Prom! It’s the most magical time in a teenager’s life. Or at least it’s supposed to be. More often than not, prom night ends with lame decorations, dashed expectations and nasty hangovers. But there’s one place where prom night is always as awesome and epic as it is in your imagination: the movies. From blood-soaked queens to time-traveling teens, the movies have given us some truly memorable prom scenes over the years. They’re the proms we only wish ours could be like. But why wish? You can have a prom just like the one in your favorite movie, if you’ve got the money to spend. That’s why we decided to do a cost analysis of our favorite movie proms.
(Full disclosure: Not every scene we looked at was a prom scene. But we just couldn’t imagine doing this list without including school dances like the Enchantment Under the Sea dance from “Back to the Future” or the Spring Fling from “Mean Girls.”)
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Party Like It’s 1999
We looked at 16 different school dance scenes for this list, starting in 1928 when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed jitterbugged their way into the school pool in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and waltzing all the way to 2008 when Bella and Edward shared their first dance at the end of “Twilight.” That’s 80 years of proms. Aside from the rising cost of tickets (The cost of prom tickets was just $16 in 1928; by 2008, it had jumped all the way to $200.), the biggest thing we learned is that if you want a prom like in the movies, then you’ve got to party like it’s 1999! 1999 was a magical year that featured more iconic prom scenes than any other year on the list. It was the year Julia Stiles told Heath Ledger “10 Things I Hate About You,” Rachel Leigh Cook proved to her whole school that “She’s All That” and a group of friends got their first slice of “American Pie.” So if you want the most guaranteed shot at some awesome prom action, then you’ll want to break out the Spice Girls CDs and put on your finest TRL-inspired fashion, because 1999 was the year when prom truly ruled.
Location, Location, Location
The good news for anyone trying to replicate a favorite movie prom is that the location fee is probably going to be pretty cheap. Eleven of the 16 proms we examined took place in a school gym, which can usually be secured for free. However, if you do want to recreate the look of your favorite off-campus movie prom, you can. Many of the locations used in movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “Footloose” are still available to rent today, if you’ve got the money. Three of those scenes took place in some iconic and expensive hotels that will charge you more than $25,000 for a single night of entertainment. The Ebell of Los Angeles, where everyone found out Drew Barrymore wasn’t a teenager but actually an undercover reporter in “Never Been Kissed,” will charge you $30,000. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel from “Pretty in Pink” will run up a $28,354 tab. And the Century Ballroom in Seattle from “10 Things I Hate About You” costs $25,000.
Of course, hotels aren’t the only place you can have a memorable off-campus prom. If you want to recreate the rule-breaking barn prom from the end of “Footloose,” you can rent out the Lehi Roller Mills in Utah for just $4,250. Or if you want a supernatural prom underneath gray Seattle skies, just like Edward and Bella, you can rent the same inn where “Twilight” went to prom. The View Point Inn is the cheapest on this list, costing you only $3,333 for the night.
Wherever you decide to host your prom, just remember: Most of these proms are memorable because of what happened at them, not where they happened. Let’s just hope you have something as memorable as a musical performance by your “Back to the Future” son at your prom!
Another cost-cutting benefit of most of your favorite movie proms is that they use DJs as the entertainment, not live bands. DJs are relatively cheap to rent for the evening, and in most cases, you can probably just find a student at your school who will do the job for free.
Unfortunately, if you do want to hire a band that appeared in one your favorite prom scenes, it’s going to be tough. Some of them, like Marvin Berry and the Starlighters from “Back to the Future” or Johnny Casino and the Gamblers from “Grease,” were entirely fictional. Other bands, like Letters to Cleo from “10 Things I Hate About You,” have since broken up and won’t perform again for any price. However, there is one movie prom musician who is still performing to this day: Usher. His character sang and spun records at the prom in “She’s All That,” and he’ll come perform at your prom too, if you have $150,000 to cover his fee.
Best Night Ever?
There are a lot of things you can buy to replicate your favorite movie proms, but there are certain things that money just can’t get you. At the end of the day, these dances weren’t memorable because the prom committee had hundreds of thousands of dollars to shell out on the fanciest hotel in town. They were memorable because they featured beloved characters, insane adventures and a few overly choreographed dance routines. And, of course, a few of the cooler couples getting lucky. But not as many as you’d think! More of the movies on this list feature couples breaking up at prom than ending up together. Only a few lucky couples, like George and Elaine from “Back to the Future” or Blake and Andie from “Pretty in Pink,” get to share a first kiss at the end of prom. And we only see one couple from all 16 movies actually going all the way on prom night: Jim and Michelle from “American Pie.” Most of the couples end prom broken up, like Danny and Sandy at the end of the dance scene in “Grease” or Kit and Patrick from “10 Things I Hate About You.”
So maybe movie proms aren’t all that different from real-life proms. Anyone’s night can end in dashed expectations, no matter how much money they have to spend. The important thing is to have fun and party, because it’s up to you to make prom the best night of your life.
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