Take your favorite iconic movies from the recent past and blend in intriguing Toronto heritage sites. Pair that with a live theatrical element and a healthy dose of audience participation. The result is the latest trend in interactive entertainment to hit Toronto. 360 Screenings invites you to step into the film.
Founded by Ned Loach, artistic producer, and Robert Gontier, artistic director, at the beginning of the year, their goal was to create a fully immersive movie experience that takes the audience beyond a seat in a crowded theatre with popcorn – “a live performance and film hybrid event” says Gontier. “We take a beloved film from the past 30 years and extract all the artistic elements out of it. Things like actors, specific scenes, themes, what people are eating, and then we choose a Toronto heritage building as our venue and explode it into the space. We really create a setting and environment where our guests are fully immersed in the narrative of the film.”
Taking the adventure one step further, the experience is cloaked in secrecy, as the film is not revealed until the guests are seated. “Part of the fun, we hope, is trying to explore and discover what film it actually might be, and the audience won’t know for sure until the film starts to roll an hour later after they’ve explored [the space],” says Gontier.
The location is also not revealed until 24 hours before the screening, with ticket holders receiving a cryptic email stating the location and any necessities for the show, including clothing type and special props to be brought. “We really like playing with people’s natural instinct of curiosity and trying to figure things out,” says Loach. “It sort of becomes a game for everyone, because they don’t know what movie they’re going to be seeing. It’s like what Robbie says – they’re constantly guessing what it is and then second guessing what they originally thought it was. We really get an idea of a collective experience.”
The interactive live element takes place an hour before the movie, where the audience is free to explore the space, sample drinks and hors d’oeuvres, meet the actors and watch a scene from the movie play out. “The first half of the evening is spent exploring the space and diving into the narrative of the film, exploring the sets that we’ve created. And then something significant happens with all the actors, a scene is recreated. Then the audience goes to watch the film in the area we’ve created and talk with others about what they just experienced,” says Loach.
Fight Club, their most recent screening, took place in August and involved the audience to dress in full black and arrive prepped for an FX makeup artist to paint on cuts, bruises, and other injuries. The audience arrives to a space created into a fight ring and the guessing game begins. A side section set up as a soap producing operation offers another clue to the evening. “It was unbelievable! So many people were taking pictures [of their bruised and battered faces] and tweeting them and making them their Facebook profile pictures. [People were writing] blog entries about their travels about how people would stare at them on the subway,” described Loach.
Each experience is different and with their upcoming screening on October 24, attendees are in for a horrific spectacle. “It’s going to be our big Halloween special production,” says Gauntier. “We really like the idea of playing with fear. Fear is a lot of fun to plan around, [and discover] what makes people afraid.”
Though, everyone’s level of involvement is entirely up to the individual. “Audience members should know that, with 360 Screenings, they can participate as little or as much as they want. It’s not sort of a typical haunted house where people think of going to an event like that to be scared. It’s more a social event where they can go and investigate as little or as much as they want,” says Loach.
Considering their first ever screening of Ghost in May sold out at 100 attendees, and Fight Club doubled that number, this Halloween excursion will be sure to bring the masses.
Attendees are encouraged to dive fully into the experience, to live tweet what they’re seeing, blog about it, take photos, tell their friends and, most importantly, play along. Another recommendation would be to attend more than one. “Every single event is wildly different from the previous ones,” remarks Loach, which means attending once does not predict a future screening.
Tickets for the upcoming screening on Wednesday, October 24 are available online at the 360 Screenings website, with prices at $60 for regular admission and $40 for students and culture seekers (an artist or arts worker or those under the age of 30). More information about the screening can be found on their site, on their Facebook page or by following their Twitter account.
Photo, taken during the Fight Club screening, of Alyssa Reeves by Jesse Milns.