A Retrospective Look at 360 Screenings

360 Screenings returns with their upcoming and highly anticipated Halloween event

It’s a night at the movies cranked up to a higher level – where the silver screen blends, blurs and extends, absorbs you in and now you’re part of the adventure. It’s an experience you’re likely not to have had before.

And you won’t know what it is until you get there.

Robert Gontier and Ned Loach, the founding duo behind 360 Screenings, have been keeping audiences entranced and guessing for over a year with their innovative movie screening and theatrical performance in one. With a rapidly growing fan base increasing solely through word of mouth and the power of social media, their screenings have become one of the go to events to look out for in the city.

The formula is quite simple – take a well known and loved film from the past thirty years, pair it with a historic site in the city that, in some way, reflects the film. Throw in actors and music, props, immersive scenes and then bring in the crowd. Then let the chemistry happen.

“People are exploring the space and walking around interacting with the actors, they are digging through the set,” says Loach. “They are watching and involving themselves in the scenes that are being recreated.”

The key element here is that of surprise – the crowd doesn’t know where they’re going until the night before. Throughout the immersive experience, they’ll be kept in the dark.

“Half way through there is a pivotal scene from the film that is re-enacted, that is about a 5-10 minute scene,” Loach continues. “That triggers everyone to move into a separate room that has been kept hidden until then. So they watch the film, and make connections with everything that they have just experienced.”

It’s this immersive adventure that has worked well for masterminds behind the project, ever since their first screening of Ghost in May of last year. Throughout the year, the popularity of 360 Screenings has grown to the point where their most recent screening, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, required two screenings to accommodate their largest audience to date of over 500 ‘patients’.

“It’s always that secrecy element,” says Gontier about their biggest challenge presented with the addition of multiple screenings. “With our screening of the Cuckoo’s Nest we were walking a fine line being extremely nervous and extremely excited to see if the first audience would give it away on social media which is our primary outlet. And nobody Tweeted it, no one Facebooked the movie, it was incredible. Because we do ask that people keep it a secret so it doesn’t ruin it for other people. So far that has been our biggest challenge, and biggest triumph because no one has spilled the secret yet.”

With growth comes challenge and before they even felt the need to host more screenings to keep up with the growing crowd, they first needed to attract that crowd.

“At first it was definitely getting the word out and convincing people to buy tickets to something where they don’t know what they are seeing or where they are going,” says Loach. “It’s a huge gamble, and we have reached a point where people know who we are, and that is what they appreciate about the event – the mystery of it.”

Loach and Gontier credit the incredible support from 360 fans who became entranced with the screenings from the beginning to the viral growth of their audience.

“It’s all word of mouth. We have come to this point without spending a penny on advertising,” says Loach proudly. “So, it’s all been word of mouth. It’s all been just people bringing friends to the next event and returning. We look through the guest list every time and we recognise names from previous events and that is exciting because we are building up sort of like a cult following of people that come with us to each event, and see how we grow.

“Our social media outlets when we first started, we had a few followers and we were really trying to push it and now it’s just great to say when we send out our email saying tickets are going on sale in 24 hours, it’s sort of this magic moment where people start to Tweet and Facebook it,” Gontier explains. “You can just watch the word travel and it’s even more inspiring for us that people are waiting until we put the ‘book tickets’ button on the web site and this past time we set record sales, for our 6th event so we are really happy.”

To the founders, what’s also surprising is how immersed the audience has become even without being previously asked to do so.

“We have our return visitors and audience members, they are getting braver and are starting to interact with the actors. They are making up their own characters in a way,” Gontier remembers. “At One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a man pretended he was a patient and wrapped himself in a blanket, he interacted with the other actors for about 45 minutes. It was really intense and exciting.”

With their latest Halloween screening coming up next week, the 360 team have pulled out all stops for their biggest event to date offering an impressive four screenings on Friday, October 25th at 7 and 11 pm, and Saturday, October 26th at 2 and 7 pm.

In trying to extract some sort of teaser or preview of the screening to come, the founders had only this to offer – “It’s less haunted house scary and more intellectual thriller,” says Loach. “There will be a really clear narrative throughout the evening, so what happens at the very beginning at around 7 o’clock will be completely different than what happens at 8:15 and characters will change,” adds Gontier.

Halloween has proven to be their biggest event of the year as was proved with last year’s zombified screening of 28 Days Later. This year’s mystery screening will be no different. With their first Friday screening already sold out, be sure to check the 360 Screenings website to purchase your tickets fast.

Photo from the screening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest provided by the company.