Full disclosure: When Ghostbusters II came out in 1989, I arrived at the theater next to the Rag Shop in Toms River, NJ in full fan gear: a plastic toy proton pack strapped on my back, blasting imaginary ghosts with the yellow foam beam while we waited in line. So I sympathized with the four-year-old kid who showed up to the first night of BBQ Films immersive Ghostbusters movie experience/fan playground in full costume, only to be told he couldn’t get in. The event was 21 and older.
“People want their kids to be able to celebrate!” BBQ Films co-founder Gabriel Rhoads said. “It was so, so sad!”
Organizers gave the kid a bunch of swag from the event, let him take pictures with the replica Ecto-1 and the adult Ghostbuster cosplayers outside and assured him he could come back on Saturday, when BBQ Films is hosting its first-ever kids matinee screening of a movie. It actually surprised me that kids are still into the movie, which hasn’t existed as a film franchise or cartoon series since the Clinton administration. The event featured, in typical BBQ Films style — a buffet of fan service art and activities, from Ecto Cooler cocktails and a fridge containing a gateway to Zuul to a trap-throwing lane and a hands-on slime station. The movie, of course, still holds up 32 years later — but the fan culture runs deeper than I thought.
First, the details, in case you want to check this out yourself: BBQ Films’s Ghostbusters run goes through Saturday at Villain (50 N. 3rd St.); you can still get tickets for tonight, Saturday night, and the family matinee on Saturday here; Friday night is sold out. Other recent movies the group has done include a Rex Manning Day party at Rough Trade for Empire Records and Beetlejuice’s wedding at House of Yes.
It’s not cheap ($47 on Saturday) but these events go all out — actors in character walking around interacting (a fairly dead-on young Rick Moranis lookalike in gatekeeper garb and red contact lenses, handing out popcorn as he said “Yes, have some”); cocktails at the bar made with real Ecto-Cooler (reminder: It’s still kinda gross), a female actor doing an admirable Peter MacNicol while standing in front of a life-size portrait of Vigo the Carpathian. The conceit of the party is that the Ghostbusters, like many a Manhattanite, are moving their headquarters to Williamsburg (can you imagine trying to buy a firehouse in Tribeca today?). In a special video introducing the film, director Ivan Reitman welcomed the crowd with a “Hey Brooklyn!” After the film, the crowd got to see a special behind-the-scenes preview of the new Paul Feig-directed Ghostbusters coming out July 15.
Attendees get to mingle, drink and try out a new Ghostbusters video game coming to Playstation — and the batshit impossibly hard NES one — before watching a screening of the 1984 original. There were also lots of people in Ghostbusters jumpsuits: many were BBQ Films staff, but I also met the “B team” Ghostbusters last night. These were a group of guys standing around in standard-issue ghostbusting jumpsuits, their backs carrying painfully heavy looking proton packs outfitted with blinking lights and enough wiring to make you wonder if, just maybe, a beam of something would shoot out when you pulled the trigger.
The schtick is that they fill in when the OG busters are busy, and there are chapters all over the country; the real story is that they’re a New York based charity and fan organization of ghostheads (as diehard fans are called) called New York City Ghostbusters, who do STEM education at schools and appear at fan events. Just that morning, they were up at PS191 on the Upper West Side teaching kids how to make slime out of Elmer’s glue, Borax and food coloring. BBQ Films brought in a bunch of these Ghostbusters chapters from around the tri-state area for the event; their mock-up Ecto-1 style vehicles lined Kent Avenue around the corner.
“I bought the proton pack as a gift to myself,” said Eric Cudworth, the president of the group. He’s 36, lives in Rockaway and when he’s not busting ghosts (or at least pretending to) he’s busting cases as a detective for the NYPD. The group also includes journalists, FedEx employees, web designers and actors.
“The community is huge,” Cudworth said.
I didn’t actually expect to find anyone at the BBQ Films event who shared the weird misogynistic hate around the female-led new movie, but Cudworth was practically giddy when describing how he got to see a replica of the car from the new movie that morning.
“It was epic,” he said. “It gave me goosebumps.”
Matt Catanzano, 32 of Park Slope, laughed at the idea that the new movie could do anything to ruin his fond memories of the first.
“That first movie is perfect,” he said. “I already have it, it still exists, I can watch it whenever I want.”
His only caveat: If Feig somehow manages to George Lucas-up the canon by time traveling back to the original movie, but that seems unlikely.
“I don’t have that crazy like [here he bit his nails for emphasis] ‘oh my god, women can’t be scientists, what’s happening??! That doesn’t make any sense, so I’m on board.”
The Ghostbusters are true New Yorkers, and you forget how much of New York oozes throughout the movie like slime from a card catalog. It’s established as a matter of fact that the concept of ghostbusting is borne of and in New York — the whole hustler spirit of the thing feels very familiar. Plus, there’s the weird, annoying crap you can run into at any random corner in Manhattan that can make you late for work, the overworked crew who get so busy, their dream job turns into just another chunk of workaday drudgery; the lines like “let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown,” the “we came we saw we kicked its ass!” swagger that all are tied into the city’s personality profile.
“I think it is an everyman and everywoman story,” Rhoads said. “As long as you are smart and brave you can be a Ghostbuster. You need to be willing to mortgage your friends house. You need to be willing to strap an unlicensed nuclear accelerator to your back. And you need to be able to stand in the face of ghosts, but you can be it, I can be it.”
That’s a broad statement, but he gets to the point: The Ghostbusters are kinda shlubs, just looking to make a buck.
“You don’t have to be cool, you don’t have to be hip, you don’t have to be strong, you don’t even have to be super attractive, you can just be a person and be a ghostbusters,” he said.
But is it an every man and every woman story? The event last night drew a mixed crowd, but it was definitely a bit bro-heavy. That was highlighted during the stage portion of the show, where a host (male) brought up two dudes who produced the Ghostheads documentary due out this summer; they brought two people featured in the film on stage with them: one a Joe Manganiello clone in a tight shirt, the other a guy with wraparound sunglasses on his head and a full jumpsuit. That guy was worried his wife would be giving birth to their second kid on the date of the new movie.
“He didn’t know what he was going to do,” someone joked, “go to the hospital or see the movie!”
I was talking to Meghan about whether she noticed a dude-heavy crowd as she took pictures and she said basically, yeah, obviously. This isn’t exactly a movie full of role models girls grew up idolizing, or dressing up as while waiting in line for the sequel. The fan culture is heavily male, which explains some of the backlash to the new film (kinda like a: why are you letting girls play with our toys? thing).
I’m definitely going to see the new movie, and I’m of course not sure if it will be great or just OK or fall short (the last few Feig films have been kinda meh for me), though some of the footage shown last night was more encouraging. But I do picture a world in the near future where four-year-old girls in full costume will be the ones lining up outside an event like this, just trying to get in to act like their favorite Ghostbusters.
Go to the next page for more photos from Ghostbusters HQ!
Follow Tim is a Venkman in the streets and an Egon in the sheets: @timdonnelly.