36 years of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Princess Cinemas

Photo by Emily Waitson

The year is 1986. Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You” is playing on your walkman as you jog throughout Uptown Waterloo. Of all of the times to be alive, this is certainly one of them.

The Cold War seems to be cooling down, you may have just caught one of the first-ever episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show, and the Leafs’ season just started — I bet this is finally the year they win the cup! As you go on your jog (in that grotesquely patterned windbreaker), you pass by that new independent theater that just opened up last year, Princess Cinemas. Looks like they’re playing a movie called The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Seems kinda weird; perfect for tonight, the eve of Halloween.

Thirty-six years later and RHPS is still going strong. For a few special nights around Halloween, citizens come from all corners of Waterloo, and from the edges of the galaxy to let loose, look ridiculous and watch the majesty of a musical about a “sweet” transvestite from “transsexual” Transylvania.

While RHPS has garnered one of the largest followings in cult film history, Princess Cinemas has the distinction of having the longest annual streak of showing RHPS, with this upcoming Halloween marking the 36th anniversary of their very first screening of the picture.

It has remained a popular Halloween season pastime among Waterloo residents as many have dressed up as their favourite characters, memorized lines and jokes, and returned year after year to watch the same film over again. But to pose the obvious question; why?

I recently talked to John Tutt, the founder, and manager of Princess Cinemas. He is a huge fan of RHPS in his own right so he helped me understand people’s fascination with the nearly fifty-year-old film.

He explained to me why RHPS is the quintessential cult film. While cult films vary widely between quality, genre, and release date, one near-constant is that the film is off-beat. There is always something about the film that makes it stick out, that separates it from the other motion pictures. RHPS is a perfect example of this from its bizarre plot to the character’s eccentric costumes.

While this alone would’ve been enough to let RHPS achieve cult status, it has much more to offer. The film, if anything, is a blend of genres. It’s a musical with music so catchy that I’m convinced that after only one viewing you could recall some of the songs decades later.

The comedy, while often dark, has never stopped being funny. It finds a way to make gruesome horror hilarious rather than scary. The notions of sexual liberation that the film openly expresses even add some social commentary (in an admittedly non-subtle way) that remains relevant even to this day.

It has everything from rock and roll, to space lasers, to saxophone playing bikers. As Tutt put it simply: “It’s fun.”

A large part of the appeal is the rebellious attitude the film has; an attitude that the audience themselves pick up as they watch the movie.

This is rather appropriate for Tutt. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University with a BBA, he set out to open an independent theater. It was and continues to be the type of theater that shows the films that one can hardly find elsewhere, one that often favours the obscure over the mainstream. Going against the grain, Tutt has succeeded now with Princess cinemas being a hit,  with multiple locations, and still running strong. If that’s not rebellious, I don’t know what is.

Going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time in The Princess may be daunting.

You will be surrounded by those who have been there before (known as the veterans). They know how to dress, all the words, all of the moves to the “Time Warp.”

You may be a newbie (known as a virgin) but you are bound to have an amazing time. I asked Tutt if he had any advice for incoming “virgins” this year and this is what he had to say: Sit back and learn from those around you. It’ll be a night you won’t forget.”

The film is being screened from Oct. 27 to 31. I’ll be there to lose my virginity, and I hope you’ll join me! Wait no that came out wrong I-

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