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360 Screenings' interactive theatre gives audiences the chance to really get into a movie

Looking for a Valentine’s Day activity with a little more oomph than just dinner and a movie?

What about a fully immersive experience where everything – the food, ambiance and activities – are centred around a beloved film?

Toronto company 360 Screenings promises – and delivers – just that.

The brainchild of film and theatre buffs Robert Gontier and Ned Loach, the company sets up the happening at an historic Toronto location (only revealed 24 hours before the event), and encourages participants to interact with sets and actors that aim to recreate the feel of the film they are showing, which is also kept secret.

360 Screenings kicked off their offerings last May with a screening of Ghost, held at The Burroughes Building on Queen Street West. Since then, they’ve held two more: Fight Club at The Fermenting Cellar in The Distillery District, and 28 Days Later at The Berkeley Church.

While traveling abroad, Gontier and Loach saw similar events in London, planting the seed for their Toronto idea. “We saw something that was really neat and decided to adapt the model and make it appropriate for Toronto audiences,” says Gontier. "Site-specific theatre is really huge in London and New York City right now, so we combined ideas from both and made a sort of hybrid company."

So far, it’s been a hit with Toronto audiences, with each event selling out (Ghost had 100 tickets up for sale, while 28 Days Later had over 200). On Thursday (Valentine’s Day), they will put on their fourth event.

As usual, Gontier and Loach remain tight-lipped about the screening’s details. “It’ll be a romantic film that’s whimsical,” is all Loach offers.

If past events are any indicator, attendees won’t be disappointed. At The Fight Club screening participants were instructed to dress all in black and makeup artists transformed them into bloody and bruised specimens. Later they were told they were part of Project Mayhem.

And for nibbling? Well, lobster bisque was served (sans Tyler Durden seasoning, of course).

Before we part ways, Gontier and Loach encourage me to throw out my best guess at the film and event location. I offer Drew Barrymore’s spin on the Cinderella story -- Ever After – to be held at Casa Loma. There’s nervous laughter. “Good guess,” says Loach.

Tickets for the Valentine’s Day event are $60 for regular admission or $30 for a student or culture seeker (someone who works in the arts or is under 30). They can be purchased at 360screenings.com.

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