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The upcoming Melissa McCarthy movie, in theaters nationwide Aug. 24, tells the story of two detectives, one human and one puppet, who are forced to work together to solve the murders of the former cast of The Happytime Gang, a fictional, classic puppet show from the 1980s.
The R-rated comedy is produced by The Jim Henson Company and falls under its mature division of content, Henson Alternative.
In order to ease viewers into the risque world of the film, STXfilms created The InkHole, a gateway for patrons to interact with puppets from the film and explore the whodunit storyline in a trendy bar location.
The idea for an immersive experience first germinated on the set of the film: “What we saw when people were on set during the film was that it was like the fulfillment of a lifetime fantasy when [our cast] actually got to interact [with the puppets],” STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson told The Hollywood Reporter. “The puppets are so real, so lifelike, so smart, so clever,” he added.
The experience Thursday commenced at The InkHole’s tattoo shop, where two puppet parlor clerks inked portraits of “The Happytime Gang” on willing participants — needles were replaced with airbrush machines, but only a brave few sat down in the chairs. (In the film, the tattoo parlor is a front for some of the biggest criminals of the puppet and human worlds.)
One guest received a password (which was, in keeping with the film’s R-rating, “My butt plug just fell out”) to a speakeasy, hidden behind a secret door. The speakeasy comprised multiple rooms where actors and puppet performers previewed murder plots from the film.
Fogelson noted that every puppet included in the pop-up “populates from the film in one fashion or another” and the collateral material was “created as a part of the marketing campaign that was then applied to the environment.”
On the speakeasy’s main stage, a rotation of comedians, burlesque acts and lounge singers performed as guests made their way to the bar or tried their hand at blackjack. Signature cocktails included the “DTF” (Down to Fluff) and “Good Time for You.”
Secret alcoves exhibited racier content such as the “Peep Show,” where puppet pole dancing and BDSM performances were on full display. Patrons could also check out the supply in the puppet “XXXvideo” store while the “Sugar Den,” a candy confectionery that had gone awry, was hosted by Midge, a puppet partier, who peer-pressured guests to partake in her sugar high and offered syringes of sweet juices to induce a “sugar crash.”
The most popular room, “Photo Puppet Opp,” contained the “Rotten Cotton Girls,” two sassy puppets who invited guests to party with them in a VIP booth filled with confetti and champagne flutes. Guests posed on a hot-pink suede chaise in front of neon lights spelling out the film’s title.
The Hollywood pop-up is open to the public for four nights only, August 10-13. Attendance is limited to adults who are 21 and older. Tickets are free and can be reserved on Eventbrite.
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