Friday, August 14, 2015

On THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

August 14th marks a 40th anniversary.  That's when THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW had its world premiere in Great Britain.  It's the 20th Century Fox indie film adaptation of a popular stage musical.  On screen was Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist who sees himself as a sweet transvestite.  From Transylvania.
I've written this before in blog posts, but it's Hollywood history worth repeating.  Critics cut up Frank N. Furter's campy sexual and musical hijinks.  It flopped when it opened to U.S. audiences in 1975. But the film's fate was turned around.  In time, it became a cult sensation.  Did you know that an African-American executive named Ashley Boone was the marketing whiz behind  The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings that made it popular with young weekend moviegoers all across the country?  The Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired audience participation  -- sing alongs, dance alongs, and fabulous fashion statements.  Moviegoers embraced characters in the movie so dearly that they attended the screenings dressed as a favorite character.
Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon played stranded sweethearts seeking shelter.
Frank N. Furter is happy to help -- and seduce -- in this musical horror movie spoof.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a perfect nighttime companion to the 70s glitter rock vibe and look popular at the time.  It had its playful rock attitude of androgyny and bisexuality being totally cool.  What movie critics didn't get, the kids did.  Ashley Boone's marketing idea was genius and continues today.  This weekend in New York City, you can catch midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Chelsea Cinemas on W. 23rd Street.  Boone started his film marketing career as a trainee for United Artists.
He contributed to the marketing of West Side Story, winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture of 1961.  He joined the 20th Century Fox marketing team in 1972.  By 1979, after several promotions, he was appointed President of Distribution and Marketing with a reported staff of 450.  Ashley Boone was the highest-ranking and most influential African-American executive at a Hollywood studio.  To me, these years deserve more attention than they've gotten (if any) in Hollywood studio history books.  He oversaw the marketing and promotional campaigns for Sounder -- nominated for Best Actress (Cicely Tyson), Best Actor (Paul Winfield) and Best Picture of 1972.  He handled the marketing for an original sci-fi action/adventure called....Star Wars (1977).
I guess you know how that one did at the box office all over the world.  Boone also marketed its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
He also handled The Omen, The Turning Point starring Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein and Alien, four more big hits for Fox.

Boone's credits include Chariots of Fire, Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1981 and The Right Stuff, Oscar nominee for Best Picture of 1982.  For Columbia Pictures, he marketed Ghostbusters and A Soldier's Story, Oscar nominee for Best Picture of 1984.

In my career, I heard from TV & film cameramen that Ashley Boone was a beloved Hollywood figure. Some feel that, for about half a year when the studio was in bad financial shape, he practically ran 20th Century Fox had helped turn its fortunes around.  I bet Hollywood journalist and TCM host, Robert Osborne, would know about that.  I wish more people knew about Ashley Boone.  He gave back to his film community.  He taught in the University of Southern California film school for eight years.  Mr. Boone died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at age 55.

About him being the mastermind behind the midnight screenings for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I didn't read that.  I heard it from Hollywood insiders.  But we get confirmation from his sister.  Here they are in a photo.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs made history too.  Also from the world of film marketing and once a key executive on the Paramount lot, she was the first African-American elected to be president of Motion Picture Academy.  We saw her on the Oscars® telecast.
This month, she was re-elected to serve a third term.

And there you have it.  Some Hollywood history behind The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


1 comment:

  1. Great history! I love the shot you used of Brad and Janet near the top. That's my favorite moment of "The Time Warp" -- Brad moves his head nonchalantly from one side to the other, as though he was simply taking in a tennis match.

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