Any sneaky film-lover knows that the hardest part about going to the movies is sneaking the booze in. This is especially true if you show up to the multiplex half-loaded to watch Step Up 3D and accidentally hand over a flask full of gin when they ask to take your ticket. Thankfully, a group of Toronto film-lovers and arts administrators has nipped that problem in the bud with Open Roof Films.
Last Friday, in the parking lot of the Amsterdam Brewery on Bathurst, Open Roof Films hosted its first outdoor screening: a combination of music, movies, and beer. The idea of an outdoor screening series came to event co-founder Michael MacMilan (former chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis Communications) at this year’s Hot Docs festival, when The Parking Lot Movie, a doc about snarky post-grads slumming it in a parking lot, screened (appropriately) on the roof of the Citibank parking garage on Cumberland Street. “They’ve been doing events like these in New York for fourteen years,” MacMilan adds.
The Toronto–as–New York vibe was running high Friday, as a who’s-who of Toronto’s youth culture elite rolled into the Amsterdam Brewery lot. (Well, we’re assuming it was a who’s-who. We’re too uncool to really recognize anyone, if indeed there was even anyone to recognize. But everyone seemed well-dressed, cool, and confident enough to fashion the aura of a genuine who’s-who crowd.) Fancy threads were hardly rewarded, however, as winds kicked dust all around the lot, scuffing even the cleanest pairs of kicks. But as Burzin Contractor, another of the event’s co-founders, joked, an outdoor event of this scale provides no logistical problems at all.
Nothing washes down freshly popped corn like an ice cold beer. Or, sure, a lukewarm red wine.
After the doors (well, gate) opened around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the crowd trickled in and enjoyed reasonably priced beers, wine and gourmet snacks (not just popcorn, but dried papaya bits). About forty-five minutes later, local minimalist punkers Little Girls took the stage (well, gravel), and sounded impressively tight considering that the sound had no walls to reverberate off of (and that they were playing with their second back-up drummer). It was by no means a sold-out show—the ad hoc venue can hold about four hundred people, and was probably more than half full—but it was an interesting crowd: hipsters, fashionistas, and a few middle-agers thrown in for good measure.
Little Girls’ set was followed by a screening of, appropriately, The Parking Lot Movie. The aim of future installments is to spotlight Canadian and independent film, in keeping both with the intended grassroots, micro-brews, and indie-rock feel of the whole event. It kind of goes without saying that the interest in an event like this hinges on the film and band involved (and the weather being co-operative), but from what we saw Friday night, Open Roof Films will be a welcome addition to Toronto’s already hearty film and concert scene. After all, mix a good band, a great film, and some cold beer, and you’ve got the makings for a darn-near perfect summer night.
The next Open Roof Films event is this Thursday, August 12, when Little Black Dresses will open for a screening of Bruce McDonald’s This Movie Is Broken. Check out their website for the full line-up. (And yes, Open Roof Films is something of a misnomer, given that the event is held in a parking lot.)
Photos by D.A. Cooper/Torontoist.