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Saturday, October 21, 2017 | Events

Have you ever been watching a film and thought, I wonder what it’s like to live in that world?

The Movie Experience, organized by The Secret Sessions, brings your favourite films to life with a one of a kind immersive experience that blends cinema with live theatre. 

This month, The Secret Sessions is pleased to present SHAUN OF THE DEAD: The Movie Experience. From October 25-28, guests will be transported to London, England where they will experience a zombie outbreak and enjoy a few pints at Shaun’s favourite pub, The Winchester (or in this case, The Monarch Tavern).

Guests are expected to dress the part, and have the option of arriving alive in 2004 British pub wear and/or dead in zombie attire.

Tickets  include delicious food inspired by the movie, a live theatre performance complimented by a screening of the movie, plus other forms of live entertainment. Tickets can be purchased at

Participants must be 19 years of age or older to attend, and all ticket purchases are non-refundable. 

We caught up with Founder and Managing Director of The Secret Sessions, Bronwyn Cuthbertson, to discuss this month’s event and what the series means for the film-going experience.

Halloween seems like the perfect time of year for The Movie Experience. With so many horror films to choose from, how did you decide on SHAUN OF THE DEAD?
We are always looking for movies that have a cult status, but also a world that people would like to interact with. There can be some really great movies, but you don’t necessarily want to be in a field or something like that for several hours! So it’s about finding that perfect fit of what can I create this space with, what are some of the prominent locations in a movie, and what might be a fun place to actually go and experience. With SHAUN OF THE DEAD, there was the natural fit because, who wouldn’t want to go and hang out at The Winchester pub while in character. It just worked out perfectly that way. We’re bringing in some stuff to The Monarch Tavern to add some movie elements, but when I was scouting locations I couldn’t help but think that this place actually looks and feels just like The Winchester.

How can guests prepare or rehearse?
We give everyone some instructions, so once people purchase their tickets they get an email that outlines what to wear and if there are any kind of special character themes. When we did  CASABLANCA for example, we had everyone develop a passport and a persona as if they were living there in the 1940s. Why would you have been there and what’s your backstory? For this one, we aren’t taking people too far back in time, we’re just going back to 2004. We’re basically asking them to look through their closets and to see what that kind of attire might be. The audience also has a choice to come either dead or alive – so if they want to come on the zombie side that’s amazing and if you’re not, well we’ll see what happens to you when you’re hanging around a lot of zombies. And of course it’s set in London, England, so if you want to work an accent or Cockney slang that is also a fun thing way to get into character.

Is the goal for participants to maintain the illusion of reality? Are participants expected to act/interact with the characters around them?
We encourage guests to interact as much as they want. So if you want to have a good time, but still be more in the background, that is fine. And if you want to be more involved in the experience, that is of course welcome. You can kind of make it your own adventure. There might be times where the cast will ask you to do certain things, but overall you can go as big or small as you want.

What inspired the idea to bring The Secret Sessions to Toronto?
I lived in London for a bit and there’s a company there called Secret Cinema that does a similar concept. I attended their events and just loved them and thought this is something that I think people in Toronto would love as well. So I just decided to start things off here and we had our first event last November and this will be our third session.

The Secret Sessions series is unique in the sense that, well it is a secret. How do you maintain elements of surprise and mystery for each event as you grow and gain popularity?
We have to be a little bit careful on our social media and that kind of thing beforehand not to give too much away. For this event, however, we have been telling a lot more than we ever have before. In the past, we wouldn’t let people know what movie it was and they didn’t know the location until 24 hours before. But for this one, we decided to switch things up and see how people respond, especially with it being near Halloween. Of course there are some people who really don’t love the horror genre, I know that’s not your readers, but it might be terrifying or uncomfortable for some people to place them in the world of a scary movie. So we wanted to throw it out there that SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the movie so that there aren’t any surprises that way. And with SHAUN OF THE DEAD being a horror comedy, it also makes it more accessible. It was also very difficult to get event postings without a specific location, especially on Facebook. A lot of times we were trying to put posting up, but if we didn’t have a set location Facebook just thought we were spamming people. So we’re trying something different this time to see how that works.

The Movie Experiences is all about blending the boundaries of audience and performer, do you think this is where film and entertainment is heading?
Well especially for people wanting to go out, we wanted to create something more than just your standard sit down moving-going experience. When you have so many great options on Netflix and high definition TVs right in your own home, people now have higher expectations to do something different when they go out. I think people also want to interact and have more of a community feel at events. I find often some Toronto events, while there are some really great ones, they can be a bit cold because people often stick with the people they came with. In our events, we aim to have the crowds blending with each other and to have that element of costume and make believe helps make people more likely to drop some of their boundaries. I always hope that people leave with a new friend. 

Maddi McGillvray
Maddi is the Editorial Assistant at Rue Morgue Magazine. She is also a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, where she writes extensively on the horror genre. Maddi is completing her doctoral dissertation on women working in horror. She is also currently writing book chapters titled "Fleshy Female Corporealities: The Cannibal Films of the New French Extremity" as well as "To Grandmother’s House We Go: Documenting the Aging Female Body in Found Footage Horror Films."