I mentioned on Facebook that I was surprised there was that long a gap between SNL films, and David Cornelius pointed out SNL's early-Eighties precipitous quality drop-off (when Lorne Michaels didn't produce and when Charles Rocket got fired after saying "fuck" on-air) and how, as the show got better later that decade, it was relatively less likely to do recurring bits that could be more easily spun off into films. Probably true. (A film based on Billy Crystal's Fernando would've been deadly.) But as the writing and performing crew got more talented and formidable, the show becoming worth a damn in the pop culture again, I want to imagine this, maybe, happening:
An Eighties SNL anthology film, in the style of The Kentucky Fried Movie, the 1977 film written by the future makers of Airplane! that is mostly unrelated sketch after unrelated sketch. An SNL sketch film wouldn't have to follow the SNL show format (no host, but obviously they could've had cameos of various funny famous people), just funny (they'd hope) bits, with more time to flesh out each bit than the weekly show has.
(It also wouldn't have had to hew to the TV show's format the way, say, 1980's The Gong Show Movie had. Yes, there was a Gong Show Movie.)
The Kentucky Fried Movie and an Eighties sketch film that actually happened, 1987's much more uneven Amazon Women on the Moon, were both R-rated (hard R at times). An SNL sketch film wouldn't have to be R-rated; I figure Lorne Michaels, once again the showrunner, would have felt going R-rated wouldn't add much to such a film. There still could've been novelty in a PG-13-level sketch movie by the team.
Maybe it could've been loosely themed, á la the 1983 Monty Python film The Meaning of Life. Loose enough to give the different writers leeway in how they could be funny, tied together enough to let it feel different from the show, which was and is rarely themed like that. Anything to give movie audiences a reason to buy tickets when they could see this team work on TV. And all of this could have been done reasonably cheaply.
Had something like this happened, what would've been the result? Flop (not as big a risk, of course, when a film is low-budget), middle-of-the-road box office, decent success, big success? Would some SNL performers and writers have been moved to try to do films more quickly? Would they not? Would Wayne's World still have happened as a film? (Would Austin Powers still have?) Would Conan O'Brien have moved on to The Simpsons and continue to show the weird potential that led Lorne Michaels and NBC to take a chance on him taking over David Letterman's former time slot? Pop-culture history would've shifted from what we got, maybe in small ways, maybe in bigger ways.
Turns out, in 1990, Lorne Michaels and the SNL crew did consider doing this. They got as far as a revised first draft of what was tentatively titled The Saturday Night Live Movie: I hope that, had they continued doing that script, they would've thought up a snappier title. In some alternate timeline, they did. I will hope whatever they would've come up with was funny.