Rainbow Cult: Denver’s Ultimate Queer Cinema Experience

Rainbow Cult is celebrating its one-year anniversary next week, and they are celebrating in style. Rainbow Cult is a high-end queer cinema experience flush with live performances, giveaways and most importantly a consistent celebration of queer culture through movies. Dr. Andy Scahill first founded Rainbow Cult during the pandemic as a way to reconnect with friends. Since then it has blossomed into a wonderfully immersive and fun way to watch LGBT+ cult classics like Clue, Death Becomes Her, Addams Family Values, the Birdcage and so much more. What really sets these events apart from a regular movie showing is the fanfare and participation. Guests are not only encouraged but rewarded for dressing up, singing along, or quoting along. On August 13th, at 6pm, at the beautiful Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box, Rainbow Cult will be screening Robert Zemeckis’s Death Becomes Her. Tickets are selling out quickly so get your ticket right after you read what’s in store for this special event!

An Interview With Rainbow Cult’s Founder Andy Scahill

GayDenver: How would you describe Rainbow Cult? 

Rainbow Cult: It is bringing people from the LGBT+ community together and celebrating our love for cinema, particularly these films that queer people tend to love. There are interactive elements and giveaways, but most importantly participants are encouraged to sing/quote along.

GayDenver: Who are you?

Rainbow Cult: I am a professor at CU Denver’s downtown campus. I specifically teach in the English Department. My bachelor’s and my master’s are in English literature. I wanted to write about Shirley Jackson and 1950s gothic novels. I also have a Ph.D. in communications.

I got my Ph.D. in 2010 at the University of Texas at Austin. My dissertation, which became my first book, was on evil children and horror films. I examined why we patronize these children, and why we like evil children in cinema. The highest-grossing horror films feature children’s monsters, and no one had really accounted for why that was. 

I put forward that it’s basically that evil children in the horror film represent an alternate future, a queer future. I argued that the evil child in horror genres is really about the queer child and all the ways to kind of ‘unchild’ them or designate that they’re not worthy of innocence or protection. [Dr. Andy’s book is available via Amazon or just DM him for a pdf copy]

GayDenver: What was the inspiration for Rainbow Cult?

Rainbow Cult: I had pretty bad depression, and pretty bad burnout during COVID and coming out of COVID. I didn’t have the motivation to write I was having horrible writer’s block. I didn’t enjoy writing in the sort of faux academic voice that often we have to write, and so what’s been good for me and kind of healing for me is I’ve started to understand what I’m doing with Rainbow Cult as both theory and practice of what I study in academia.

GayDenver: What culture do you try to foster at your events?

Rainbow Cult: A culture of participation, authentic enjoyment, and community. When I look at,  the movie-going experience as it is now, it’s there to foster passivity. I didn’t like that, I enjoy the fun and participation that happens when you watch a favorite movie at a friend’s house. Rainbow Cult tries to foster that energy in the theater.
We usually have some sort of props that people use. We encourage people to be rowdy to express their love for whatever movie whether that’s to quote along, sing along, explode with laughter, or simply react. We’ve collapsed the window essentially between at-home viewing and theatrical exhibition. We’re trading the televisual experience for the film experience, which for me, is about an audience: it’s about the energy of the space and audience. It’s about people laughing when you didn’t laugh and you’re like, ‘Whoa, we’re interpreting this differently. That’s interesting.” That’s what I capture with these events.

GayDenver: One-year Anniversary Show coming up, that’s amazing! What do you have in store?

Rainbow Cult:  For our one-year anniversary, I wanted to bring back our most popular film and that would be Death Becomes Her (1992), Robert Zemeckis’s film starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis. What is magical about that film is we always encourage cosplay, you know, dress up in any way you want to express your fandom. We encouraged Death Becomes Her in particular because it has this sort of underground society of movie actors who live forever. We decided to do a Celebrity Ball and we had 12 contestants last time. The winner came dressed as Isabella Rossellini and was so impressive. We had Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, Lucille Ball, and Lady Diana. We’ll return to that and make it more of a costume ball this time around. I mean, gay folks love to dress up. So this gives them an opportunity outside of Halloween.

GayDenver: Besides the movie what else happens at a show? 

Rainbow Cult: It’s heavily inspired by Rocky Horror Picture Show, certainly, but really more the big night movie culture that cropped up in the 1950’s. Directors like William Castle were using in theater gimmicks like sending a skeleton on a line or having nurses walk up and down the aisle, in case anyone would die or fright. 

We always have interactive pieces before the show involving drag artists and other performers. Before the show gets underway the audience can interact with them (in character) and get excited.

We bring in that element of participation and fun. Cosplaying is always encouraged at our events. Laughing and joking is accepted and encouraged. Singing along or quoting along is perfect. We want you to have a good time and not hide it all.

GayDenver: Queer artistic collaboration is really important to you. Can you talk about that?

Rainbow Cult: I try to favor artists who are queer, to make sure we’re employing people in the community. This is very important to me. I work with many drag performers and  I always pay my performers because it’s not easy making a drag living. All of the artwork on Rainbow Cult’s merchandise are collaborative efforts with various artists. It’s so great being able to work with so many queer creatives and ideas. The type of artists I seek out tend to have that kind of cute meets gruesome aesthetic, with a little bit of camp. Those are the artists that I gravitate towards.

GayDenver: If you could put anything on a billboard what would it be?

Rainbow Cult: Well, seeing how film is my religion I would say, “Every religion needs a safe space”.

Jeff Wilson
Author: Jeff Wilson

Jeff is one of the owner of GayDenver and one of its writers. He is a Denver transplant who loves the city and the proximity of the mountains. He is happily married to his partner.

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