Each week in Arizona, one theater brings the magic of Horror to the big screen and proves the genre is more than guts — it’s also heart!
What makes this screening so special is it includes a post-screening Q&A via Zoom with honored guests Anne Bobby and Nicholas Vince. In addition, attendees will have a chance to win a killer assortment of horror-themed Raffle prizes, such as signed posters, Blu-Rays, artwork, Vinyl records, collectibles, and Majestic movie passes — just to name a few.
The most important part of this event, however, is that all Raffle proceeds benefit a very remarkable organization, Mulligan’s Manor.
Mulligan’s Manor is an Arizona-based nonprofit that provides unconditional love and care to at-risk LGBTQ youth who find themselves in the unfortunate crossroads of drugs, homelessness, and being discarded by their families for “coming out.”
“Mulligan” is a term known by golfers as a second chance or a “do-over”. Director Jenny Diaz and Counselor Chuck Hawkins run the nonprofit group home with tremendous compassion, and their home is just one of three in the country assisting LGBTQ youth.
Financial assistance to keep the outreach thriving is more imperative than ever before, and that’s where the Horror community comes out to bring their bloody Baphomet A-game!
At a recent screening of Battle Royale, we sat down with Horror Programmers Danni Winn, Aaron Hudson, and their lovely assistant, Samantha (Sam) Hurdich — aka Goth Vanna White — to explore what makes their programming popular within the greater Phoenix area, what they love the most about the genre and their passion for the causes they champion.
CINEMATERY CREW INTERVIEW
Cinematery Crew, welcome to Morbidly Beautiful! To begin, I want to know, what does Horror mean to you?
Aaron: Horror for me is being a 16-year-old starting film school and feeling that people are going to look at me strangely. I looked at a guy wearing an Evil Dead 2 hat and I said, “That’s my guy!” I walked over to him, and he became one of my best friends and made my life much easier from that point on. And right there, that encapsulates what horror is — a way out of weirdness, by being weird.
Sam: I just remember being really little and wanting to watch Nightmare On Elm Street and my mom saying, “It’s just make-up”, and telling her, “Oh that’s pretty cool makeup, let’s watch The Exorcist!”
Danni: Horror helped me escape feeling like a weirdo and different from the other people that were in my classes. It made it feel ok to be different. And I always had an infinity for anything that was abnormal. Plus, I always enjoyed monster effects and wonderful storytelling…
(Note: At this exact moment, the music for 1959’s House on Haunted Hill trailer begins to play during the pre-screening programming; we had a good chuckle.)
Aaron: There’s one of my gateways right there, House on Haunted Hill, the original.
Danni: Recently, all of us got to hang with Joe Bob Briggs. What an honor for all of us that was; it meant a lot, as I fondly remember watching Joe Bob with my grandfather.
Horror can be a call to action, and that’s a call your team has answered. Several times a year, you host charity events. Can you tell me more about your work in this area?
Danni: We host several events, but our biggest fundraisers are the upcoming Pride Event in support of the wonderful Mulligan’s Manor and our big Holiday toy drive for Sunshine Residential Homes.
Much like Mulligan’s Manor, this incredible organization provides a safe and loving space for kids who have been removed from environments where they have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. They are placed in the homes of Sunshine by the Department of Child Safety until a more permanent and healthy solution can be found for them. In spite of everything they have endured, these remarkable children grow, learn, and thrive while receiving care and compassion from their Sunshine family.
Each year, we host this extremely fun but also very important Holiday Horror Benefit and Fundraising Raffle to help make sure these kids can have the kind of Christmas they deserve.
Sam: Those are our flagship events that we go all-in for. It’s such an honor.
Aaron: Anytime we can raise money is special, of course, but those two events are very special to us — very near and dear to our hearts.
You host special genre screenings every Tuesday night at the theater. What excites you most about this?
Danni: Community! Community, man, it is so awesome! It’s a thrill to see so many people come out. And, a lot of times, it is the same people who keep returning week after week. We love to see that! But we also get plenty of new people joining us, and that means the world, too.
We have such diverse programming week to week, and that allows us to reach many different types of audiences. It’s what makes Horror so great; there are so many different types of subgenres and something for everyone. It’s special that every week we come out and we just see a theater full of fans just like ourselves. That means a lot.
Aaron: Seeing strangers become friends, good friends, that’s what I love most. We see people who use to sit on opposite sides of the theater. Now, all of sudden, they are hanging out at the bar beforehand and walking into the theater together. That makes what we do worth it.
One of our buddies, Donovan, last week took off work to come to the movie. He said, “This is the movie that started my love of monsters, and I never thought I would see it on the big screen.”
All that’s special to us. Like, Danni said, it’s the community and giving people a chance to see favorites new and old that they never thought they’d be able to see on the big screen.
Danni: People playing hooky from work to watch a movie? You’ve got to love that!
Aaron: If you are going to skip work to come to one of our flicks, I think we have done our job!
What have been some of your most memorable screenings?
Sam: Death Game. I had never seen it before, never even heard of it. But immediately after watching it, I had to do a cosplay inspired by the film.
Aaron: I brought out my green lighting for that one; it was great!
Danni: Tonight at this Battle Royale screening means a ton for me!
Aaron: Battle Royale is one she has been wanting. I love this movie, too. We talked about this a year ago. It’s exciting to see it finally happening.
Sam: Friday the 13th in 3D was also a favorite; that was awesome!
Aaron: The Mutilator is a personal favorite of mine, and to see a packed audience come out and see that one was gloriousness. Also, getting to bring out horror icons like Jackie Kong or Joe Bob Briggs to events is obviously huge.
Sam: Oh, of course. For me, Sleepaway Camp with Felissa Rose and Katherine Kamhi was especially fun.
Aaron: One of the main reasons I became an event host is because of Monstervision. So, that was very cool to have the honor to introduce Joe Bob at an event.
It really sounds like you all are living the dream! You get to share your love of the genre with so many while raising money for important causes. Speaking of, what’s your fundraising goal for this year’s Pride Event?
Danni: At our inaugural High Tension fundraising event, we raised $1,000. The following year, we screened Alex Noyer’s Sound of Violence and doubled our contributions to $2,000. We are very hopeful to raise the bar and double that again. We’ve got some killer prizes, and we have a killer movie — how can you go wrong with Clive Barker?!
Aaron: Nightbreed is such a cool flick that isn’t recent and isn’t usually shown on the big screen. Nowhere else in the Valley would you be given this opportunity to experience a rare gem from Clive Barker.
THE MAGIC OF THE MAJESTIC
To bring Horror fans a unique integrative experience, the Majestic understands the importance of making it more than just sitting down and ordering dinner. They make it something to keep coming back for.
Events Extraordinaire, Lauren Knight, helped mold the beginnings of Cinematery and coordinated two nights of a live cast commentary for Sleepaway Camp.
Not only does Goth Vanna White help with the weekly preshow Horror trivia prizes, but she’s also the concierge of the pop-cultural experience; Movie Parties at the Majestic are her expertise.
Coming on Tuesday nights can be comfortable, cosplay, or simply sporting your favorite horror tee (believe me when I say the t-shirts have become the ultimate ice breaker in welcoming more attendees to the Majestic).
“I know for Sam, Halloween comes every Tuesday. She’s there, decked out from head to toe to step in and help wherever necessary,” Knight shared.
One thing The Majestic has pushed to accomplish is inviting the audience to step out of the comfort of a home streaming experience and reconnect with the magic of the big screen and a shared communal viewing experience.
The attendance at The Majestic is continuing to grow, demonstrating that the Valley is ready to come out of the long hibernation period from the pandemic. In May alone, the theater produced two sold-out screenings of Evil Dead 2 and Friday the 13th Part III in 3D.
Majestic Director of Programming, Andrea Canales, is no stranger to the Horror genre with over fifteen years of experiencing all the major changes the cinematic world has undergone. From threading 35mm prints of A Boy and His Dog and Halloween, organizing 12-hour All Night Marathons, and even bringing filmmakers and Fangoria writers out from Los Angeles.
Canales has devoted time to developing programming with local podcasters, Women in Horror moderators, and cultivating long-term industry label relationships (AGFA, Vinegar Syndrome, and Severin). Her ingenuity has proven that Phoenix Horror fans are not to be left out in the cold.
Andrea has a passion for mentoring and guiding others on the road to programming.
“I’m so proud to be part of the legacy of Cinematery that Danni and Aaron have established. Getting to brainstorm titles, events, and guests with them is truly such a joy! To be able to share my passion for film with them is a huge part of what I love about my job.”
From Zooming with Deborah Voorhees about 13: Fanboy, laughing up a storm with Ricky Bates Jr in attendance for King Knight, and having Jackie Kong sign autographs for Blood Diner, the Majestic team is putting Cinematery on the map for the next Horror destination of fun and terror on the big screen.
All the many facets of the genre are available to you here. Where else are you going to watch Chopping Mall, Deep Red, Night of the Demons 2, The Howling, Phantasm 2, Rabid, Two Evil Eyes, Horror Express, Swamp Thing, Death Game, and Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein in 3D?
Who said Los Angeles gets to have all the fun? Come and be a part of the macabre and part of the Horror heart. Welcome to the Cinematery!
HELP SUPPORT THE HEART OF HORROR
If you live in the Phoenix area or visiting the Valley, tickets are still available online for the Pride event, taking place Saturday, June 18th, at 8 pm.
This Raffle will be CASH-ONLY. Tickets are $5 each or 5 tickets for $20; enter as much as you want! While there is no ATM on the premises, the Majestic Tempe location is located next to a Wells Fargo branch. Parking is free.
Out of state? Please consider donating to mulligansmanor.com. Donations, big or small, are very much appreciated.