Los Angeles has been home to a recent trend of movie promotions lately that is as bizarre as it is wonderful. Its origins aren’t 100% clear to me, but the first place I recall seeing it was San Diego Comic Con, and if that is where it started, I hope the idea continues to spread up California and eventually across the country, because it is really a blast to experience. I’m talking about movie-themed “pop-up” events.

In the past few years I’ve gotten to escape from an Egyptian pyramid and the X-Men villain Apocalypse (pretty cool!) and locate the keys of the OASIS from Ready Player One (not nearly as cool!), and this weekend I got to explore a speakeasy filled with some seedy characters – both human and puppet – at a little place called The InkHole. In case you hadn’t guessed, this was in promotion for The HappyTime Murders – in theaters this Friday! And this pop-up was the coolest one I’ve experienced yet.

A note: As with most things HappyTime Murders related, this article contains some more adult content than some of our readers may be used to. But hey, our tagline is “For Muppet fans who grew up,” after all.

The night started out in a dingy little tattoo parlor where one person in our group sat down and got a fresh tattoo against their will. It was airbrushed on, but still, you gotta scrub pretty hard to get those off! The puppet – excuse me, fabricated-American – behind the counter of the parlor, Bruno, filled us in on how puppets were being murdered and they weren’t feeling safe, but they still needed to let the steam off, so the secret bar hidden behind the brick wall was swinging wildly. And if you thought the fake tattoos were hard to get off, wait until you meet the strippers here! (If I knew that my mom still read my articles, this is where I would apologize to her.)

The bar itself was beautiful and set up into different sections where you can interact with plenty of characters, many of which were puppets straight out of the movie. There were photo and gif ops with the “Rotten Cotton Girls” Sheila and Diane, the Sugar Den where you could get a taste of the sweet stuff puppets get addicted to from sugar mama Midge, and a peep show (excuse me, Pupp Show) with puppet pole dancing and some light BDSM on the way to XXXvideo store stocked full of naughty titles like “Big Blue Butts” and “Plushy Mounds.” The wristbands also came with tabs for a drink (Your choice of the “DTF – Down to Fluff” or the “Good Time for You”) and a tab for a gift pack from the puppet porno shop – or as I called it, The InkHole had one tab for your DrinkHole, and one for your KinkHole.

What was most impressive to me is just exactly how committed everyone who works at The InkHole was to the whole schtick. There were people walking around who claimed to be roommates with some of the puppets, there were comedians and musicians and a beautiful and hilarious burlesque dancer named Bella Luna who performed periodically throughout the night, and the blackjack table’s only constant player also happened to be an undercover cop investigating the murders. And they all had a lot of fun doing it. It must have been a hell of a gig for these actors. And of course the puppets were the main draw, anchored by a host named Howie who sounded an awful lot like John Tartaglia who introduced the acts on-stage, including a gorgeous flapper splayed across a piano crooning classics like “Fever” and “Big Spender” to everyone’s amusement.

And there wasn’t a single person I could see there who wasn’t having a good time. This was such a well-designed and run exhibition from the Jim Henson Company and STXFilms, filled with tiny details and big fun. Speaking personally, I am incredibly excited to see The HappyTime Murders – I’ve been reading about this project since the first script was announced and to finally see it brought to fruition is amazing. That I got to walk around in the world of it for a couple of hours made it even more exciting and made me look forward even more to seeing the movie this weekend, and I think every person who scored a ticket to the InkHole these last two weekends will agree.

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by Matt Wilkie

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