24. Phantom of the Megaplex (November 10, 2000)
Director: Blair Treu
Stars: Taylor Handley, Jacob Smith, Caitlin Wachs, Mickey Rooney
Lesson Learned: If you neglect your family because of your passion for film, there will be hell to pay.
Exploring the impermanence of minimum wage jobs and the superficiality of Internet spoiler culture, Phantom of the Megaplex has little to do with The Phantom of the Opera, despite the title and Mickey Rooney's mishapen, melted-candle face. Pete Riley is 17, and, like so many of us, he loves only to sit in a dark theater and let motion pictures break over him like religious truth. He works at the titular megaplex, and as the film begins, he's helping prepare for the grand premiere of Midnight Mayhem.
The premiere, however, will not go according to plan, as Riley is saddled with his siblings, who don't share his intense love for cinema. Meanwhile, a phantom—perhaps the ghost of someone who got trapped in a previous incarnation of the town's theater before it was demolished—is pulling off ingenious pranks. The mischievous acts reflect the titles being screened at the theater, i.e. the Phantom places a large fan inside the theater showing Cyclone Summer. He's a clever one.
Eventually, Riley realizes that he wants to spend time with his family, not under the light of the film projector's flickering beam. Seeing Mickey Rooney's shriveled body probably had something to do with his decision. —RS