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Monday, December 5, 2022

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WRAL.com – Brospar Daily News

For many young Raleighs, attending Friday night’s midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Rialto has become a rite of passage. After decades of “time” dancing, more than a thousand people showed up last Friday for the cult classic that finally aired.

Some are nostalgic and haven’t seen a Rocky show in years. Others take their own teenagers and let the next generation experience live performances before the lights go out.

It’s become a tradition for those who watch cult classics with friends on Friday nights. Many swear that Rialto has the best version of a live show they have ever seen.

“It’s an iconic Raleigh event,” said one viewer, who brought Rocky’s “Virgin.” “Growing up here, it’s nice to have a place to be as a teenager that’s fun and safe, but crazy and silly at the same time.”

She hadn’t watched the show since she was 18 and said she was looking forward to reliving the past.

That night, the Rialto Theater put on three shows, all of which sold out quickly, as crowds rushed to say goodbye to what could be – but hopefully not – be the last Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Rialto. Theater.

“Bittersweet. It came out in 1975. I don’t know when they started airing here, but it felt like the end of an era,” said another viewer, Linda.

The end of an era: remembering the first but hopefully not the last days of Rialto

“I have mixed feelings,” said Rialto owner Bill Peebles, who is retiring after more than 30 years. Peebles is home to many local theaters that hold a special place in the hearts of Triangle residents: Colony, Mission Valley, The Lumina, Six Forks and, of course, The Rialto.

Most of its theaters have a similar feel – personalized service and simple, classic fun.

Many who watched Rocky Horror that night had other fond memories of the Peebles Theater, such as the midnight screening in Mission Valley.

“It’s a hobby that’s spiraling out of control,” laughs Peebles, who graduated from North Carolina State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, starting out in hardware and software design.

Like many in the audience, Peebles saying goodbye was bittersweet.

“I have mixed feelings,” he said. “I am very happy with everything we have done over the past 32 years. Great movie. Shakespeare in love. The King’s Speech. I will miss these very loyal customers, the wonderful staff we have assembled. But at the same time, in the next chapter.

What’s in the next chapter of Peebles?

“Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I’m going to do today,” he said.

Here's Everything: 'Rowley's Last Rocky Horror Picture Show in Rialto (Now?)

As for Rialto’s fate, Peebles said they will suspend operations for a while.

“One day? Is it once a month? I don’t know. We’re in discussions with a few people who will continue to run the Rialto, but they want to continue. are not related to art and supplemented by special events,” he said.

Many Rialto fans agree and say they want future owners to stick to the traditions they’ve fallen in love with.

“I did all the heavy lifting to restore the property. It’s up to them to book and run. Their job is really easy,” Peebles said.

The Rialto Theater is one of the few theaters in operation for 80 years. The building opened as an A&P grocery store in 1936, but Peebles said they “actually drove through the back of the building with a bulldozer.” The Colony opened to the public in 1942, showing commercial mainstream films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Around the 1960s, The Colony turned to X-rated films as it struggled to compete with modern theaters. However, when a new owner took over in the 1970s, they wanted to get rid of that guy and that reputation. They changed their name to The Rialto and started showing non-art related films.

Peebles took over in 1989. In 1992 he began restoring the theater as most people know it today.

“There are very few theaters like this in this country,” said Sandra, who sat in the crowd at the Rocky Horror Show. “When you come here, it’s a personal experience. You meet neighbors. You meet friends. It’s easy, familiar and intimate.

Here's Everything: 'Rowley's Last Rocky Horror Picture Show in Rialto (Now?)

Is this Rialto’s last Rocky Horror Picture Show?

On Friday’s final show, the crowd was filled with people dressed in black, with fishnets and colored hair — but also in T-shirts and jeans. Like Legends or The Fallout Shelter — two other Raleigh nightlife icons that can say goodbye — part of the charm is the inclusive, “come with you” energy of the crowd.

Another part of the fun: the interactive chaos.

Not only can moviegoers watch classic films, but they can also toss toilet paper, toss rice, sing loudly, dance with actors – pre-pandemic – and even participate in the famous underwear race.

Once upon a time, they allowed water guns too – but Peebles has an interesting story.

Here's Everything: 'Rowley's Last Rocky Horror Picture Show in Rialto (Now?)

“When we renovated the theater, we redid the floor of the theater. Great for cleaning – but when wet it becomes slippery. We tell the Rocky kids not to use the water gun. Well, you know how kids are: they heard what you said and immediately ignored you. Well, the airbrush came out so they could “rain” the theater. They ran down the driveway and turned left – and scolded! We had 30 football tackles, they don’t rotate,” Peebles said with a laugh. “After that, there will be no more water guns.”

It’s the interaction with the live cast that really makes Rocky’s version of Rialto stand out, even among screenings in other venues.

“We gave the actors a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted. They had the freedom to do with it whatever they wanted, and I think that’s what made it so special,” Peebles said.

Peebles said the future is uncertain, but he plans to sell Rialto and hopes the new owner will continue where he left off.

So, is this Rialto’s last Rocky Horror show? At least for a while?

Here's Everything: 'Rowley's Last Rocky Horror Picture Show in Rialto (Now?)

“I wish I could say it, but I can’t. It will be any actor working with my successor. It’s between them,” Peebles said.

As the oldest theater in Raleigh, the Rialto Theater brings together many beloved traditions.

As one fan in the audience said, “I want whoever takes over to respect those traditions.”

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