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Issue Feature: Music Box Midnight Movie Escapades by Rob Samuelson

Monday, December 22, 2014 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

My heart sinks as I approach the Music Box. The line is wrapped around the block. It’s populated by hundreds of people, but most visible are the scantily clad men, uncomfortable in their one-night-only costumes. There is a lot of fidgeting and even more visible breath escaping their mouths.

They’re dedicated, I’ll give them that. But they’re dedicated to the wrong thing. You see, these guys are in line, bearing the early November winds, wearing lingerie and platform heels, rouge and lipstick, waiting for the annual post-Halloween midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For all that effort, they get a movie, and a viewing experience, almost solely dedicated to making fun of something bad. “The Time Warp” is an okay song, but otherwise I don’t see how anyone gets any positive enjoyment out of it. It’s all about feeling superior to something, a way to feel smart while dressing silly.

Or maybe I’m just overreacting from the time I was talked into doing the Rocky Horror thing in college. It was a cold, miserable evening spent dealing with eyelash makeup getting stuck in my eye. And now a bunch of people are between me and buying my ticket for the Music Box’s other, vastly superior midnight offering, John Carpenter’s Halloween. But I guess that’s what midnight moviegoing is: a bunch of off kilter people coming together to celebrate films that typically find themselves occupying a space beyond the classic critical constraints of “good” or “bad.” These are moments you must experience as a whole, like riding your first roller coaster or eating a jar of jalapeƱos on a dare – parts of it might not be so great, but as a whole it’s a pretty cool thing.

These are the gatherings for people who love throwing spoons at the screen during showings of The Room, have their earlobes assaulted by Divine in Female Trouble, and take copious amounts of hallucinogens before watching the adventures of a cowboy and his naked son in El Topo. And it’s places like the Music Box that allow for these assemblies, providing a venue of incalculable value for people who want to let loose and get weird for a few hours late at night.

And tonight, these Rocky Horror people are pumped. There’s even a guy wandering the crowd doing his best hype man impression to help the queuing people get into even more of a tizzy. I ask him if there’s a separate line for Halloween, and being the shrewd businessman he is – he’s part of the hired Rocky Horror troupe, not a Music Box employee – he spreads disinformation about a competitor. In short, he yells at me and tells me I’m dumb for suggesting someone would want to do something that is not seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show. I see I will get nowhere with this guy, so I jump out of the line, push open the door and sheepishly ask the ticket taker if Halloween is indeed showing tonight, as per the website’s

Again I am looked at with confusion. “Yes? Do you want to buy a ticket?” she says. “Oh, yes, thank you very much,” I say, fumbling for my debit card. She dispenses my ticket and I head back outside to listen in to the conversations of the excited people in drag. They’re buzzing, some are (badly) singing the movie’s songs, others are saving their energy for the show itself by talking about everyday life, including one dull explanation of a restaurant’s menu. There are some real goofballs in the bunch, the type of film nerds I can appreciate.

They are chomping at the bit for the experience of celluloid projected at 24 frames per second, no matter what tripe is being shown. And when the doors are opened, they eagerly stampede in with the rest of the crowd. As I wander toward the smaller second theater, I’m a little bit sad – but not too sad – I’m missing out on such an exuberant film-going experience in exchange for a more staid, if still plenty appreciative, one with Halloween.

And I can’t thank the Music Box enough for shepherding both experiences on the regular, letting nerds like me take in some weirdness at the witching hour, something I will never stop doing.

If you liked this article, you can read more like it in our winter issue! Check it out in its full glory at:

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