New Game Shows Off Bar Dwellers' Acting Chops

Thursday , March 04, 2004

By Jennifer D'Angelo




Nobody puts Matthew Dujnic in a corner. At least, not since Movieoke (search) came to town.

Dujnic, a 29-year-old computer programmer and cartoonist, is one of many film buffs who have found a stage for their inner actor now that Movieoke, the cinematic cousin of the popular barroom sing-along game karaoke, has arrived at his local watering hole.

"This is what I do in my living room anyway," said Dujnic, who's performed scenes from "Zoolander," "The Breakfast Club," "Fight Club," "Reservoir Dogs" and other flicks. "I did the 'nobody puts Baby in a corner' line from 'Dirty Dancing' — and I'd never seen 'Dirty Dancing.'"

Movieoke gives film lovers a chance to emulate their favorite stars, from Robert De Niro to Tom Cruise. Participants just choose a scene they want to perform, then get up on a small stage while the scene is projected onto a screen behind them.

Like in karaoke, the films are shown with English subtitles when possible, so performers can follow along with the lines.

The act-along game is currently packing the house at Den of Cin (search), a bar in downtown New York City — and Movieoke's 24-year-old creator, Anastasia Fite, expects that fans all over the country will soon be reciting their favorite lines over beers.

"I told my friends when I started that it's going to sweep the nation," she said. "I’m hearing from bars all over the world."

In the game, some "actors" speak simultaneously with the movie dialogue (and appear to have rehearsed the scene), others shout out lines before or after the film's characters. Some offer their own interpretation of a scene, others stop to turn around and watch the film and copy it, or to keel over laughing.

And the audience applauds no matter what.

"It’s like everybody's playing charades on a family vacation," said Fite, who has copyrighted the term "Anastasia's Movieoke" and is working with lawyers to come up with a Movieoke package to market around the country.

David Stark, a manager at Burkhart's Pub in Atlanta, which features karaoke, said he'd give Movieoke a try at his bar if it came to his city.

"Anything new is good. It sounds kind of fun," he said. "But I'm not sure how it would go over here. Theater's not as popular here as it is in New York or San Francisco."

But on a recent Wednesday night in the Big Apple, participants were eagerly huddling in groups deciding which scenes to perform.

"I’m debating between 'Top Gun' and 'Die Hard,'" said Air Tabigue, 30, a comedian who doesn't like karaoke because he can't sing.

Fite kicked off the night doing a Jennifer Beals dance scene from "Flashdance" with a partner, who was also playing Jennifer Beals' character.

Martin Hellborg, 24, did a scene from "Zoolander" on the fly.

"It was fun. The audience was very good, supportive. It gets even more fun the more beer you have," he said.

Fite, a petite, confident film buff who studied film production at Cornell University, says she started the game to bring movie fans together.

"About three years ago, I made a movie about a girl who can only speak in movie lines," she said. "I wanted to use the same idea to bring [movie fans] out of solitary confinement and give them a chance to relate to people."

However, setting up the game isn't as easy as it may seem. Den of Cin, which Fite manages, happens to be underneath a video store, so Fite can run upstairs and grab movies as the requests come in.

And even Den of Cin's Movieoke has room for improvement. Musician Michael Furno was a little disappointed that the production value of the game wasn't higher.

"I thought they might digitally remove the characters and put you in the scene, just like in karaoke they give you music with no words," he said.

Sean Linezo, creator of the staring contest StareMaster, another bar-based game, thinks Movieoke could take off.

"It kind of lets people play out their celebrity desires. A lot of people are going to have fun with this, especially film buffs. I'd like to do the 'Taxi Driver' 'You talkin' to me?' scene."

Linezo also wondered if the game should be competitive. But for now, there are no prizes in Movieoke — and Dujnic likes it that way.

"If you have the cajones to get on stage, you win," he said.