How does The Rocky Horror Picture Show play for audiences outside of the movie theater? Does it play for audiences outside of the theater? By now the original film and the sideshow that takes place before packed crowds every Halloween at movie houses around the country have become so intertwined that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. The film has become background noise to an elaborate stage show, with call-and-response reactions unique to each audience.
This cannot really be reproduced for home viewing, though many have tried. A double-disc vinyl set, The Audience Participation Album, was released in 1983 and captured an audience’s reactions. The first showing of the film on network television included filmed segments from an audience. Previous video releases on DVD added alternate audio tracks of a live crowd. All of these are admirable efforts to capture the spirit of the show, but still undeniably lack big components of what makes Rocky an unforgettable moviegoing experience.
Streaming Rocky Horror means that even these modest efforts at capturing the feel of the live experience are absent. You’re left with just the movie itself. So how is it, as a movie? Still very enjoyable on its own merits. There’s a lot of undeniable charm to the production, based off of the original stage musical by the incomparable Richard O’Brien. Actors Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick would all become stars in the years to come, though Curry and Sarandon seem happy to leave Rocky Horror in the past. (Bostwick has always seemed to embrace Rocky more than his co-stars.)
Still, the film is undeniably unique, and it’s not hard to see why it was more or less a flop in its initial release. The movie may have been little more than a footnote in cinematic history if Fox executive Tim Deegan didn’t begin campaigning for distributors to pick Rocky Horror up as a midnight cult film. Soon, the movie began to gain a large and fierce following, still alive today, 46 years later— although much smaller than it was at its height. Rocky may be the longest continuous release in history, having never stopped playing since its 1975 opening, even after Disney’s purchase of Fox. (Yes, stop and think about the fact that Disney now owns The Rocky Horror Picture Show.)
The theater is Rocky’s natural habitat. We may be past the Halloween season now, and if you want to watch Rocky anywhere, at home is probably your only option. But if you want to really know what this is all about, wait until the next midnight screening rolls around. “Dream it in your living room, be it in the theater.”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available for streaming on Hulu.