Buster Keaton did it in “Sherlock, Jr.”. His character, so immersed by the power of cinema, stepped inside the screen and interacted within the filmic illusion. Only in a movie, right? Wrong, proves Toronto’s 360 Screenings, a venue that offers an interactive moviegoing experience for participants. This transcends our idea of meta-cinema.
360 Screenings isn’t your typical trip to the cinema. With no commercials and Coming Attractions, “it’s an experience that starts as soon as you arrive”, declares Ned Loach, who co-founded 360 Screenings with good friend Robert Gontier.
These two are excitingly combining the elements of film and live performance with the spectacle of Toronto’s heritage. This all to proffer spectators with not only a classic film, but to directly participate in its world – like extras on a set.
“You’re being transported,” Ned adds. “There’s a lot that can be said about getting up and out of your seat and exploring it on your own terms.” No need to buy some plastic glasses for a faded protruding image; now spectators can immerse themselves in 360 Screening’s unique world, which plans to showcase the sets of up to 50 classics, such as “Old Boy” and “This is Spinal Tap”, from their “big master list”.
One of Ned’s classics is Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, the 1993 quintessential man vs. dinosaur adventure flick that served as a landmark in the use of computer-generate imagery.
While 360 Screenings doesn’t aim to match “Jurassic Park”’s extravagant budget, it – with the help of 10 actors and 30 crew members – explores the vastness of Toronto’s heritage to recreate pivotal scenes from films that, Ned states, are “representative of the themes of the film, the character arcs, and the action into a smaller but equally recognizable world.”
The venue’s location, however, remains undisclosed until 24 hours before the event. The mystery movie will be revealed at the start of the evening’s ceremonies. It’s a moviegoers “Fight Club”, only the punches and bruises are nicely exchanged for a night of gathering in a world you may have watched but never partook in. It’s an original 4-hour event that’s first half involves the audience mingling with the actors and props of the set, which 360 Screening’s website shares could be “a loft, a field, or any unique location.”
Unlike your average movie, viewers opt to create their own experience. Didn’t like the way a scene played out in a movie? Now, you have the power to alter what once was. The movie is yours. Inspired by interactive screenings in London of “Blade Runner” and “Wings of Desire”, Ned and Robert affirm this type of experience is the real thing: “we are breaking traditional expectations of audience’s behaviour.”
With future venues to set in Rosedale and the Distillery District – the latter Ned hints as a perfect spot for a period piece – 360 Screenings is sure to push the boundaries of what we once considered as “moviegoing”. A visit this Friday will only tell.
If you are in America or close to the Canadian border, take the trip down and join us! 360 Screenings hopes to contribute to a number of festivals in the near future. “The possibilities are endless,” Ned exclaims.
360 Screenings takes place May 25. Tickets are $60. For more information (or to purchase tickets) visit http://www.360screenings.com/. Hope to see you there!