Mon December 31, 2012
Retro Theater Shows Cult Classic For Holiday Food Drive
A small town central Wisconsin movie house showed a cult classic recently for a holiday food drive. The audience not only watched the movie, many of its members were in the movie.
The Cosmo Theater in downtown Merrill has been showing movies since 1929. It is still family owned.
Co-owner Shelby Dzwonkowski spoke as she took a can of soup for the holiday food drive.
"The Cosmo's a very special place," she says. "We know most of our customers by name. It really isn't just a movie, it's an experience."
Shelby's father Dennis Lerch was behind the counter nearby, making popcorn.
"I'm much better at selling tickets than I am at making popcorn," he says. "It's amazing how many people are here right now that either they were in the original movie or their parents were in the movie."
The movie Lerch refers to is an early '70's cult classic, The Giant Spider Invasion, filmed in Merrill with the final scene shot right in front of the Cosmo. Russ Yanda was 16 when the spider ate him on Main Street.
"There's eight people inside the spider," he recalled. "And two were pouring blood down the fangs which have a garden hose taped on each side, basically Karo syrup and red food coloring. Very sticky in the summer."
The guest of honor tonight is Bill Rebane, who produced the movie, and turned an old Volkswagen beetle into a different kind of bug.
"There were six or seven kids inside," he says. "The legs were fixed with springs, and they kept moving up and down as the driver drove the VW."
The Giant Spider Invasion grossed more than $20 million dollars. Rebane produced it on a shoestring.
"Total budget was $300,000," he says, noting that he didn't make a dime from it. But, Rebane says he had fun.
The audience is also having fun on this night, laughing as they see themselves and their friends back on the big screen. Norman and Alice Diemke say the Cosmo has been part of their lives.
"We've been going here, oh man oh man, from when our kids were little," Norman Diemke says. Their kids were born in 1958 and '60.