You would be forgiven if you struggled to explain why the musical-horror film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has managed to endure in our culture. It’s appeal is anything but obvious. In fact, the passion that fans of the piece have is much better compared to a dirty little secret than anything else. However, this secret has, over 45 years, gradually elevated Rocky Horror past cult film status, through multiple live revivals on Broadway, in London’s West End and, this season, even at our own Stratford festival. 

This fall, on the night before Halloween, The Rose Theatre is offering you a chance to experience this cultural touchstone for yourself as it screens the film for fans and newcomers alike.

“It’s a party in your seats, while watching the film,” explains Rose Theatre programmer, Danny Harvey. “There’s a lot of fun, campy things about the horror genre in it and it’s just so ground breaking in letting people’s inner freak flags fly.”

As with most things iconic, the appeal of Rocky Horror easily transcends the sum of its parts. After being largely ignored upon its initial release in 1975, the film began a run of midnight showings at the Waverly Theatre in New York City.

After a few weeks, repeat visitors began yelling at the characters on the screen. After a few months the yelling was nearly continuous throughout the show and people had begun to act out the movie in front of the screen. This behaviour caught on and cinemas around the country started showing the film to raucous audiences determined to interact with it, in full costume. By 1979, there were 230 showings of Rocky twice a week.

”We encourage people to do a lot of the things that were done at the screenings,” says Harvey, “With the exception of throwing rice and toast.” 

In keeping with what promises to be a festive environment, The Rose encourages all comers to enter in a costume contest that will feature multiple prizes and be hosted by authentic Rocky Horror aficionados in full costumed regalia.

At 8 p.m. the festivities begin, including the costume contest and pre-show mingling, with showtime to follow at 9 p.m.

As mentioned above, audience members are encouraged, from the opening number, to take part in the traditional heckling or shout-outs. To best prepare, click here or here for scripts.

“It allows people to be a little weird for a couple hours, and whatever that means to an individual is what is exciting to me,” said Harvey. “I think that’s the great appeal of joining in by coming in costume or shouting out. It allows people to tap into behaviour that they might otherwise not get to in their day-to-day.”

It should be noted clearly, this is not an experience for the entire family. Not only is the content of the film meant for mature audiences, what others in the audience might be shouting at the screen is likely to be for discerning ears, to say the least.

“This is un-wholesome fun,” Harvey adds, with a laugh. “It’s fun to not be completely safe every now and then, while not being terribly dangerous either.” 

The theatre has considered bringing in a fully staged, live performance of the Broadway-style musical production of Rocky Horror and they still have it in their sights. If you enjoy the film on the the 30th, be sure to let the Rose know that you’d love to see it performed live.

“Everybody at the Rose is excited for it,” says Harvey.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show screens at the Rose Theatre on Oct. 30. Tickets are available by clicking here.