For over forty-five years, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been running at midnight for audiences around the globe. No movie has ever come close to having as long a theatrical run. To say it’s an institution is putting it mildly. As with most things, the pandemic brought the Saturday night screenings to a screeching halt. But to ensure that the beloved horror comedy musical continued its record as the longest-running theatrical film in history, one true blue Rocky Horror fan made sure it was playing on movie screens. Even if it was for an audience of one.
Thanks to a story in The Oregonian (via Boing Boing), we’ve learned that Portland’s Clinton Street Theater, which has been playing Rocky Horror for forty-three years, kept the torch burning during the pandemic. The person responsible for all this is Nathan Williams, the host of the theater’s regular showings. As the projectionist, he made sure Rocky Horror played every Saturday at midnight, despite a closed theater. Usually, the shows were just for him. Occasionally, a friend tagged along. But more often than not, they did the Time Warp alone. For a full 54 weeks.
Twentieth Century Films
Williams said, “I watched it alone. I watched it during the snowstorm. I was in a position to keep a flame burning, to keep a torch lit.” So why was it so important to keep the light burning bright over at the Frankenstein place, as Rocky’s Riff Raff once sang? “I’m just a guy holding a torch for the city of Portland, for all the weirdos, for all the people who don’t have a safe place to call home, we’re home.” As a former Rocky Horror kid myself, I can attest to this. My local Rocky Horror shadow cast provided a safe haven for the misfits, the weirdos, and LGBTQ teenagers like myself who didn’t feel at home anywhere else.
But the Clinton theater is getting back to some degree of normalcy. On April 3, the first Rocky Horror Picture Show screening took place before an audience. They only sold fifty tickets per show, and their shadow cast from the Clinton Street Cabaret did not perform along with the film. At least for now, this is how it’s going to be. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the theater can host full Rocky screenings again. And Frank-N-Furter can sashay down the theater aisles as they were always meant to.