Star Cross’d Lovers at 360 Screenings
By: Addison Wylie
360 Screenings is quickly becoming one of Toronto’s hottest ticket events for film lovers.
Founders Ned Loach and Robert Gontier have built immersive experiences throwing audiences into the world of a secret movie and then revealing the mystery at an undisclosed location with a vast heritage.
When you pay for a ticket, you enlist your trust into Loach and Gontier to bring the goods. That said, they have always managed to bring memorability.
Paying movie goers are treated to multiple clues – including pictures – hinting at what the secret movie could be. 48 hours before the event, patrons are sent an e-mail with details regarding the screening location, the dress code, and any necessary props or phrases.
The surroundings are filled with actors portraying roles from the notable movie and the setting is dressed to the nines with proper garb and props that truly make 360 Screenings into an unforgettable experience. Loach and Gontier deserve all the credit for organizing such a graceful event, but industrial designer Andy Miller also deserves to be included.
I’ve covered every 360 Screening and have watched these events become more prominent within Toronto’s social scene. The venues have gotten larger and the film picks have become more ambitious. But no matter how large its following expands, Gontier and Loach always remain humble.
For this year’s Valentine’s Day event, my wife and I were sent an e-mail stating that the screening would take place at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Hall. It also mentioned that we’d be “attending a masquerade” and we were “encouraged to wear a mask and a costume piece of some sort”.
We arrived at St. Lawrence Hall with our own guesses as to what the movie could be. My guess was A Knight’s Tale. Her prediction stayed within the medieval realm with Ever After: A Cinderella Story. As soon as we watched a man make his way down the main staircase dressed as an astronaut, we both knew we were very wrong.
The crowd was prompted to make our way upstairs to join the party. The designated space was more narrow than expected, but the 360 team had utilized every nook and cranny of the prestigious floor. From top to bottom, Miller and the 360 gang were able to add creative elements while keeping the classier aspects of the hall apparent. It was fancy, yet giddily informal.
As always, there was a bar and food available. This time, the food was provided by Cheesewerks and Tiny Toms Donuts. We both partook in some eats and were highly impressed with the quality of the gourmet grilled cheese and the warmly sweet desserts.
Patrons are encouraged to also interact with the actors playing different parts. It’s my favourite part of the evening since these actors are highly trained and masters of improv. If you see me laughing in that above on-the-go vlog, it’s because that gentleman stumped me and continued to drive the conversation all in character. I’ve interacted with him before, and he’s a wonderful conversationalist every single time. I’m glad Gontier and Loach keep inviting him back.
However, this is where we hit a major bump in the road. The freewheeling spitballing between the movie goer and the performer comes naturally with very few moments of scene work between the actors. Here, there was too much scene work. I sometimes felt I couldn’t start a conversation with the actors because I had a feeling I would be interrupting a pivotal confrontation within the moment.
And, trying to pin these characters down was a difficult task too. The main characters – dressed in proper costume attire – kept running through mounds of minglers, which is a bit intimidating since the space was fairly restrained. I eventually was able to pick some hints out from a couple of the calmer performers, and that conversation was among one of the highlights of the night.
Soon, we were escorted into the main screening area – a bellowing sanctuary with a large screen projecting 360 Screenings’ logo. A brief interlude with the swift leads helped file in the introduction to the mystery movie.
The movie was Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, a film I hadn’t seen since high school english class. Even then, I may have skipped class the next day to weasel my way out of finishing the movie. It’s a blur, but fuzziness that hints at my irritation with Luhrmann’s flashy adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play.
This re-watch at an older age made me realize what about Romeo + Juliet rubs me the wrong way.
I’ve had a hate/love relationship with Luhrmann’s films I’ve seen – Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby. His films refuse to allow audiences to slowly step into the fast-paced world of his movies. The franticness usually has me clutching the sides of my seat. However, Luhrmann somewhat settles down and lets his films become the definition of a “production”. It’s all glitz and glamour, but I can’t help but be drawn into the theatrics.
Romeo + Juliet is his second film after 1992’s Strictly Ballroom, and his inexperience as a storyteller shows. Romeo + Juliet never moves past that first gear of being in your face. It never becomes that end product that’s oodles of enjoyment. Instead, it remains loud and annoying for most of the movie despite sensational art design and mesmerizing performances.
I appreciate it for being a ballsy adaptation and for getting away with keeping Shakespeare’s dialect. But, I’m not in that crew of fans who love this gaudy stab at a classic.
I still enjoyed my time at 360 Screenings, however. The interactivity angle of it may have hindered on too much pre-planned activity, but the overall experience was worthwhile. Whether you love or despise the chosen movie, it’s always a blast to watch it in a unique environment with other avid lovers of cinema.
Vlog Videographer and Editor: Sky Wylie
Event Photos By: Alex Neary
The Official 360 Screenings Website
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360 Screenings’ One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Event
360 Screenings’ Amélie Event
360 Screenings’ 28 Days Later… Event
A One-On-One With 360 Screenings’ Robert Gontier And Ned Loach
360 Screenings’ Fight Club Event
360 Screenings’ Ghost Event
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