BBQ Films' Gabriel Rhoads: The Culture Brats Interview

When it comes to movie madness, cinephiles have a wide array of celluloid maniacs to choose from. It's hard to believe then, that only a little over 13 years ago we shuffled into the theater to meet Patrick Bateman, the chainsaw wielding godfather of the original soulless yuppie murder spree. It didn't take much to set him off (Was your apartment in a better location? Were your business cards printed with better quality ink?) and getting a bad table at an exclusive Manhattan restaurant could reduce him to tears, but there was something hauntingly familiar and funny about a guy who could wax poetic on the musical merits of Huey Lewis And The News or Whitney Houston before burying a hatchet in the back of your skull.

We recently spoke with Gabriel Rhoads of BBQ Films, a company that have a talent for resurrecting the movies we love with accompanying fan fare, touching a nerve with a movie-loving culture that's come to embrace and revere the films that captured a moment in our lives. In what promises to be one of the best, albeit perhaps the most unhinged, birthday events of the year, this cutting-edge cinema social club is hosting an no-holds barred 27th year celebration for Patrick in honor of his very important birthday. We expect every bit of '80s decadence you could possibly imagine when we roll back the clock at the Tribeca Grand Underground to give the man his due.

I want to start out talking about the BBQ Films event that's coming up celebrating Patrick Bateman's 27th birthday at the Tribeca Grand Underground with a screening of one of my all time favorite movies: American Psycho. Can I ask you to give our readers an idea of what attendees can expect when they get there?
Absolutely. What BBQ Films does is, we take a film and we create an immersive experience for that film. So everything from '80s VIP, just like Patrick Bateman's world, is how folks are going to be welcomed into the event. The velvet ropes, I don't know if you've ever personally been to the Tribeca Grand Underground, but it's a fabulous space down there, which when well lit looks very much like 1980s. It's very LUX down there. All of our guests are going to be in for a treat. We do many of these in warehouse locations in Brooklyn but this is going to be a luxury club so folks are going to walk in the door, they are going to have, obviously, time-relevant music like Huey Lewis And The News, Genesis and of course Whitney Houston.

There is going to be a theme performance by The Silent Drape Runners who will actually break down a Whitney Houston song for us. We'll have a 1980s themed photo booth with Robert Palmer themed back up dancers dancing for you, Pierce & Pierce employees and secretaries interacting with you while you grab your cocktails and explore the space. Oh and we always, always have our gourmet BBQ Films popcorn.
We believe very much in the experiential immersion in film so we always have our twenty five dollar ticket for folks to come and immerse themselves in the experience and view the movie but we also have seating in the private screening room as well. That's a few extra drinks and a really nice seat. We also have the higher priced ticket which we call "The Tunnel" where you get bottle service and you are treated just like Patrick Bateman. Oh and we introduced the thousand dollar floor level tickets called the "Indochine." A limo will pick you up at your location anywhere in the five boroughs and you stop by to pick up one of our actors for an immersive theatrical experience. You are in a private room with a private security detail, bottle service, full meal, and all sorts of surprises.

That one sounds delightful, but a little scary. Do you get a chainsaw and white sneakers with that package?
Actually, funny you should mention that. We introduced the "Dorsia" level, which is everything that you get in the other levels plus a custom Valentino suit and a chainsaw! Unfortunately, the Dorsia is unavailable. I'll let you in on a little secret, it was never available.

Don't think people wouldn't be trying to buy it if it was. The chainsaw alone is worth it. American Psycho was beloved when it came out and it pretty much perfectly preserved a soulless slice of yuppie history. Do you guys feature films that celebrate or invoke strong reactions, or do you choose based on what you love to watch? How do you pick your movies?
That's a really interesting question. That's evolved over time for us. We try to pick films that are having a cultural moment. The idea is, we'll do something right when everybody is about to start thinking about this particular movie again. We like to do films that have a real emotional connection where there's a resonance. We do a lot of comedies, honestly. One of our real flagship events was the fashion show for Zoolander. We did that during fashion week and the turnout on that was great. People were in the middle of fashion week thinking about Derek Zoolander and Hansel and it's just picking the right movie at the right time with the right mindset folks are in is a really big deal. So you are almost already predisposed to be immersed in the film, you are ready to see this movie again.

This might be a little convoluted but we did a Party At The Moon Tower with the climax scene from Dazed And Confused with the classic cars and beer in the trunk and we built a moon tower and people heckling you from the back of a pickup truck. We had a drill press where people were drilling out paddles.

Full immersion.
People were way more interested in that than we were expecting, but yeah, full immersion. And the funny thing about Party At The Moon Tower, if you think about Dazed And Confused, we showed it last year and it was made eighteen years ago last year.

Ugh. Eighteen years? I feel old.
It was about graduating high school eighteen years before that! So anybody who had seen it then, and was thinking about what high school was like eighteen years before then in 1976, so it's this cyclical thing that happens with movies and popular images and how people are thinking about this. With American Psycho, honestly, it's a bit of a risk for us because we've done so many comedies and feel-good movies, this is a drama and it's a controversial drama. We think very carefully about how we pick these things and how we create a space that appreciates the satire of it and the complexity of that movie and how Bret Easton Ellis likes to tell his stories. It's interesting because you have a lot of conversation about the one percent and the ninety nine percent and a lot of conversation about Wall Street and Main Street. Then you have this really dramatic depiction of a man who is kind of immersed in his own mind and people when they pick up the news and think about it, you kind of think about this movie a little bit. So it's the opportunity to put this on stage, wrap ourselves in the satire and have some fun with it but it's also on people's radar.

There seem to be quite a few pale imitators of this film, with things like Cosmopolis coming out they seem like a bit of an homage to American Psycho. First of all Bale's performance was unreal. As much as it's got a lot of '80s-themed nostalgic ridiculousness that may or may not be relevant anymore, when you watch it again, it stands up still. I actually appreciate it more today than when I saw it in the movie theater years ago.
Almost timeless right?

Yes, absolutely. Being a cinephile , I really like the idea that the idea for this celebration of movies was born on a rooftop in Spanish Harlem and grew into a venture that now connects people with good films and food, which I think is great. Good stories connect us all and I want to know what you think makes a film a classic across the board?
You know, this is interesting. Let me take a little diversion for a moment. What you just said makes a ton of sense. The power of storytelling. When you think about one of the reasons why we started this or why it made so much sense for it to outgrow the rooftop in Spanish Harlem was that we realized that there was community that was being created around these films and around this experience. It was an incredibly durable, enthusiastic community. We started thinking about that and this might be a little bit too philosophical but if you think about the best times that you spend with your friends or your family, I mean what are you doing? You are sitting around the table, you're eating dinner, you're having drinks and you're telling stories to and with each other. So to create a moment where you are taking a story that people know and have some sort of emotional attachment to, be it good or bad, and then you present that in a context that allows them to immerse themselves in it, enjoy it, analyze it, think about it, talk to each other about it. All of a sudden you are creating an experience that bonds people and community around it. That's really what we've seen with BBQ Films, is the development of that community. It almost becomes like a cinema social club, if you will.

Back to your original question of how movies become classics, I think they become classics with exceptional storytelling, great images, and the ability for enough folks to have an emotional connection that a community gets built around it. That's what we are really tapping into in the film world.

So many of these movies have a ravenous fan base of vigilant movie lovers and on that note I have to ask about the league of dedicated staff volunteers that come out of the woodwork as your film crew who come in and help you with these events. If you could hire a film crew out of ten of your favorite actors or actresses of all time, what positions would you assign them, and what director would you choose to coordinate the entire event. For example, Val Kilmer could work the front door with Streep serving snacks while Scorsese yells at everyone to look happier.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Wow that's a fantastic question. Let me tell you a story about how we invite people to join our mailing list and our social club. I really like the way you constructed that question, I'm actually going to have to take some serious time and think about it. Maybe I'll even have to email you a list. What we ask people when they sign up for our list, what we say is "Look, it's nine o'clock Thursday night and you walk into your favorite local bar/restaurant. You sit down and seated right next to you is your favorite character from your favorite movie. Not your favorite actor, but your favorite character. What do you buy them? Who are they? Is it Uncle Buck and you buy him a 100-ounce steak or are you buying a mimosa for Holly Golightly?" We get some fun answers to that. Reese's Pieces for ET. It's great to think about how these characters show up and it's funny because when we think about how we want our film crew to play out, we end up getting the characters from some of these movies that end up showing up. Not the actors of course, but a Patrick Bateman will probably show up at his birthday party. Not Christian Bale, obviously.

Don't rule him out, he's sneaky. Could walk right in.
If Bale wanted to come, we'd certainly say yes, but Patrick Bateman or perhaps Paul Allen will show up.

Let's see Paul Allen's card.
We try to work that into our film crew. I will think on that question. I'm going to get back to you. It's amazing the folks that help put this on are so remarkable dedicated and engaged and enthusiastic and we really couldn't do it without them. That passion ends up making this type of thing possible. No conversation about BBQ Films would be complete without talking about the folks who are in the film crew. They are producers in their own right. Some of them are brewers and restaurant owners, some are journalists and actors and the imagination of all these folks who get together in these brain trusts... We put a basic idea out and then the ideas just start coming and then we see what we can make happen. It's been one of the most rewarding parts of this work and certainly one of the greatest communities that I've ever had the privilege to be a part of.

To sum up, I've got to ask you what is your all time favorite movie?
My all time favorite movie, wow. You know this is funny. I think it's really hard to be able to point a finger at what your favorite movie is. I have a long list of movies that I absolutely adore, although I have to say that since I was a small child, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner has the power to evoke my imagination. The acting is remarkable and since then I've had a number of favorites but that's always one that I go back to.

Looking forward to seeing you there in person next week and tell me this: what is your all-time favorite movie?

Wow, you got me. Same as you, I have so many. But my first big movie experience as a small child was Jaws. For sheer impact, I have to say that one.

That was the first movie I saw as a very small child in a huge theater and that was the start of my summer blockbuster experience, with screaming people and terrified moviegoers. We forgot that we were in a cinema. All we wanted was for Chief Brody to save Amity. For me that preceded Star Wars or Rocky or The Godfather.
I have always wanted to see that movie in a drive-in!

Drive-ins are great but you lose the theater surround sound that makes John Williams's score so bone chilling. The shark! He's coming! The song! Anyway, so many movies, so little time! I'm looking forward to seeing American Psycho with all the bells and whistles with you. Now, I have some video tapes I need to return!
See you soon!

BBQ Films will be showing American Psycho on April 6th at the Tribeca Grand Underground in NYC. Tickets can be purchased here.

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