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At most theaters, audiences are happy if the people around them shut up and watch the movie. Certain movies, however, are improved considerably by a good riffing and a rambunctious crowd. Some are good, some are terrible, and many of them are musicals. Here are 11 cult classics that encourage audience participation.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – The Rocky Horror Picture Show is credited with creating audience participation and making movie riffing mainstream. Some of the audience call-and-responses are almost as well-known as actual quotes from the film itself, and for decades, rabid fans have flocked to theaters, dressed up as their favorite characters, and converted the newly initiated “virgins.”
The Room – Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, and starred in his bizarre bad-movie masterpiece The Room, and since its release in 2003, it has rivaled The Rocky Horror Picture Show in its number of audience participation screenings. Audiences throw spoons, groan loudly through the uncomfortable sex scenes, and collectively wonder how this movie ever got made.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Certain theaters showed The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in “Dragarama” with disco balls, colored lights, and encouraged audience participation during the final number. Fans of the film have also been known to dress up for screenings, which was celebrated in an episode of The Drew Carey Show.
Little Shop of Horrors – Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors has become a cult musical classic with yearly screenings and elaborate shadow casts. In 2013, Rick Moranis even attended the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s screening of the film which included a shadow cast and drag queen doo-wop girls.
The Sound of Music – The Sound of Music is an unlikely choice for audience participation. The film is already beloved, making it not quite a cult classic, and it is so squeaky clean and innocent that making fun of it is almost like kicking a puppy. Fortunately, the Sound of Music sing-alongs are all in good fun with costume contests (Nun or Nazi?) and audience participation, like booing the baroness and barking at Rolfe.
Troll 2 – Troll 2 has made the rounds for years amongst bad movie fans, but the documentary Best Worst Movie brought in a whole new audience for this horror sequel, which incidentally has nothing to do with the original film. Screenings with shadow casts and audience participation have been hosted around the country, including at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City.
Labyrinth – Jim Henson’s fantasy musical Labyrinth has inspired sing-along screenings with audience participation and masquerade balls.
Shock Treatment – The sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show was never quite as popular as the original film, but it still inspired sing-along screenings and audience participation. Additionally, Shock Treatment has been adapted for stage and is set to premiere in London in 2015.
Polyester – The John Waters cult classic encouraged audience participation from its first release with its “Odorama” gimmick. Audience members were given scratch-and-sniff cards and then prompted on-screen to smell along with the film.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Sing-along screenings of Hedwig and the Angry Inch have happened across the country since its release in 2001, but there has been a renewed interest in the film with the 2014 Broadway revival. Most screenings encourage audience members to dress up, and some screenings, like the February 2014 screening at New York’s SVA Theatre, donate a portion of ticket sales to LGBTQ organizations.
Repo! The Genetic Opera – This dark horror-musical started out as a stage show, but since the film adaptation was released in 2008, it has taken on a whole new life with shadow casts and fan screenings across the country.