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Stardust memories

City's movie lovers turn venerable Met into a cinematic time machine

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>For the third year in a row the Met will trot out the '73 cult classic Phantom of the Paradise.</p>

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

For the third year in a row the Met will trot out the '73 cult classic Phantom of the Paradise.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2016 (667 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There is no place Gloria Dignazio would rather be Oct. 28 than the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

For the third year in a row, the Met, as the Donald Street theatre was more commonly known during its days as a first-run movie cinema, will trot out the 1973 cult favourite Phantom of the Paradise. Prior to the movie, attendees will be able to enjoy a buffet dinner that — as if there was any doubt — will be heavy on beef.

Dignazio is one of the organizers of the event, dubbed Phantom at the Met III. (The event has sold out.) The mother of three was also one of the people responsible for Phantompalooza, a phan, er, fan-fuelled festival that was held at the Garrick Centre in 2005 and 2006.

In October 2014, two years after Canad Inns resurrected the Metropolitan as a banquet and event centre, Dignazio had the idea to show Phantom of the Paradise there in time for Halloween. Firstly, the downtown haunt, which opened as the Allen Theatre in 1920, would be the perfect setting, she thought, since it was practically a dead ringer for Dallas’s Majestic Theatre, where the Brian De Palma-directed film’s concert scenes were shot. Secondly, the Met had begun showing movies again around that same time, and Dignazio had heard management was open to suggestions.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2016 (667 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There is no place Gloria Dignazio would rather be Oct. 28 than the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

For the third year in a row, the Met, as the Donald Street theatre was more commonly known during its days as a first-run movie cinema, will trot out the 1973 cult favourite Phantom of the Paradise. Prior to the movie, attendees will be able to enjoy a buffet dinner that — as if there was any doubt — will be heavy on beef.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>A couple of years ago, the Met returned to its roots as a movie theatre, in addition to hosting banquets and special events in what used to be its theatre space. </p>

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

A couple of years ago, the Met returned to its roots as a movie theatre, in addition to hosting banquets and special events in what used to be its theatre space.

Dignazio is one of the organizers of the event, dubbed Phantom at the Met III. (The event has sold out.) The mother of three was also one of the people responsible for Phantompalooza, a phan, er, fan-fuelled festival that was held at the Garrick Centre in 2005 and 2006.

In October 2014, two years after Canad Inns resurrected the Metropolitan as a banquet and event centre, Dignazio had the idea to show Phantom of the Paradise there in time for Halloween. Firstly, the downtown haunt, which opened as the Allen Theatre in 1920, would be the perfect setting, she thought, since it was practically a dead ringer for Dallas’s Majestic Theatre, where the Brian De Palma-directed film’s concert scenes were shot. Secondly, the Met had begun showing movies again around that same time, and Dignazio had heard management was open to suggestions.

"The manager I spoke to knew nothing about Phantom of the Paradise, or how devoted Winnipeggers are to that movie," Dignazio said earlier this week.

"In our meeting we talked about some of the numbers we expected to generate but we still had to prove ourselves. It was funny, though, because on the day of the event as people were spilling through the doors, the manager who doubted us made a point of coming up and apologizing, saying, ‘This is more fabulous than I’d ever dreamed.’"

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Met’s Dinner and a Movie nights served up the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles for Thanksgiving.</p></p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Met’s Dinner and a Movie nights served up the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles for Thanksgiving.

Good movies come to those who wait; 9,212 days passed between Nov. 26, 1987, when Famous Players Theatres mothballed the Met following a 9 p.m. screening of the long-forgotten Date With an Angel, which starred Phoebe Cates, and Feb. 14, 2013, when the refurbished venue dusted off a copy of Casablanca, winner of Best Picture at the 1944 Academy Awards ceremony.

"We started showing movies here about two years after we opened in 2012," says general manager Janet Harder. "Yes, it was an attempt to present a different type of entertainment than what was already going on, but it had also been one of the company’s goals to use the theatre for its original purpose, which is as a movie house.

"It’s been a slow build but people are coming to understand the dinner-and-a-movie brand, in that it’s dinner paired with an older movie. When people say why would I come when I’ve already seen Forrest Gump or Grease a million times, I tell them because you have the experience of a really comfortable environment, with table seating and cocktail service. It really plays more as an event than just a night at the movies."

Harder grew up in California. She has only been in her position for 12 months but thanks to movie nights such as a recent Thanksgiving offering of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, she feels as if she’s been at the theatre for decades, she says.

"Lots of people who buy tickets are very familiar with the room from their younger days and I’ve learned tons about this place through them," Harder says.

"I’ve seen it so many times; husbands and wives will point to a spot in the balcony, remembering specifically where they sat when they came here on dates in their teens. A few times I’ve caught people shedding actual tears. The building definitely has that effect, especially with seniors."

"It was my first time there in over 20 years and for sure, it brought back a lot of memories," said Julie Smythe, who, in June, attended a Shark Week presentation of Jaws with her 15-year-old son. "I grew up in the West End so downtown theatres like the Met and the Capitol were our go-tos back in the day. My son is a film buff and when I heard this place was showing movies again, I said I’d take him for his birthday. When we came down to book the tickets I asked the person at the front if she minded if we took a quick look around, as I hadn’t been in it since I was a teenager. She said, yeah go ahead — take as long as you want. It definitely lived up to my expectations."

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Janet Harder, general manager of The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, in the back employee staircase, which has been kept in its original state with graffiti dating back over 50 years.</p></p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Janet Harder, general manager of The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, in the back employee staircase, which has been kept in its original state with graffiti dating back over 50 years.

Retired fire chief Gerard Bodnarchuk was at the Met the same night as Smythe. Like her, he couldn’t pinpoint the last time he’d been in the room but he guessed it must have been close to 30 years. Also like Smythe, he went home vowing to return in the near future.

"I went on a river cruise last year through Europe. I visited theatres in Paris, Prague and London and I’ll tell you what, (the Metropolitan) is nicer," he said.

Lately, Harder spends less time explaining what her movie nights entail and more time letting people know about coming attractions. The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, is scheduled for November, she says, while Christmas chestnuts Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life take over in December.

"I’d love to do something like Titanic or The Sound of Music but three-hour movies are a bit of a challenge, no matter how comfortable you are," she says, citing 1995’s Empire Records — "It’s the best movie ever!" — as a guilty pleasure she’d like to share on the big screen, one day.

"We’ll never show anything R-rated — The Godfather and Chicago are about as risqué as it’s gotten — but it’s still a matter of risk, trying to decide what people will be in the mood for."

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

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History

Updated on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 10:07 AM CDT: Corrects year Casablanca was shown.

October 25, 2016 at 10:49 AM: Updates ticket availability.

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