The Oriental Theater is one of Milwaukee’s best known, but hidden, gems. It’s known as the theater you visit for the artsy films, with an occasional blockbuster offered throughout the year. However, the most popular event every month at The Oriental Theater is one-of-a-kind. Every second Saturday of the month since January 1978, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has played as the midnight film at The Oriental. People come from all over the state, even as far as Chicago, to experience The Rocky Horror experience. It’s not just that the movie plays; it’s the entire experience of watching the movie at this theater.
When you walk up to The Oriental on this Saturday, the line begins filling as early as 9 p.m. The show always sells out because it’s not just the movie playing, but the group Sensual Daydreams acts out the movie as it plays as well. There is no other group like it in the United States.
Those in line are wearing their most scandalous lingerie- men and women, even in the negative digits on a cold Wisconsin night. The makeup is theatrical and tacky, just like in the film. Some are dressed as their favorite characters, while others just dress as if they could be extras in the film. We stuck out as “the virgins” in our street clothes, not knowing what to expect. Apparently a t-shirt and jeans are not appropriate attire for this time of event.
Once you enter the theater, your eyes are drawn to the old fashioned balconies and banisters throughout the building. It’s as if you “time warp” back to the 1940s and you are heading out to the show for the weekend. There’s every type of concession you can want, even alcohol, at The Oriental’s concession stand. We checked out Sensual Daydreams’ merchandise before heading into the crowded theater.
The crowd is situated with friends with a loud rumble of laughing and gossiping before the film begins. Just before the lights dim, Sensual Daydreams is introduced and explains the rules of the night. My heart beats out of nervousness. Not only was this my first midnight screening of the film, it’s even my first time watching the film all together. I knew about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but never cared to watch it in the past. The entire premise made me feel eerie. (I’ll blame my parents for convincing me that it was a weird movie.) Anyone going to this showing should watch the movie beforehand to truly appreciate Sensual Daydreams, as well as the entire experience. It’s also important to point out that this is not the type of event you go to expecting to be able to hear the movie and follow the plot closely.
Once the movie began, the group and the audience participated in games, sang and quoted along with the movie. It’s as if you enter a new world, full of the biggest fans who just go out to be goofy for the night and have a good time with friends. After experiencing the monthly screening myself, I can see how it is considered a unique experience and why people come from afar to go to the midnight showing. A great night out for any Rocky Horror fan.