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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sean Kelly

360 Screenings: An Interesting Idea with an Underwhelming Execution

The goal of the new cinema/theatre event 360 Screenings was to create an immersive experience that would make people feel like they were in the film.  People would gather at a mystery location, mingle around actors recreating scenes from a mystery film, and then everyone would go and actually watch the film.  360 Screenings wanted to make the experience of seeing films more than just entering the theatre, sitting in the dark, and leaving right after.

On paper it was definitely an interesting idea.  I was curious to check out this event, despite the $60 price tag (through some connections, I managed to get a discount).  After checking out the first event, I have to say that, even though it holds promise, I was left somewhat underwhelmed.

I guess I'll begin by talking about the film selection for tonight.  There were interviews with the programmers Ned Loach and Robert Gontier in the media and they name-checked films on their shortlist, such as Old Boy and This is Spinal Tap.  They also talked about growing up loving The Goonies and Jurassic Park.  As a result, I was expecting the film they picked to be awesome.

As it turns out, it was the 1990 supernatural romance/comedy Ghost.  Definitely not a film I was expecting.

I admit that, since I hadn't before seen the film, I wasn't at first able to guess the film based on the scenes performed by the actors.  That said, I actually thought that the actor interactions started off quite strongly.  After some mild theatrics in the line-up, we were treated to a short scene by two actors in the elevator ride up.  It really set-up something special and I was really looking forward to what was next.  However, once we we left the elevator, things started to go downhill.

I should backtrack a bit and say the location was The Burroughes, which is a historic early 20th century department store, turned event venue, located at Queen and Bathurst in Toronto.  The event was held in the upstairs loft, which was essentially one giant room.  There were actors scattered around the room and when you came near them, they would act out a scene from the movie for you.  There were also some props scattered that were meant to give clues.

Pretty much this section of the evening was a glorified party.  The actors and props were interesting, but they got old really fast.  I did enjoy the fact that they served catered food, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, mini BLTs and hamburgers, as well as Nanaimo bars for desert.  However, despite all this food, they had a cash bar for bottled water or wine (which rubbed me the wrong way, since I already paid quite a bit for the ticket).

The mingling portion lasted for about an hour and a half, which was way too long in my opinion.  At the end of the mingling, we were treated to one more final reenactment in the centre of the room, before everyone was ushered into a makeshift theatre (with folding chairs and a small projector and screen), where Loach and Gontier made the formal introductions and thanks before starting the film.

I was really hoping for this event to be special.  I recognize all the time and effort that went into creating the event, but in the end, I felt that it was not worth the amount they were charging for it.  The event has potential, but if I was seeing Ghost at a proper cinema, it would have cost much less and I would have watched it on a bigger screen with more comfortable seating.

They are promising that the next 360 Screenings event, to be held in August, will be "bigger and grittier" than tonight's event.  While it does sound appealing, until I see some signs of improvement, I'm in no rush to purchase tickets.

UPDATE (6/9):
360 Screenings have posted a video of highlights from the event, which should give you a visual sense what it was like.  In addition, look for yours truly to appear (albeit out of focus) around of 0:50 mark:

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).