Not content to only screen their bone-chilling flicks on Halloween weekend, Knoxville Horror Film Fest rolls out a variety of horror features and shorts throughout September and October to ready moviegoers for the spooky holiday. The festival proudly celebrates the bad as well as the good. Besides doling out bloodcurdling awards such as Best Gore Effects and Best Curdled Blood, the judges name one lucky piece of celluloid Weirdest Film, a distinction won by the oddly titled Thank You Jesus! in 2011. Throughout the year, filmmakers can submit their work in hopes that it will be shown in the company of high-profile releases such as the plasma-splattered AnnaLynne McCord vehicle Excision and the long-awaited adaptation of David Wong’s John Dies at the End, both of which are being shown at the 2012 KHFF.
For more than 60 years, the Cherokee Historical Association, a nonprofit cultural organization, has immersed visitors in live recreations of the history and daily life of the Cherokee people. Nestle into the 2,000-seat outdoor amphitheater for a presentation of Unto These Hills, an outdoor drama that's said to have been performed for more than six million visitors and 60 billion insects since its debut in 1950. The adventure begins with the Europeans’ arrival in the New World and navigates audiences through the tapestry of time, ending with the Cherokees’ tragic journey on the Trail of Tears.
Within Studio Movie Grill's expansive auditoriums, towering screens enrapture audiences seated in plush leather recliners and at dining tables. As the familiar celebrity faces in blockbuster and cult-classic features deliver Oscar-worthy lines, sneakily quiet waiters deliver meals from a full menu decorated with more than 100 items, including gourmet pizzas, smoked ribs, and cocktails infused with the spirit of Daniel Day-Lewis. Bartenders at the lobby bar dole out glasses of premium liquors, wines, and draft beer before and after shows.
The Bijou’s origins stretch back through American history, but it didn’t become a theater until relatively recently: 1908. For nearly a century prior to its dramaturgical reinvention, the building was a high-class hotel that housed high-ranking military commanders, influential civic leaders, and even President Andrew Jackson for a spell in 1819. When General Ambrose Burnside took the town of Knoxville during the Civil War, the hotel was converted into a hospital, makeshift war room, and oil-wrestling arena for Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan. The latter portion of the 19th century showed the building more favor, and during the lavish 1870s another president—Rutherford B. Hayes—paid call, and delivered a speech from the hotel’s balcony.
The early 1900s saw the hotel’s biggest renovation to date when it was purchased and upgraded by the Auditorium Company. The newly rechristened Bijou Theatre opened to a sellout crowd, and was a major outlet for vaudeville from 1913 to 1926. Hard times began to pile up soon afterward, and the lapsed theater would have been demolished in 1975 were it not for its eleventh-hour listing on the National Historic Record. Since its most recent renovation in 2006, the stage has hosted pop stars and musical blockbusters.
Ripley’s has enthralled audiences for more than nine decades with its dedication to revealing odd and unexplainable rarities from around the globe. But it all began with one man: Robert Ripley, a wildly successful and eccentric character who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century. After selling his first cartoon to Life magazine at age 14, he set out on a quick-paced career of drawing sports cartoons for the New York Globe. During a slow day at the office, he sketched nine unusual sporting events and finished his work with a title: “Believe It or Not!” It became immensely popular, allowing Ripley to travel the world in search of more bizarre stories to put into his comic strips. While visiting relatively unknown areas in locales such as India, China, and the inside of his neighbor’s chimney, he picked up a slew of unbelievable souvenirs that later became fixtures in several of Ripley’s museums, or as they’re affectionately called today, Odditoriums. Ripley’s now encompasses publications, attractions, a television show, and a blog, all of which carry Ripley’s tradition of reporting on the world’s curiosities.