Palace Theater Presents: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

News Writer Gina Selig
Photos courtesy of Adrienne Gurbindo and Marcia Prose

“It's not a movie, it's a movie experience.” - Marcia Prose, Palace Theater Marketing Director

Halloween is the one time of the year where people can dress up as anyone, or anything, they want to be. From a favorite movie character to an inanimate object, there is no limit to the costumes that can be created. While trick or treating and Halloween parties are the usual ways to celebrate this holiday, Hilo does offer an alternative.

On Monday, Oct. 31, Hilo’s Palace Theater will be showing its annual presentation of the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There will be a costume contest at 8:30 p.m. and the showing at 9 p.m. Doors will open at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance or in costume, and $12 on the day of the show. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or over the phone with a credit card at (808) 934-7010, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Marcia Prose, marketing director for the Palace Theater, is well-versed in Rocky Horror’s history - beginning with the production “Rocky,” where it originated on the London stage scene in 1973. However, according to Prose, it wasn’t an overnight sensation.

“When the Picture show was first released, it was actually supposed to be a satire of B horror movies,” Prose said. “However, instead of finding it comical, everyone was horrified. The American premiere of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles, in late September of 1975. Even though it played in a few test market cities, the film was considered a failure and didn’t get a wide release. But then on April Fools’ Day, 1976, Tim Deegan - a young advertising executive at 20th Century Fox - persuaded Bill Quigley of the Walter Reade Organization to replace the midnight show at the Waverly Theater with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. People then started coming back.”

It then started to gain popularity fast, making its way to venues like L.A.’s famed Roxy Theatre. People started coming to experience the enthusiastic audience. The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showings became a social gathering and a popular place to be. Fans would bring rice and toast to throw at the screen as these props corresponded to the plot. Although it only shows annually in Hilo, the audience never falls short.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not new to Hilo,” Prose said. “This year will be our seventh year. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the [film] and it’s been a great hit every year.”

Rocky Horror Fans

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has sparked the interest of many, including A-list celebrities. As the film started to gain widespread fame, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger expressed interest in playing the part of cross-dressing alien Dr. Frank N. Furter. However, the producers passed so they could stick with Tim Curry, the actor who defined the role in both the British and American theatrical productions. Another big name who showed interest was Steve Martin. He auditioned to play the role of Brad, but the part eventually went to actor Barry Bostwick. Vincent Price, horror movie legend, was the actor the crew really wanted to appear in the film. According to Rocky Horror writer and star Richard O’Brien, Price actually saw the play on its opening night. However, scheduling conflicts prevented him from accepting the role of the narrator, which subsequently went to actor Charles Gray.

Rocky Horror Stage costumes

Aside from the film’s talent, the setting also plays a huge part in the complexity of the plot. The Rocky Horror Picture show set has a long time history in horror films; the old-timey castle that was used for most of the shooting done in Oakley Court, England. It was also used for several of the “Hammer Horror” films as a large, foreboding castle to complete its dark, gothic settings. According to the documentary The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show, the film’s producers knew Oakley would make the perfect setting for the film the instant they saw it. The interior also made for a perfect place to film since the previous owners had removed some of the lead from the roof causing the interior to deteriorate. It was actually scheduled for demolition at some point but a preservation order kept the wrecking ball at bay. These days, it’s a world class hotel.

Still, fans of Rocky Horror delight in more than just the film itself. According to Prose, “Just watching the movie without a surrounding audience is completely different because it’s not about the movie. People who show up for the first time are usually astonished but there are so many who come back. We have a whole plethora of people. From high school students to the elderly. Last year, we had a 92-year-old who just laughed the entire time. When you go see a movie in theaters, it's usually quiet before the showing. However, this is completely opposite for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Right when you walk in, the soundtrack is blaring and fans are singing along. There are people in costumes based on the movie and the contest before. Last year we had a lady who runs the costume contest bring her 9-year-old daughter. Compared to what people see on TV these days, it’s pretty tame.”

Line of fans outside Palace theater

It’s been over forty years after Rocky Horror’s release date, and fans still flock to midnight showings across the nation of a film they’ve seen hundreds of times. Part of what makes the experience so memorable is how involved the audience can be. According to Prose, to ensure that people are able to participate, the Palace will be providing participation kits that go along with the plot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“The participation kit is a vital part of The Rocky Horror Picture Show experience,” Prose said. “The kit is only five dollars and allows for full participation. There are certain items in the kit that correspond to the movie. An example is when Janet steps out of the car into the pouring rain, she puts a newspaper [over her head], so we’ve put newspapers in the kit… they’re blowing horns at one point, so there’s a party hat from Frank N. Furter. There’s also other ways to participate. In the movie, Brad is always saying ‘Dammit Janet’ so the audience will correspond. Dr. Scott [corresponded to] Scott toilet paper, so when Dr. Scott comes on screen, everyone throws toilet paper.”

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become a classic, not for the film, but the social phenomenon it's created. It evolved into a mainstream finding its way to modern day television shows. In 2010, it was the focus of a Glee episode, which featured original actors Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf. Five years earlier, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Most recently, Fox announced that it would remake the film as a TV movie. However, Prose insisted that filmgoers shouldn’t forget, “it's not a movie, it’s a movie experience.”