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Origins and Impact of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

According to the timeline films official fansite,, The Rocky Horror
Picture Show began as the British musical The Rocky Horror Show, which ran in England for 7
years and 2,976 performances from June 14 1973-1980. Filming of the motion picture adaptation
started nearly immediately after the show was imported to the US in 1974 for what ended up
being a sturdy nine-month run. The initial success of the musical did not transfer to the films
release, despite sharing the majority of the original cast and a screenplay by the original musical
writer Richard OBrien, who also appears in the film as Riff Raff. The Rocky Horror Picture
Show did very poorly opening, taken from eight cities because of paltry audiences and its
Halloween New York City release was cancelled. However, this initial flop would set the stage
for immortalizing The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a cult classic.

In Toward a Sociology of Cult Films: Reading Rocky Horror, Michael Katovich and

Patricia Kinkade cite the films slow start as the definitive exemplar [of a cult film] (198).
Indeed, the timeline on cites September 1976 is the first instance of audience
interaction with the movie, after marketed as an April Fools midnight feature. Kinkade and
Katovich specifically identify outrageous appearances and fantastic participation while
viewing that raise The Rocky Horror Picture Show to cult status. The timeline
credits April 1977 as the progression to the actual use of props being thrown around during the
showing; both verbal and physical interaction still remain to this day; however they have evolved
based on the theaters and groups running the particular show.
But why has this phenomenon persisted for nearly four decades? The Rocky Horror
Picture Show is commonly cited, with its official website being one source, as the longest
running theatrical release in history, as Fox, the studio who made the movie, has never pulled it

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from running. The Internet Movie Database (iMDB) lists the films United States gross at nearly
140 million dollars, with an additional 50 million in rentals. But beyond the monetary
significance is a formal recognition of its social impact, with its addition to the National Film
Registry in 2005. There is a summary of the Film Preservation Act and a statement from
librarian James H. Billington on the Library of Congress website:
[E]ach year the Librarian of Congress names 25 culturally, historically or aesthetically"
significant motion pictures to the Registry. The list is designed to reflect the full breadth
and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness
of American cinema and the need for its preservation.
Billington adds:
By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of American creativity
and our cultural history for the enjoyment and education of future generations. The films
we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous,
but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance -- and
in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition."
Kinkade and Katovich offer their insights to the sociological impact that cult films have,
in particular The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which give them a combined weight in both
popular and historical significance. In particular, the main character of the iconic, cross-dressing
Dr. Frank N. Furter provides the best points of discussion. They write:
From the beginning, Rocky Horror establishes a tension between the wholesome musical
and the macabre documentary, and parodies various genres: teenage" movies, horror
movies, and various crime moviesFrankenfurter, the demonic antithesis to these values
deliberately projects a confusing appearance as man/woman, host/kidnapper,

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scientist/artist, creator/murderer, ghoul/human, and entertainer/torturer. This ambiguous
counter self who defies coherent categorization (but nonetheless provokes strong
sentiments in each person he employs and disposes of) is simultaneously repulsive and
attractive. Frankenfurter moves the audience to identify with his boisterous disdain for
traditional rituals. In this respect, he, as all antiheroes in novels, challenges contemporary
authority and the various facades that reverence to it requires. (199)
These psychological aspects are really what drive Frank-N-Furter to his legendary status as a
camp icon. Without even watching the movie, one look at him brings out an abbreviated, but
potent mix of the aforementioned attraction/repulsion tribute/parody relationship.
Just as important as the film are the performances and previously mentioned interactions
that accompany it. The authors also comment on this aspect:
During the film's wedding, as rice is thrown at the bride and groom, audience members
participate by throwing rice at each other. It is the film's first cue for collective release
and the audience fully exploits it. In addition to this moment of mild pandemonium, Brad
and Janet are introduced amid the audience's shared evaluation. At Janet's introduction,
audience members shout "slut!" in unison in contempt for her frail virginity. Brad's
entrance prompts the cry of "shithead!" which is directed against his conservative
demeanor. (201)
It would seem that the outside participation, what makes Rocky Horror Picture Show unique and
famous, is just as sociologically important, if not more than the actual picture itself.

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Works Cited
Katovich, Michael A. and Patrick T. Kinkade. Toward a Sociology of Cult Films: Reading
Rocky Horror. The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 191209. 30 Sept 2011.
The Library of Congress. Saving Rocky Horror and Other Classics. The LOC.GOV: Wise
Guide. Feb 2006. Web. 30 Sept 2011.
Rocky Horror Timeline. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Official Fansite! Web. 30 Sept
Author Unknown. Box office / business for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Internet Movie
Database. <>.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Real 3D Movie
Losing My Virginity
It had been awhile since I had gone to see a regular movie, never mind going to see the
cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. Already, waiting in line for this event would
immediately set it apart from most weekend activities. One of the staff patrolled the throngs of
mostly college-age kids from the area, many were dressed what can only be described as
alternative- lots of tightly-fitted, ripped, and darkly-colored fabric. More of a line, less of a
tumor! she bellowed good-naturedly, striding and waving in the reforming clusters of kids.
While my friends and I were herded into the growing line we had joined, another staff
member, a blonde guy, asked, grinning, How many of you are virgins? A little perplexed, but
not entirely surprised-it is Rocky Horror Picture Show after all-we asked for clarification. If this
is your first time seeing the movie, youre a virgin. Ah. Myself, and four of my five friends
raised our hand to entertain his curiosity. Little did we know, we were being sorted. He took a
red stick of face paint and expertly swathed a V on our cheeks. Great, now everyone knows
Im a virgin. I took a look back to see just how many people joined our lowly ranks, and I was
surprised to see the majority were sporting the new mark of newbies.

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By wearing make up of our own, we were already inducted as part of the cast, a crucial part of the experience.

After a couple more passes from the line-keeper, we were introduced to another member
of personnel, but this time there was an introduction. Fang, the head of security, stopped by
our section of line and explained some ground rules. For someone named Fang and for the
characters we were surrounded by, his white button down and black slacks were kind of
disappointing. He mentioned a bag of shit, which I gathered were the outside props to throw
around and use during the movie/performance. Before leaving for the show, my friends and I
were worried about whether or not to bring our own, though we werent sure what to bring to
begin with.
Throughout the cheerful rundown, most memorably Dont throw stuff at the actors or
the screen. If you do, a staff member will give you a nice whack on the head. During this spiel, I

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was trying to pinpoint my specific shade of anticipation-if I was in line for a movie, a play, an
amusement park ride or a cockfight. The only thing I did know was that I had a ten dollar movie
ticket tucked in my wallet. I had never gotten a safety and etiquette lecture going into a film.
Stay seated during the performance, Fang advised, Until Time Warp; then, the best place to
be is in the aisles. Otherwise, youre going to feel very sad just humping the back of the seat in
front of you. On that note, Id advise not sitting next to anyone youre not comfortable with
sexually!And with this unconventional lecture, we virgins and our veteran counterparts were
herded into the brick building.
We wandered into the theatre, searching for our bags of shit and a place to sit. The blonde
who had marked our virginities chided us when we settled on some seats further back. Tits are
bigger when youre closer! he exclaimed, motioning us to move up. We couldnt argue with
that logic. We settled down in front of the screen, which proclaimed Are you an accompanied
child? Of age but a little uptight? This might not be the place for you! The players and some of
the familiar staff languished in the space in front of and to the sides of the screen. A few of the
female members on a platform to the left spontaneously started dancing (very intimately) to a
dark, dirty electro song in the background. This may be a strange place, but definitely not the
wrong place for me, though a virgin I may be.
Mystery Metatheatre 3000
After the theatre was filled and the girls stopped dancing, the show started. Well, a show
started. Two live sketches prefaced the main event- a humorous pornography website tech
support call and a lip-sync musical number, cautionary tale of romance set to a cowboy seducing
and murdering cowgirls in synchronized dance. It certainly enforced the already irreverant, fun

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Then there was one last lecture before whatever was going happing got rolling. We
finally learned the our precious party favors would be dolled out after, by the precise method of
counting hands and passing them down the rows, switching them for money being passed back.
Other than that it was a re-hammering of the safety and Time Warp procedures.
Then things got weirder. It turns out that some people were going to lose their Rocky Horror
virginity with a lot more than just sitting through the movie and doing The Time Warp. We
were introduced to a few members of the cast, including Fang who had been on the production
for 12 years. There was also a woman who was celebrating her birthday and a cast member who
was celebrating his first full year as a member. So, naturally, a small selection of virgins were
called down by each of these members, based on who they were hanging around and talking to
on the line, to give them lap dances. Whoever gave the best lap dance had the honor of holding
a red balloon between their legs and having it squeezed by the cast until it popped. After
witnessing this wonderfully baudy display, we were officially part of the family.

There was a point during the pre-movie festivities where the cast encouraged the audience to audition if they were
interested. It really did seem like they were a family of their own; this picture from the website seems really casual
and almost intimate by only showing two cast members, rather than the expanse of the theatre during the middle of
an elaborate production.

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However, we had a lot to catch up on shortly after the disembodied lips flew onto the
screen, singing the opening title theme, as people immediately started yelling at the movie. It
developed as almost a separate script, perfectly timed, providing nearly every line with a punch
line, a machine gun fire of rejoinders mocking an already incredibly silly movie. In the midst of
this, the simulcast in play form struggled to be seen, stuck between the movie screen and the
seats. A lot of the props were eerily accurate in their painting, though some like an elevator,
motorcycle and reanimation pool couldnt be completely replicated. The stage actors mostly
mouthed or softly spoke the lines that the movie actors did, but either way, the picture and the
heckling were what really made the show.
Hey Frank-N-Furter, what did you eat for breakfast? a few guys yell out.
Come, responds Tim Curry in his iconic over the top drag getup. But he finishes with
me, or something or other that I cant remember because the irreverent cheekiness of the
sophomoric joke is whats really important here. And the jokes go on. The main couple lead are
affectionately referred to by the audience as asshole (the male) and slut (Susan Sarandon).
Susan Sarandon, we have your Oscar for best acting! jeer the guys, as shes looking
pensive on screen. Over here! as she looks around. Over here! Look over here for your
I yearned to join in on the abuse, but I being ignorant of what to say and afraid of
inventing improvised insults of my own, I had to stay content rifling through the brown bag of
junk for the appropriate times in the movie. Immediately, we were throwing rice at each other
during the opening wedding scene; later we put newspaper over our heads like the leads when
they were stuck wandering in the rain. Towards the end, a lot of people remembered to take off
their party hats they had left on for a party scene in the middle.

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The stage actors also did their part to draw us into the movie, at points crawling around
on top of the seats and using the aisles for certain points. Oh yes, the aisles for Time Warp.
Even with a dance with the instructions in the song, I was completely clueless as to what to do,
and so were most of us-we were virgins after all. Every time we awkwardly stood up during the
absurd crescendo of Time Warp, our greenness was made clear. In all honesty, it was probably
too green. As much as I wanted to start yelling and to know when to use my props and to do the
Time Warp again with no reservations about who was thrusting their hips where, I couldnt.
Rocky Horror Picture Shown
As the jokes and movie wore on, the charm wore off, and I believe that a lot of it had to
do with the audience. We applauded after the finale out of politeness and appreciation, but in the
end, we werent sure if we actually enjoyed it. Maybe losing our virginity is accurate in this
case! Later on the van ride home, talking to Jennifer, the one friend who had seen the movie and
performance confirmed that it wasnt the greatest performance and audience. I felt some sense of
relief after that, and hope that next time will be better. But Im still unsure if I want there to be a
next time.
Still, the experience was striking in how involved the veterans and the overall experience
seemed to have the penchant for. This goofy, outrageous and even outdated piece of camp was
literally brought to life, like the angelic character The Rocky Horror that Dr. Frank-N-Furter
creates for his own pleasure. Immediately I wonder if maybe there are other movies we can give
this treatment to-I only know of The Room experience referred to as The Rocky Horrors
contemporary. But in this 3D revisionist and rehash era of motion picture, I can designate my
experience at The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the truest three-dimensional movie experience.