Riff-er Madness!

The art of making bad cinema bearable and the local theater using it to try to keep their lights on.

Does your boyfriend watch the Twilight movies religiously? Is your “roommate” obsessed with the Transformers series? Before you drive a sparkly stake through your eye or jump in front of an 18 wheeler, you may want to consider an option that can make even these flops incredibly entertaining. They are called Rifftrax, and they are here to make bad movies better for all who suffer at the hands of money hungry, remake-happy studios full of subpar writers. Rifftrax are downloadable audio files that you purchase to play along with your favorite, or least favorite, movies in the comfort of your own home. You can also enjoy the occasional real-time heckling with Rifftrax Live, special one-night events broadcast to movie theaters all over the country (if you couldn’t tell from the name, it’s live). Be they B-movie or blockbuster, no films are safe from the Rifftrax team.

The geniuses behind Rifftrax are the same gents who brought you the cult television comedy series known as Mystery Science Theater 3000: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. The show, affectionately referred to as MST3k, found host Mike (Nelson) and his two robot companions Tom Servo (Murphy) and Crow (Corbett) trapped aboard an orbiting satellite and forced to watch terrible B-movies by a mad scientist bent on world domination.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the bane of many a B-movie director from 1988 to 1999. A total of 11 seasons and 197 episodes!

The art of publicly mocking a film to make it exponentially more enjoyable has found its way down from outer space to the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Appropriately titled “So Bad It’s Good,” this monthly movie series showcases a film of questionable quality with live in-house commentary by local performers, currently the improv troupe known as Hustlebot. The first movie in said series was none other than Flashdance, and according to Kahmeela Adams, the driving force behind “So Bad It’s Good,” this is the best way to watch it. The heckling continued with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Sudden Death in February. The Hollywood crew has yet to pick a movie for March’s event but they do know it will be on Thursday the 21st. Mark your calendars. Right now.


After all, it goes to a great cause. The Hollywood Theater is a non-profit, volunteer run movie theater and, in case you haven’t heard, it is in danger of going dark. Theaters all across the country are being forced to convert to a new digital format and as you can imagine, it isn’t cheap. According to Chad Hunter, Managing Director at the Hollywood, with all the changes needed and the equipment required the grand total for such a conversion is somewhere around $75,000. Through donations, marketing, fundraising, memberships, slide advertisements, and even a campaign on indiegogo.com, they hope to raise enough money to keep the theater open.

Between their time on MST3k and Rifftrax, Mike, Kevin & Bill heckled films under the short-lived title “The Film Crew.” Of the few movies they tore apart, the first and most popular was Hollywood After Dark, starring gay fave Golden Girl, Rue McClanahan.

But movie studios are not making it easy. One of the Hollywood’s most popular events is a bi-weekly showing of the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not only do they encourage the audience participation familiar to die-hard fans of the film, there is also a “shadow-cast” performance with each showing. A group of actors, “The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players,” dresses as the characters and essentially lip-synchs right along with the movie. With each showing, the Hollywood brought in well over $700 but they recently received news that they can no longer show the movie the way they have always done, with a Blu-Ray/DVD player attached to a projector. The powers-that-be decreed that the Hollywood Theater must either convert to the new digital way of the future or they cannot screen the movie. This is not the only studio to deliver this type of news, either. A certain mouse has made a similar declaration and, as we know, they own almost everything.

The Hollywood Theater was the victim of a nasty little hoax when someone pretending to be Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore Show and Pixar’s Up) pledged to help save the theater by doubling all donations.

Despite these setbacks, the crew at the Hollywood Theater presses on. Along with the ongoing “So Bad It’s Good” series, they are putting on a number of special events. In March, be sure to catch their Night of the Living Dead program, where the cast and crew will be in attendance to show the film, sign autographs and mingle with you, the fans. They also teased an upcoming 80’s theme party.

Check out their website for the up-to-date event calendar and don’t hesitate to get involved at www.thehollywooddormont.org. They welcome volunteers. And money. Money’s good, too.

Stephen Chbosky, author/director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a prominent supporter of the Hollywood Theater. He was so taken with one of their shadow cast screenings of Rocky Horror that he came back to introduce one of the performances, joined the advisory board at the Hollywood and even filmed a scene for Perks at the theater!

Roy Gloeckl resides in the southern hills of Pittsburgh, performing communications specialties for a local university. He is a lifelong gaymer who has yet to “catch ‘em all.” He is an actor who wants to be a cartoon. And yeah, he totally has a favorite dinosaur. Follow him on Instagram and tell him yours.