For those who think going to the movies is as old as celluloid, appearing antiquated as well as unnecessary now that digital downloads have literally brought the cinema home, get ready for your close-up.
Ned Loach has revitalized the movie-going experience by injecting it with a cinéma vérité dose of manufactured reality, inviting audiences to interact with scenes from a given film as performed by actors from the local theatre community.
“We’re really trying to examine what it means to be an audience member for cinema today,” says Loach, who created the concept of 360 Screenings with his life and business partner Robert Gontier. “We’re also interested in what it means to watch a show by making it a less passive and more active experience.”
The 26-year-old son of classical pianist Patti Loach and her recording engineer husband, John, was seemingly born to have a career in the arts, having grown up in a house where the family kitchen serves also as a professional recording studio and performance hall. But while he has a bachelor of arts degree in music from the University of Toronto, specializing in the trombone, His idea for creating live mix cinema came about after he and Gontier spent a year in London, where they discovered the interactive movie-viewing phenomenon that has since spread to other cosmopolitan cities, including New York.
Their version has been custom-made for Toronto, with all four of their events so far having taken place in heritage sites across the city. Their latest took place on Valentine’s Day inside the Wychwood Barns, where a screening of the popular Audrey Tautou film, Amélie, was preceded by a brief French lesson and a live theatre re-enactment of the scene in which Amélie and Nino finally kiss each other fully on the lips. Instead of popcorn, the audience nibbled on French cheeses supplied by local farmers. “The idea was for everyone to be transported into a French environment,” says Loach, adding that audiences never know in advance what film they are going to see. “The idea is for people to be surprised.”