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Reel World


Bringing Films To Life

By Rachel Galvin

What if instead of going to the cinema to escape reality, the cinematic experience became reality?  That is the mission of a New York based creative team at BBQ Films. For them, the film is only part of the production. They create a cinematic playground, an immersive experience with a party atmosphere that allows guests to experience scenes from the movie in real life.

The concept began in 2007 when creator Gabriel Rhoads and his wife Lauren Lickus showed summer film series to friends on their urban rooftop in Spanish Harlem while serving up food from their grill.

But piecemeal, they began adding film industry professionals to their creative team to expand, creating pop-up cinematic experiences eventually culminating into what BBQ Films offers today. The team’s brainstorming sessions are often done with wine, pizza and plenty of creative energy.

“That type of ideation to creation make these events so raw and exciting,” says Rhoads. “It takes it from a static medium and makes it engaging and immersive.”

Lickus says, “We are doing more than just programming events; we are building a community. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the people who choose to add their talent to our growing vision. Together, we are finding new and challenging ways to celebrate the art of storytelling with our audience.”

With less and less people attending the movies and turning, instead, to Netflix, Hulu and Video on Demand, this type of experience is just what the doctor ordered to get movie-goers back into an audience experience where they are actually able to enjoy a movie with other people. This takes the cinematic experience to the nth degree.

The team brought “Back to the Future” to life by creating the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance complete with lookalikes from the cast and a doo wop band, along with having guests watch the film. For “The Fifth Element,” guests were given a lei and a multi-pass before boarding the space liner yacht, the Fhloston Paradise, for a massive party complete with an operatic performance of the aria seen in the film performed by a costumed actor playing Diva Plavalaguna and an appearance of lookalikes of Lilou, MC Ruby Rod and even Zorg and the Mangalores. An ‘80’s mansion party showing the film “Weekend at Bernie’s” included a surfer beach band. Through a sponsorship with Chevrolet, VIPs were shuttled away in style via Chevrolet Stingrays to the Rockaways.

Rhoads says they asked Chevrolet to not only provide the cars, but also underwrite the event.

He says, “We try to integrate product placement in a way that does not seem obnoxious. We avoid stylized product placement that does not belong.” It seems the BBQ Films team has thought of everything, and paid careful attention to detail to bring these films to life. Other films they have created parties around include “America Psycho” and also “Mutant Ninja Turtles”

Executive Producer, Lenny Platt, got involved after attending the “American Psycho” party. He says, “We were invited to party with Patrick Bateman and his friends for his 27th birthday party. The basement of the Tribeca Grand Hotel was transformed into an ‘80s nightclub, where a DJ spun Depeche Mode and New Order while I danced with Robert Palmer’s video and Patrick ran around the party wearing only an ice mask and a chainsaw. ‘American Psycho’ was one of my favorite books and films, so an opportunity to live inside that story for one night was life-changing. The next day, I emailed the company offering to do whatever I could do get involved. Two years later, I’m now lucky enough to help conceive and produce these magically transformative experiences to new audiences around the country.”

What also makes BBQ Films events unique is the fact they give their profits back to non-profits. Rhoads’s day job is working with non-profits so this is something he is very familiar with. In the past they have done everything from helping people going through Hurricane Sandy to giving thousands back to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s (

Find out more about the BBQ Films experience at DUO

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