonna see a hunk like Chris Hemsworth dressing like Jon Lovitz at the End Game premiere. As far as other eras, the Alien 3 premiere captured the 90’s real well with Michael Richards, David Faustino and so many standouts of that era flocking to the premiere.

I have to ask, why is Jason Alexander so prominent?

Julio: The man loves movies. Before Seinfeld fame, he was showing up to the Batman Returns premiere. I think what’s most endearing about Jason is he’s a repeat offender and his purple fanny pack has shown up at a number of premieres.

Why do you think your account has become so popular in such a short amount of time?

Julio: I think getting some major celebrity followers early on was big. Anytime you have a Brie Larson commenting on the premiere to Crossroads it’s gonna garner some attention. I’m still not completely over that. Nostalgia just resonates with people and even if you didn’t grow up in that era it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in fashion.

Was there a movie premier you decided to leave out?

There’s no premieres I necessarily leave out, if everybody is dressed well then chances are it’s not gonna make the cut. Sometimes there’s people like Harvey Weinstein in a shot and I will opt to not include that photo. I try to make this a celebration of the fashion and the time period.

Your twitter was locked for a couple days, what do you think caused that and do you see a future on social media?

Julio: Truthfully I have no idea, I hope so. These photos are just cultural commentary, so I don’t understand the issue. People post Simpsons gifs without any copyright issue, but it is what it is. I’m on instagram now as a back up under @nightopenings. Worst case scenario I guess I will post the photos on Angelfire to stay true to the 90’s vibe.

Seriously though, I recorded a podcast that you can find on iTunes and Spotify. We covered the premiere of Batman Forever, everything from the soundtrack, to the McDonalds collectible glasses, to the movie itself, and of course the fashion on the red carpet.

How do movie premieres right now look different from the 80s, 90s and 00s?

Julio: Apparently somebody got the word out on tailors and there was a drastic change. Robert Downey Jr started wearing a suit that could only fit one person instead of three. We also might be undergoing a denim shortage after the 90’s and a culprit by the name of Jay Leno started hoarding it, so we’re not seeing as many people in a pair of Levi’s to see Welcome to Marwen.

What’s next for you?

Julio: I’m gonna be conducting a panel at Bugcon going over some of my favorite premieres, so I’m honoured to be taking part in it.