360 Screenings Meld Cinema, Theater and Mystery
Look, I love movies – we all do. But the typical movie experience requires really only one thing – you watch. The world is full of solutions to this state of affairs, answers to our desires to discuss and share the cinema experience. From film clubs and meetups to cinema magazines and film blogs, it seems we all like to talk about movies just as much as we like to watch them. Now Torontonians have an even more novel answer to the cinema talk problem, with 360 Screenings – part theater, part cinema, part mystery.
Launched last year by partners Ned Loach and Robert Gontier, 360 Screenings is less about the movie and more about the experience. “I went to the Central School for Speech and Drama and Ned was working at the Freud museum in the UK,” say Robert. “We were really excited about what was happening there in terms of interactive theater and we decided to bring it back to Toronto.”
The 360 Screenings aren’t really about the movie, at all. In fact, audience members don’t even know what the movie in question is – figuring it out is part of the experience. Even the location is kept secret until 24 hours before the event, but ticket buyers are given a series of clues leading up to the event. Once there – always in an interesting or historic Toronto landmark like the Wychwood Barns or The Burroughes – the audience interacts with the actors and susses out who exactly these characters are. Or rather, they first figure out who’s an actor and who’s an audience member, and then try to figure out the movie.
“We wanted to bring a social component to both the film experience and the theater experience,” says Ned. “The social component in the 360 Screenings is really amazing. Your experience is kind of up to you, how much you interact is up to you. People end up really owning the experience.”
Indeed, audience members are given ample opportunity to interact with not just the characters in the film but with the experience of being one of the characters. At last year’s Fight Club Screening, held in the fermenting cellar in the Distillery District, makeup artists were on hand to provide fake bruises and the audience were treated to delicious lobster bisque. The collective groan that went up when a character urinated in the same soup in the film was proof enough that the audience was fully immersed in the plot.
These events have been success in Toronto, with many repeat attendees and sold-out performances. This month, Robert and Ned are upping the ante with repeat screenings of the same movie across multiple days. The pair are a bit nervous about keeping the secret when half of the social media savvy audience has seen the performance and know what the film is. “At first we were a little nervous about getting people to pay $40 – $60 for a ticket to something that’s a secret,” Ned muses. “But we’ve had people who’ve come to every screening. We like to encourage social media use, but this time we have to ask them specifically to not say what the film is.”
“The mystery really adds another element,” says Robert. “There’s no preconceived notions when people walk in and it’s only through interactions that everyone starts to figure it out.”
So far 360 Screenings has presented Ghost, Fight Club, Amelie and 28 Days Later. The event returns to – well, we don’t know where – on Friday, May 31st and Saturday June 1st with – well, we don’t know that either. I really did ask Ned and Robert, very casual like, but they didn’t take the bait. Just please, for the love of all that is right, if you see it on Friday, let the mystery be for those seeing it on Saturday!
The next 360 Screenings event happens on Friday, May 31st at 7:00 pm, Saturday, June 1st at 2:00 pm, and Saturday, June 1st at 7:00 pm, location to be announced and movie to be figured out by you. Ticket prices range from $40 to $60, and food, wine & beer are available at a cash bar at the venue. For more information and to purchase your tickets, visit http://360screenings.com. You can also follow 360 Screenings on Facebook and Twitter.
Recap of Fight Club at 360 Screenings
Gallery of Images from Amelie at 360 Screenings
Feature image credit: Corbin Smith