It’s Friday, December 13 and it’s absolutely freezing cold outside. I’m heading to the Plaza Theatre where I’m meeting up with Alonso Melgar, the 21-year-old cinema whizz who runs The Fifth Reel with friend and fellow Plaza employee, Dan Crittenden. The Fifth Reel is a film and music event that drags in hundreds of movie buffs to the Plaza every month. It sells out and is probably one of the most progressive and popular film events in the city because of its interactive and party aspect. Melgar not only handles The Fifth Reel but takes care of other gigs required at a theatre, such as concession and projection, and has been doing so for the past year and a half.
Both Melgar and Crittenden used to work at the now defunct Uptown Theatre located across the Globe Cinema. That is how they met and became friends and now The Fifth Reel’s dynamic duo. The Uptown is also from where Melgar says they got a lot of their inspiration.
“We had our one year anniversary last month,” Melgar tells me about The Fifth Reel’s success.
From across the street at Higher Ground Cafe, The Plaza stands in the dark. Its theatre lights are out and it’s hard to picture a rowdy crowd getting pumped up for a show. Lights finally come up at around six o’clock, in time for the only screening of the night, Twelve Years a Slave at 7 p.m..
But apparently, things do get pretty wild at Fifth Reel gatherings.
“Our Halloween screening was like a zombie apocalypse party and we had The Weir playing. It was cranked really loud. And sometimes, there’s a huge line-up, outside, around the corner,” says Melgar.
I wonder how Melgar and Crittenden differ from each other in terms of getting things done for The Fifth Reel. There has to be some kind of polarity for them to mesh well…
“That’s a very good question because we [do] have two very distinct personalities. I wouldn’t say we’re complete opposites,” says Melgar.
“[Dan] is very Spock-like,” he says, referring to no other than Star Trek.
“He’s very logical and handles all the calculations and I’m the person who brings a lot of the ideas in. I’m the one who books the bands, works with the poster guy to figure out design and put up the posters.”
“So, you’re more creative and he’s more calculated?” I ask him.
“If I had to say,” replies Melgar. “He’s also the voice of reason. He’s the one who tells me we can’t get a bouncy castle put in front of the theatre and I have to deal with it and accept it even though he’s probably right and we should probably never do that.”
What’s been really amazing is the huge turnout to the events and how’s it’s been really connecting people together.
“I’ve witnessed it first hand at our events, people meeting each other for the first time and people being reconnected with people they haven’t seen in years at our events. It’s totally cool to me that [we] got to initiate that,” he says.
Melgar says they’ve been told that it would be hard to get people to come out to the screenings, especially with how readily available movies are nowadays on the Internet.
“Regardless of what people say, there [is] an audience in the city that do want to go out and see cool movies in the theatre,” says Melgar.
So, what’s to expect at The Fifth Reel?
Melgar says they usually stay away from making the events too “obscure” by selecting movies people have seen or heard of.
“Kind of like Die Hard. I think everyone should see it at least once. We get a band to play before the movie because it is one thing to put on a movie in a movie theatre but we’re trying to make it into an actual event, like a night out, and get the band a chance to play to an audience that would never get a chance to see them,” says Melgar.
What’s even more fun is that Melgar usually tries to find bands to suits the movies’ charms.
“For Die Hard, we [got] The Escorts to play because they’re a band I think Bruce Willis’ character would probably listen to. We’re doing The Big Lebowski [this] month and we’ve got Cold Water playing. We picked Cold Water because it feels like a band The Dude would listen to and really like,” he says.
The first screening you attend is $13 and with that, you become a member of The Fifth Reel and all other screenings you attend are only $10.
“We also do movie Mondays at The Oak Tree Tavern [in Kensington] and I usually sell memberships there for three bucks,” Melgar says.
“That’s a good deal, three bucks for a membership,” I reply.
“Yeah! And that also gets you discounts at The Oak Tree Tavern every Friday night. You also get 20 per cent off all back issues at Another Dimension Comics. It pays to be a member!”
The Fifth Reel presents The Big Lebowski with Cold Water on January 17. Get your hands on those tickets!
By Claire Miglionico
Photo: Alonso Melgar