• Studio M

Revamped Hermitage Theater becomes a Halloween destination

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

By Dylan Skye Aycock, Studio M staff

During the week, the lobby of Hermitage’s Full Moon Cineplex is eerily quiet except for the distant buzzing of tattoo guns in the studio.

Posters for classic horror flicks like “Nosferatu” and “Frankenstein” line the walls. A towering, mutated horror figure overlooks the popcorn machine and glowing “Concessions” sign. Black-and-white striped curtains and tables complete the lobby’s “Beetlejuice” aesthetic.

But once the clock strikes 6 p.m. on Fridays, the macabre venue thrives and the dead come alive — both on the big screen and within the theater’s halls.

Co-owners and horror aficionados Ben and Stacey Dixon revived one of the eight screening rooms Sept. 23 into a horror film buff’s dream destination leading up to Halloween.

Throughout October, the cinema’s reserved for slasher and grindhouse classics: Spielberg’s “Poltergeist,” “Friday the 13th” and “Night of the Living Dead” are among the 20-or-so films. After the holiday, Ben says they will begin screening other genres, but the plan is to find a niche cinephiles will enjoy.

“We’re looking to continue doing themes after Halloween, but we’ll stick to showing films people probably haven’t seen on the big screen,” Ben says over the hum of his tattoo gun. “If they have, it has at least been since the ‘70s or ‘80s.”

To add to the experience, Stacey says patrons attending the first screening should come with an appetite. For an additional price, dinner will be served with catered options like salad and lasagna or blackened chicken alfredo.

Since 2014, Ben and Stacey have operated one of the two Lone Wolf Tattoo locations and Slaughterhouse, a 12,000-square-foot haunted house, out of the same space once known as Hermitage’s Courtyard Cinemas.

Ben, 44, with long black hair tied back in a ponytail and two inked arms that reflect more than 20 years in the tattoo business, attended Mount Juliet High School and says Courtyard Cinemas was a vibrant business when it opened in 1988. While some passed by the empty cinema without a second glace, Ben says the movie theater stayed with him long after its doors closed in 2001.

“This place was deserted for 13 years, and I had been eyeing it ever since it went out of business,” says Ben, who devotes time out of the tattoo business to directing horror films and raising the couple’s sons with Stacey. “Everyone used to see movies here, and it’s the first place I thought of after [Stacey] bought Slaughterhouse.”

Established in 1986 by original owner Terry Houser, Slaughterhouse takes claim as Nashville’s longest-running haunted attraction. Stacey, 39, who worked as an actress at the attraction’s 6th avenue location in the early ‘00s, says the couple strives to keep Slaughterhouse unique with handmade props and revamped set designs.  

“Because we’re both artists, we’re able to take something and make it our own,” she says. “We always have our eyes open for new ways to make the place more enjoyable.”

One of Stacey’s ideas included opening the attraction on other holidays. For the last two years, Stacey constructed a two-day “Bloody Valentine” excursion for Valentine’s Day. She says they will try something new at year’s end with a New Year’s Eve reserved event with dinner and a movie accompanied by a special haunt.

Although Full Moon Cineplex and Slaughterhouse help fulfill the couple’s passion for horror, Lone Wolf Tattoo Studio remains a cornerstone in their day-to-day life. They combine the two each year at the annual Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival.

With the cinema, tattoo shop and haunted attraction in one location, Ben and Stacey have constructed their own house of horrors.

“We had been downtown for basically 20 years, and that’s where we thought we should be,” Ben says. “When we bought this place we knew it was time to bring everything under one roof and closer to home.”

Dinner and movie begins at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings, with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Visit fullmooncineplex.com for a detailed list of showtimes. Weeknight showings will begin Oct. 18.

Dylan Skye Aycock is a senior journalism student at Middle Tennessee State University. Follow her on Twitter at @dylskye.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University, is made possible through generous grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. 


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