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Rocky Horror Played in an Empty Oregon Movie Theater for 54 Weeks Straight

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With many movie theaters shuttered for the past year, new releases weren’t the only absence from film culture. Event screenings of the 1975 musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show have been a worldwide phenomenon for decades. Portland’s Clinton Street Theater has held Saturday night screenings of the cult film for 43 years straight, one of the longest running unbroken streaks of weekly Rocky Horror screenings in the world.Though the Clinton Street Theater was forced to close its doors in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Rocky Horror streak has continued apace. The tradition was maintained by Nathan Williams, who rolled out to the theater for 54 consecutive Saturdays to attend screenings by himself or with a friend.

“I watched it alone. I watched it during the snowstorm,” Williams told OregonLive. “I was in a position to keep a flame burning, to keep a torch lit… 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.”

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“It’s just kind of a silly little thing, but it was still a sense of hope,” theater owner Lani Jo Leigh said about Williams’ mission. “This is what normal is. Normal is we play Rocky Horror on a Saturday night, and that’s what’s happening.”

Williams attended his first screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Clinton Street Theater in 1999. The movie house is just one of many venues across the country that regularly shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Screenings are usually raucous events, with audience participation encouraged and a shadow cast of cabaret members acting out the film’s story alongside the projected image.

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With movie theaters now returning across the United States, the Clinton Street Theater was able to reopen on April 3. The 222-seat theater was filled with 50 filmgoers — the largest audience currently permitted under Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions — for a 9 p.m. screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The American box office has entered its regrowth stage as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted across the country. Over the weekend, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train earned $19.5 million, garnering the biggest debut for a foreign language film in U.S. history. Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat reboot ruled the weekend with a $22.5 million gross.

J. Kim Murphy is a freelance entertainment writer.

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