By Ross McCannell
It’s awards season in the movie world and there are dozens of different gala evenings to announce the greatest achievements in film, so I’m going to ignore that side of the issue completely and tell you who should win the award for Best Movie Theatre in Winnipeg.
The hands-down winner: Towne 8.
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No other theatre even comes close. Congratulations to Landmark Cinemas, producers! Come on up here Towne! [Applause] Well, the Towne is hard at work providing the most entertaining movie-going experience in the city, as usual, so I’ll accept this award on their behalf.
The joys of Towne 8 begin when the building itself first comes into view. The Towne is a stunning concrete bunker. It sits with satisfying heaviness on the far southwestern edge of the Exchange where it makes a bold offer to fortify our modern imaginations wearing only the posters of its coming attractions and a splatter of road-salt.
I recommend having your date meet you in that neighbouring park — what’s it called? It’s that tiny wedge between Notre Dame, Smith and King. Perhaps too insignificant for a name, but perfect for stopping a while to admire the Towne structure itself and share a pull or two off your date’s flask.
The stylistic impressions only deepen once you’re inside. You immediately step down the stairs to see the bright 70’s typography of the theatre numbers, listing their contents. What’s showing? Who cares! Look at this place!
When you go to Towne 8, every movie is a Quentin Tarantino movie until the movie starts. This building was built in 1981, but because it’s Winnipeg, that translates as 1975 interior design. Queue yourself with your fellow Towne moviegoers, a motley lot of characters as colourful as their fashions are colourless. Did Tarantino cast every one of us himself? Surely he handpicked the lone teenage girl at the counter who sells us tickets at a very reasonable price (wildly reasonable on Tuesdays).
Are you a little early for showtime? Why not stop in at another of the Towne’s cap feathers: the best theatre arcade in Winnipeg. Fear not! The Towne’s arcade selections all pre-date the barely-human scum that cluster in the Silver City arcades, so you don’t have to hear their posturing grunts and chuckles. You’ll have these machines to yourself, and they include absolute classics like The Simpsons and Raiden II. Yup, Raiden TWO.
If the feature is starting soon, just climb the stairs and hand over your ticket to get inside the ropes. I’m not much for theatre food, but for amazing snack value hit the candy machines. What other theatre would allow them to be in here? Okay, let’s go sit down. The theatres vary wildly in size, from an infiniti-billion seater to a hamper, but every single one is fabulous and there’s always lots of room. It’s never crowded at the Towne (save for some kids movies in the summer), and those who are in attendance always have a healthy appetite for Hollywood escapism.
One of the beauties of the Towne is that you never run into that dreadful species I call “Worripeggers” and the toxic plume of anxiety they spread everywhere they go. Your night will never be unsettled by the sight of their fried nerves, their frazzled hair and their fearfully bulging eyes because they’re far too terrified of bed bugs, of not finding parking and of poor people to come anywhere near the Towne. They’re all at Grant Park.
Once showtime arrives, one of the five teens that run the whole place will fire up the projector and you’ll get your first good idea of the size and shape of the stains on the screen. Is it theatre No. 6 that has that great one in the lower right hand corner? I love that one. That’s pulpy goodness – a little “Winnipeg noir” casting its sensibilities over each and every feature.
The sound is good, but not frighteningly good. It’s not like some of those newer theatres where you can actually forget that you are an autonomous carbon-based organism during the film, and come to believe yourself just a portion of the electrical energy blitzing the cavernous dark. The seats are comfy. The legroom is adequate. Nobody judges you if you want to do some serious making out. When the credits roll and house lights come up, you can go straight out into the night, or day, or some other feature.
Yes, the Towne 8 provides the most visceral movie-going experience possible in this city. Who were the other nominees? Do you really even care? The Globe, with its free underground parking, is decent, but can’t compete on cinematography. Cinematheque may deserve a nod, but who can forgive it for being entirely cast with dorks? That new VIP Theatre is overblown with CGI, and it’s 40 kilometres outside the city, so it doesn’t even count. Grant Park is so boring that I almost fell asleep writing this sentence about it. And going to a Silver City location is like getting curb stomped at a middle school MuchMusic video dance party – mildly entertaining.
There is no doubt who our city’s big gold statue should go to this year, and every other year.
When you want to go to the movies, don’t just go to the movies: go to Towne. Eight.
Ross McCannell is a writer and tree-planter. He winters in Winnipeg. Follow him on Twitter @RossMcCannell.