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Dormont movie theater aghast at loss of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 12:12 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Performers act out movie scenes in front of the big screen during Saturday night's final showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont until the theater raises $75K for a new digital projection system. Fox is pulling the permission for theaters to show the cult classic on DVD effective Jan. 1. Without the twice-monthly shows at the Hollywood, it’s unknown what will happen to the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, the “Shadow Cast” that acts out parts of the movie as audience members participate. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Performers pose in front of the big screen during Saturday night's final showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont until the theater raises $75K for a new digital projection system. Fox is pulling the permission for theaters to show the cult classic on DVD effective Jan. 1. Without the twice-monthly shows at the Hollywood, it’s unknown what will happen to the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, the “Shadow Cast” that acts out parts of the movie as audience members participate. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A performer at Saturday night's final midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont until the theater raises $75K for a new digital projection system. Fox is pulling the permission for theaters to show the cult classic on DVD effective Jan. 1. Without the twice-monthly shows at the Hollywood, it’s unknown what will happen to the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, the “Shadow Cast” that acts out parts of the movie as audience members participate. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Mark Makowski, 17, of Lower Burrell and Stephanie Kulikowski, 17, of New Kensington enjoy the final Saturday night's midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont until the theater raises $75K for a new digital projection system. Fox is pulling the permission for theaters to show the cult classic on DVD effective Jan. 1. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Performers are silhouetted against the screen before Saturday night's final showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont until the theater raises $75K for a new digital projection system. Fox is pulling the permission for theaters to show the cult classic on DVD effective Jan. 1. Without the twice-monthly shows at the Hollywood, it’s unknown what will happen to the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, the “Shadow Cast” that acts out parts of the movie as audience members participate. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont is showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” no more — at least until it raises money for digital equipment.

The cult classic horror-musical, with its audience participation and fully costumed re-enactors, for years drew the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players as a “shadow cast” for “Rocky Horror,” acting out scenes from the 1975 movie as they unfolded on screen.

“A lot of us are working adults and we get to escape that every other weekend, to break away from reality for a little bit,” said Samantha Swope, the group's president. “You hit that stage and you're surrounded by so much admiration, so much enjoyment.”

But copyright issues and older projection equipment forced the theater to end its twice-monthly midnight screenings beginning in January.

The Junior Chamber representatives have vowed they “will do whatever they can to help us raise the funds for us to go digital,” said Chad Hunter, managing director of the Hollywood. “Their intention is to stay here until we do.”

The theater showed “Rocky Horror” on Blu-ray under a deal with Criterion Motion Pictures, but the company no longer would represent movies owned by Fox, including “Rocky Horror.” Fox doesn't allow the movie's showing unless a theater uses the latest digital distribution and projection equipment, Hunter said.

Through its “Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign, the theater is trying to raise $75,000 for a projector and computer system, technology that is replacing Blu-ray discs and 35 mm film, which are more susceptible to piracy.

“When I broke it to the cast, it really hit everybody hard,” said Swope, 28, of Bellevue. “But then it became, ‘We won't let this happen.' People aren't going to go quietly into the night.”

According to the Junior Chamber's website, the group dates to the 1980s, when the phenomenon of shadow-casting the movie came from New York to the old King's Court Theater in Oakland. As theaters opened, closed and reopened under different owners, the performances moved to the Hollywood in the 1990s, though there were stints back in Oakland and at other theaters in Squirrel Hill, Oakmont and Morgantown.

When the Hollywood reopened in 2011, the Junior Chamber players converted its basement into rehearsal space, storage for costumes and props, and a clubhouse for more than 20 regular cast and crew members. United by a love of the movie and the fun of its manic performances, cast members come from as far away as Zelienople or as near as an apartment down the street.

“It's become like our second home,” Swope said. “It's quaint; it's not some big, cold theater.”

To help with the fundraising, cast members are telling family, friends, and shadow casts in other communities, Swope said. Though the Hollywood can't show the movie, the cast will perform a “blackout show” on Jan. 5, acting along with the soundtrack but without a picture. In February they'll shadow-cast “Clue,” and later may do other films such as the “Rocky Horror” sequel “Shock Treatment.”

“We want to do whatever we can to make sure that the Hollywood thrives, and thrives with ‘Rocky,' ” Swope said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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