By Joseph Robertia
There was a bit of a time warp last weekend at the Orca Theater in Soldotna. As part of Halloween-season festivities, fans of two movie classics, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Shining,” were treated to an opportunity to see these films on the big screen, but only for one night, one showing, at midnight Saturday.
“We did ‘Rocky Horror’ last year,” said Orca owner Shelly Endsley. “It was a great turnout and great to see all the people that dressed up for the show.”
The theater packed a nearly full house for the late-night showing, and despite that most audiences are expected to be interactive — dressing up, shouting lines and at times squirting water and throwing various props — theater manager Sarah Covault said that the crowd had a good time without causing any harm to the screen or theater.
“It was packed and you could hear them hooting and hollering from out here (in the lobby), but there was no more mess than after a usual movie,” she said. “Part of that is because we tell everyone the rules as they come in. They can sing, dance, shout and throw popcorn, but no toast or toilet paper or anything like that because our screen is a lot closer to the audience than most theaters where ‘Rocky Horror’ plays.”
As Halloween came closer this year, Endsley said that customers began asking her if the Orca would again screen the campy musical, and as the clock ticked closer to midnight of the screening, fans of the film began showing up in fishnets and corsets, and various other costumes representing the characters.
Even with the participation, for many of the theatergoers, Saturday’s showing was the first time they had experienced the musical comedy outside of watching it at home on TV.
“I saw it for the first time on VHI when I was 10,” said Chris Morgan, of Soldotna.
She liked the film so much she bought it on DVD and later began watching it with friends, including (another) Chris Morgan and Amanda Pugh, of Soldotna, who accompanied her Saturday.
“It’s just so quirky and not at all like anything you’d expect. We just love it,” Morgan said.
The trio came in costume — dressed as a Transylvania partygoer, Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Magenta, respectively — something they gleaned from scouring the Internet for the dos and don’ts of attending “Rocky Horror’ in the theater.
“We researched it online and got a lot of good ideas,” Morgan said.
Marybeth Snell, of Soldotna, was also a first-timer. She came dressed as Magenta, too.
“I’ve seen it on DVD but this will be the first time in the theater. I’ve heard a lot about what people say and do, and I’m anxious to experience it,” she said.
Not everyone was a newbie to the theater experience. Beka Smith, of Kenai, came dressed as Columbia, complete with bright red lips, bowtie and a sparkling top hat.
“I’ve seen it before, down in Tennessee, when I was in college 20 years ago,” she said. “I was surprised to see it back. It kind of wasn’t popular for a while, but it’s so fun, I’m glad it’s back, especially for Halloween.”
With the theater staff already being there to sell tickets, popcorn and manning the projector, Endsley said that they decided to run a Halloween-related movie on the other screen, as well but from a different genre — true horror.
“When we picked the date, we decided to put a scary movie on the other side. One of my managers and I picked out seven scary movies that were classics,” she said.
They posted the options on the Orca’s Facebook page and let people vote on which they wanted to see — “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Poltergeist,” “Psycho,” “The Exorcist,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Fly” and the overwhelming winner, “The Shining.”
There isn’t the tradition of costumes among “Shining” fans as there is with “Rocky Horror,” but with the Halloween spirit in the air, several fans couldn’t help themselves. They came in corpselike attire, dripping with blood and wearing shirts that read, “Redrum.”
“I’m just a crazy person,” said costumed Brilah Saxson, of Soldotna. “I’m just really excited. I’m a huge Stephen King fan and love ‘The Shining.’ Even if it’s different from the book, it’s an awesome movie.”
Her friends, also in costume, were there in person and costume spirit.
“There just aren’t a lot of fun things like this, and we had already done ‘Rocky Horror’ last year,” said Elizabeth Brennan.
“And it’s fun to participate in stuff like this,” added Starr Waters.
One friend who had never seen the film was excited to be part of the rare event.
“I’m a big Jack Nicholson fan but I’ve never seen this one, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Amanda Edwards.
Even theater staff got in on the fun. A few dressed up and stuck around to watch one of the films, and Covault said that it was a unique experience in which to participate.
“It’s good for business, but good for people and the community to have something fun to do for Halloween,” she said.
From the turnout, Endsley said that the Orca might consider doing more regular late-night showings of other classic movies.
“As far as future midnight shows, if customers want to do something once a month, we are all for it,” she said. “We just need input on what movies everyone wants to see, and our Facebook page is the best forum for everyone to chime in and give their opinions.”