Monday, May 07, 2012

Pulling pranks on a movie audience redux

Originally published on April 10, 2006. This is one of my favorite things I have been involved in while connected to Circle Cinema. 

Surely everyone knows that it is against the law to run into a movie theatre and scream out, “FIRE!” Well, is it okay to pull a prank on a group of people who have shown up to see a midnight movie and then get something unexpected? I think so, and that’s just what we did April Fool’s weekend at Circle Cinema.

Months and months ago a plan was hatched at just what we could do to the people thinking they’d shown up to see the cult classic 1983 film Repo Man. It was decided that those in attendance would get a completely different film when the lights go dark. Instead of the punk rock infused Repo Man, the audience would get a cruel dose of Bette Midler and her tearjerker Beaches. I know, I know, it’s painful just to think about, right?

Here’s how the prank went down. The crowd begins to filter in around 11.30 with an album by X called “Los Angeles” playing on the stereo. They hang out in the lobby talking about seeing Repo Man or watching the lightning storm that was taking place outside the theatre. At around 11.45 people begin to go in and sit down while Black Flag is playing loudly in the theatre.

Midnight comes and I go in and give my usual spiel about what films are coming at the Circle and tell them to enjoy the first screening of Repo Man in Tulsa since 1983. Lights go dark. I run up to the projector’s booth to watch people’s reactions when the ungodly sight of Beaches hits them.

Very early in the film people are turning to each other and saying things like, “Is this Beaches?” “I think this is Beaches?” “Oh, dude, this is Beaches!”

If you don’t recall Beaches, about two minutes into the film Bette Midler turns around while singing some hideously cheesy song with this grin on her face and that’s when people inside had enough. A few people raised both arms in the air while looking back at the both and hollering out, “What in the hell?!”

Our plan was to show Beaches until someone came out of the theatre to complain—if it took 10 minutes we were committed to showing 10 minutes of Beaches. It took less than two minutes. One guy in his 20s vaulted out of his seat like he’d been prodded with a electric cattle rod and came hustling out into the lobby.

“Dude, they are showing Beaches in there!” he proclaimed.
“What?” I said trying to be stone faced and confused.
Beaches dude, Beaches!” he hollered out.

I went into the darkened theatre as Greg stopped the film. I announced to the restless and uncertain audience that we’ve been having a lot of issues with our distributor in Dallas and I wasn’t sure what the problem was. I told them we didn’t get the print until this afternoon and didn’t have time to really check it before loading it onto the platter. The audience was talking loudly to each other about Beaches and didn’t seem to get what was going on.

Greg announces over the P.A. for the audience to hear, “Joshua, could you come up to the booth for a second?” and I head up to where he’s red-faced from laughing. We nod at each other and wait 30 seconds before Greg gets back on the P.A. and tells the befuddled audience in his best “Voice-of-God-delivering-bad-news" tone the following:

“Uhm, ladies and gentleman. I’m sorry to inform you that there’s been sort of a mix-up with our distributor and, uhm, they’ve sent the wrong film. Also, we’ve already shut down our computers and we can’t offer a refund at this time and since that is the case, we hope that you’ll sit back and enjoy Beaches.”

And we kill the lights and start up Beaches again! The crowd is moaning and saying stuff to me and to each other loudly. We run Beaches for about 30 seconds before we come out and reveal that it was just a joke but let them know if they’d prefer to watch Beaches they could. “That’s evil, man!” one person exclaimed. “No!” was the response and when Repo Man began for real and Iggy Pop came blaring out of the speakers the crowd broke into an impassioned cheer.


Anonymous said...


hidden staircase said...

"Beaches, dude, beaches!" too funny. at least they will never forget that screening experience.

Amy said...

Fun. Our default April Fools joke around here is telling students that we've made a horrible mistake and that they have to take our placement test again, announcing a few questions in that it's a joke, and then giving them toothpaste-laced Oreos to make up for it (for a double April Fools whammie). I think the Beaches joke is a far, far better.