Rocky Horror Interactive Screenings- Dig it, if you can

BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Get ready to do the time warp and head back to the 70s — it’s that time of year again when the Rocky Horror Picture Show heads back into theaters for interactive screenings!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 horror/comedy/musical that serves as a loving parody send-up to the b-horror and sci-fi films of the 1930s-1960s. It stars young couple Brad and Janet, who end up seeking refuge in a castle after their car breaks down. Here, they’re met with alien transvestite (and mad scientist) Dr. Frank-N-Futrter, who takes the duo on a strange descent into lust and madness with the help of his greatest creation, the musclebound Rocky. While not initially well-received, today, the Rocky Horror Picture Show is seen as one of the greatest musical movies ever made thanks to its charm and staying power and has even been entered into the National Film Registry due to its cultural significance. There’s even a sort of sequel in the film ‘Shock Treatment’, which this reporter highly recommends viewing.

Even if you haven’t seen the film itself, you’ve absolutely heard something about it: from the iconic lines, the performances, and the incredibly catchy songs. And every year, no matter how bizarre or controversial it seems, the film returns to theaters for ‘cult screenings’ all around the globe — including here in North Dakota at the Dakota Stage Playhouse.

“There are Rocky Horror fans everywhere,” says president of Dakota Stage’s Board of Directors Ladonna Carpenter. “We saw a need here in North Dakota, and we filled it.”

Rocky Horror isn’t the only film to invite these cult classic film nights, but it’s certainly the most popular. Around Halloween, movie theaters and playhouses all across the United States host screenings of the macabre musical. Even so, it’s somewhat surprising to see a screening spring up in a place like Bismarck. But to some, the fact that it stands out in a place like the capital of North Dakota is entirely keeping within the spirit of the film itself.

Of course, a local group like the Dakota Stage can’t get too reckless with their screenings — and so even with the chaotic atmosphere of the evening, guidelines were in place to help make sure everyone could enjoy the film in a wild yet safe way. Water, water guns, wet food, candles, lighters, and large quantities of confetti, bubbles, and rice were forbidden — and a handy reminder to toss props up in the air rather than at the screen was present throughout the evening. But what exactly is a cult screening to begin with?

Cult Screenings of a film serve as a lighthearted, often ‘interactive’ way to enjoy a wildly popular good or infamous movie, usually featuring audience participation, props, costumes, and reactions to famous lines or scenes. No film has the same reputation for hosting these screenings as Rocky Horror, and 47 years after its premiere, it’s still alive and well during these limited releases. The interactive screening itself originated at the Waverly Theater in New York City, where guests would begin talking back to the screen and dress as the characters during special Halloween showings of the film. There have been entire articles and web pages about the proper responses to scenes in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Call-Backs: Lines that the audience shouts in response to a line from the film. Lists of all callbacks are available online, though they usually include snappy remarks to lines and insults to the Narrator (He’s got no neck!)
  • Object-Throwing: During the opening wedding scene, the audience is encouraged to throw small pouches of rice into the air along with the on-screen wedding guests. Other throwing items include confetti during the end of the “Charles Atlas Song” reprise and cards when the line “Cards for Sorrow, Cards for Pain” emerges in the song “I’m Going Home”.
  • Rubber Gloves: During and after Dr. Frank N. Furter’s speech regarding creation, the doctor snaps his rubber gloves. Guests are asked to snap their own gloves in time with the sound effect.
  • Noisemakers: At the end of the creation speech, noisemakers and applause are heard. Audience members are welcome to join in.
  • Toilet Paper: When Dr. Scott enters the lab, Brad utters the line ‘Great Scott!’. This is the cue for toilet paper to be tossed into the air. Bonus points if it’s the ‘Scott’ brand.
  • Toast: Perhaps the most iconic trait of a Rocky Horror interactive screening. When Frank proposes a toast at dinner, the audience is encouraged to throw pieces of toast (preferably unbuttered) into the air.
  • Party Hats: At the dinner table in which Dr. Frank puts on a party hat, audience members are asked to do the same.
  • Bells: During the classic song ‘Planet Schmanet Janet”, Dr. Frank sings the line “Did you hear a bell ring?”. Audience members are encouraged to bring a bell to make the noise themselves (although car keys may be used if one doesn’t have a bell).
  • Hot Dogs/Prunes: NOT RECOMMENDED. Fans have been observed to throw hot dogs and prunes in a manner similar to toast when these food items are mentioned in the film. However, these are even disavowed by the official Rocky Horror website, due to the possibility of attracting rodents and leaving stains.

Despite the limitations, though, the guests — and KX reporters — had a wonderful and wild evening. With every prop allowed, some restrictions, or no props at all, though, at the heart of the matter, the meaning of these screenings remains the same: to help gather fans of a classic out there film that has captured the hearts of millions across the world with its music, camp, and overall narm charm, and celebrate its legacy by going wild.

“Part of the charm of Rocky Horror Picture Show is being able to come and interact,” continues Carpenter. “Throw the confetti, throw the toilet paper, throw the toast… that’s really just a lot of the fun of the show, part of what’s really made it kind of stand the test of time, and why people come and see it over and over again.”

The surprising sentimental value it has for some is also worth a mention: these screenings can serve as a gathering place for fans of the surreal, stunning, and slightly squicky side of the media. To many, it serves as a hot spot where they can find more of those who are on the fringes of pop culture and meet others like them.

“Rocky Horror really kind of draws that niche crowd,” concluded Carpenter. “It’s effectively the first ‘Cult Classic’. Those people that loved Rocky Horror… it was one of those things where they found ‘their people’, and that’s why I think they keep coming over and over again.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show may not be for everyone (especially if you’re under 18), but an interactive screening of the film is certainly something to behold. It may not be able to make you a man, but it’ll certainly bring you a great time. If you can’t find a local screening over the next days, or don’t have the resources to host your own, then consider planning to attend one in the future. The year-long wait until next October will surely make one shiver with antici…..


….Pation. We’ll see you again next week for another BRB Segment. Happy Halloween!

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