Vampire Hookers finds a home at the Heights

Michael Goller

On Saturday, July 28 – two weeks after the original scheduled performance – Atomic Shock Theater will finally get the chance to present the B-movie Vampire Hookers. But rather than screening the film on the exterior of the Grainbelt Brewery in their usual outdoor environment, the troupe will be showing the film in the cozy confines of the Heights Theatre, just blocks outside of the Minneapolis city limits.

For two consecutive summers, Atomic Shock Theater has presented their Guerilla Drive-In series at the Grainbelt Brewery complex, screening films on the side of the building. After two seemingly undisturbed years, a voice-mail message left for AST members on Friday, July 13, just one day before the scheduled performance, by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency’s Carter Johnson informed Atomic Shock Theater that their public presentation of Vampire Hookers would not go on because of an effective ban.

The story garnered heavy local media attention when the outdoor showing was banned by the MCDA. Citing the group did not obtain a “right of entry” or city licensing permits, the MCDA and the city of Minneapolis allegedly set up barricades and posted police warnings in order to prevent the public from attending the presentation.

“What I did, prior to telling them they couldn’t do all this,” said MCDA representative Carter Johnson, “so I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth, is I called city licensing and permitting and asked them if there were licenses and permits for this activity at 77 13th Avenue. They researched their database and there were none.”

But, the group did, in fact, have permits issued by the City of Minneapolis.

Bill Carter, booking representative for AST, feels that Johnson spoke prematurely in issuing the ban. “We did (have permits) and, in fact, we supplied them to WCCO-TV and they were shown on the air.”

“I think it’s a case of one city department not being on the same page with the other,” continued Carter.

The MCDA also cited “right of entry” as another reason for the ban. Johnson stated that the group never requested permission to use the property owned by the MCDA, and had no legal right to be there.

“It’s certainly their property,” Carter attested, “it’s certainly within their right to dictate what is appropriate activity upon it.”

“We never gave them the least bit of resistance or the least indication that we weren’t going to comply with whatever they wanted,” Carter said.

“It wasn’t that big of an issue for us,” Johnson defends. “It’s something that we will sort out with them. If they can present us with a viable request for a right of entry and cover all the bases they need to cover legally, we kind of think it’s a neat deal.”

Atomic Shock Theater didn’t wait for things to get sorted out with the city to continue their shows.

“After we got attention for having been cancelled, I got a number of offers,” said Carter, referring to AST’s search for a venue to screen the film. “The Heights offered us something very generous and, most importantly, we were able to get in there very quickly.”

Dave Holmgren, owner of the Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights is excited about bringing Atomic Shock Theatre and Vampire Hookers to the Heights.

“To be honest, Vampire Hookers is a wonderful little film. It was rated R in 1978, but by today’s standards, the only thing rated R about it is the title. That’s what’s fun about it. It’s a fun schlock picture for midnight,” said Holmgren.

“It’s a great place for this kind of show to be,” admitted Carter. “It’s a great theatre and we’re proud to be there. The kinds of stuff they program and the kind of audiences they get have been very receptive to what we do. It’s a great environment for us to be in.”

“We are always looking out for independent filmmakers and independent producers,” said Holmgren. “In this case it’s an independent film being marketed by a small group of guys who really just want to get the product out there and do some high quality entertainment for people who are interested in that B horror genre.”

Atomic Shock Theater has plans to get outdoors again this year. As for any resolution between Atomic Shock Theater and the MCDA, things are still under negotiation.

“(On Tuesday, Carter Johnson) from MCDA contacted one of the other members of our group and offered to help us get back on track at (the Grainbelt) again,” said Carter.

“It sounds like a fun activity,” said Johnson. “I think it’s kind of a cool deal myself. If they want to do it and comply with all the city ordinances and licensing we would probably work out some sort of arrangement.”

But Atomic Shock Theater is hesitant to take up Johnson’s offer, simply because of all the work they have done in the past few weeks to rearrange their schedule and find new venues.

Adds Carter, “In my mind, I don’t know if it’s likely that we would attempt to go back to the Grainbelt this year.”


Michael Goller invites comments and
criticism at [email protected]