An immersive theater experience, several stylized bars serving original cocktails, a jazz supper club, a live rock/soul band in residence, and maybe the best garden rooftop bar in the city—all of this would be enough for your average dining and entertainment complex. To this confident offering (each of which delivers, by the way), the McKittrick hotel has added the SuperCinema party series: a string of well chosen, highly curated theme parties hosted in the theater space of its acclaimed Sleep No More experience.
The formula is simple: choose a popular, crowd-pleasing movie everyone knows—preferably one with a strong cult following. Instruct all of your guests to dress in costumes, providing inspiration and references. Then, decorate the the theater space in the McKittrick (the bones of which are big, airy rooms structured in the style of a 1920s hotel) according to the film. Add in customized live performances featuring the cast of Sleep No More, a live band performing songs from the movie, a renowned DJ and a few open bars, and voila—a movie themed party produced by the leaders in immersive experiences in New York.
Their track record is strong. Their inaugural party brought “Romeo and Juliet” to life, with performances, lip sync battles, Montagues and Capulets of which Baz Luhrmann would surely have approved. “James Bond” executed the glamour, suspense and intrigue of the famous film series spectacularly, and was (in our view) one of the best so far. “The Great Gatsby” was next, which was a fan favorite with endless champagne and confetti. The costumes got more interesting with the “Mad Hatter’s Ball,” based on Alice in Wonderland, and “The Emerald City Ball” boasted the best live performance of the series, featuring a pitch-perfect Dorothy and the whole Oz clan.
Which brings us to “The Guilty Party,” the latest in the Supercinema canon. Any child of the ’80s is a fan of 1985’s Clue with Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Leslie Ann Warren and a host of other great character actors. The theme suited the cavernous, maze-like space perfectly, representing another great strategic choice by the production team. We put on our best Plum, Scarlet, and French Maid getups and took it on.
Any fans of Sleep No More know the McKittrick loves its theatric stunts. They followed suit with this party, where, in the center of the ballroom and main dance floor stood a stone fountain with a dead body, face down. We hung out for about 45 minutes, just watching, wondering if it was an actor—but it never moved.
To note, if you go: One of the best moments of these parties is the musical opener. The cast comes out dressed as the main characters and delivers a great performance in the middle of the ballroom to kick off the night. This opener featured the cast in creatively interpreted costumes (Miss Scarlet donned a lush crushed velvet crimson gown, while Colonel Mustard wore a yellow, bra, leather jacket and military hat), dancing in and around the fountain with the corpse—which, to our glee, jumped up and gasped for air halfway through, joining his pals to finish the dance routine.
This party featured an interactive game, where you could attempt to solve the crime introduced in the opening number throughout the night. This would be paid off during the closing number, surely, but we opted to focus just on the party instead.
These parties are the closest to Gatsby parties many of us will get—a huge space with hundreds of well (or weirdly) dressed strangers, and endless drinks. The main floor features a VIP area, dance, floor, open bar, and enough surrounding hallways that you never feel crushed by the crowd. One flight up reveals a balcony level overlooking this space, with a step-and-repeat photo station, fun taxidermy (be sure to visit the noble deer lining the back wall), another open bar, and a second VIP area. The level above that features a live band (which later turns into a DJ who hosts lip sync battles), open bar, and movie corner where they play the movie of the theme on a projector. And through it all, you can feel the Sleep No More space, brooding and dusty, just underneath the party theme decor.
Some parties feature even one more floor above that, and it’s generally where the weird is found. Performers delivered movie themed performances in luscious slow motion (pleasing fans of Sleep No More’s signature ending scene) For “James Bond,” dancers in all gold writhed under piercing green lasers. For the “Mad Hatter’s Ball,” the famous tea party unfolded in very slow, delightful chaos. For “The Guilty Party,” however, the floor was closed, which was disappointing.
Don’t get us wrong—these parties are the best game in town in their category. But our experienced team of Supercinema-fans would make a few improvements if they could join the production team. Making sure the party starts right on time is one. Stocking the bars well, and upping the quality of the liquor is another (why not try sponsors?). Always delivering something intriguing and weird on the top floor pays off the whole experience. And adding a few more character appearances throughout would be a blast (who wouldn’t have loved a witty butler from Clue, traipsing about making jokes to guests?).
The year isn’t over yet, either. The “Inferno” party caters to lovers of Halloween and classic suspense and horror films in late October; Tim Burton fans can enjoy making Christmas (la la la) at “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in early December; and it what may be the most promising concept yet, the McKittrick presents a strong alternative to the slew of open-bars-with-bad-food around the city for New Year’s eve, featuring “Moulin Rouge.” Late-1800s French burlesque and absinthe cocktails, anyone?