Trash Palace: Splatter Movie House and More
According to proprietor Stacey Case, the only bad movie etiquette at Trash Palace is assuming that all of the films screened at the theatre are "bad".
Case and his fellow programmers (Jonathan Culp, Greg Woods, Jonathan Doyle, Dan 'The Mouth' Lovranski, and Rob Cruikshank) are discerning 16mm films collectors, seeking out the most entertaining features that $40 to $75 will buy. Often, Case notes "the seller doesn't even know what they are selling us, and has no idea that what they consider literally to be Trash, something that they want to throw in the garbage, is a Treasure to us."
Not knowing what to expect before my first visit to the Palace last weekend (for a screening of Phase IV, in which ants wage war against mankind), I asked Mr. Case about his space, the collection, and how Trash Palace came to be.
Do you sell popcorn? Would I get dirty looks if I snuck in some Reeses Pieces?
We do not sell popcorn, we sell Popped Corn. We prefer this much classier term, because we are Toronto's Classiest Cinema. We're so darn classy, we even screenprint our own popped corn bags, with the words Popped Corn right there on the bag! As for Reese's Pieces, well, those aren't very classy, are they? Why not try some of the truffles and chocolate made by our own private chocolatier, Boardwalk Chocolates? Different cocoa confections made every week with a theme tie-in to the film being screened! For instance, last Friday we screened The Thing With Two Heads... What did Siue, the owner of Boardwalk Chocolates, bring in? Things With Two Heads - dark chocolate on one side, white chocolate on the other. They sold out in fifteen minutes. Now, that's classy!
I like the name. How did you come up with it?
The name came to me quite easily. Let's look at the word Trash first... Both meanings of the word apply to our film archive: a) We collect films that we get cheap because the sellers consider the films to simply be garbage. And b), we also collect films that fit in the Trash Film Genre.
As for the word Palace, well, first-timers don't know what to expect when they get here. They walk down a seedy alley, down four steps into a basement door, and then... enter an 1800 square foot space (with a 9' ceiling) completely covered everywhere in old movie posters. Mexican lobby cards. Screenprinted rock posters (we are a screenprinting studio during the day). Ruby rope lights illuminate the space. Puppets on display. Mexican wrestling masks for sale. I love seeing the expression on a TP Rookie's face when they walk in. I can tell who the rookies are, because they just stand in front of a wall...and stare at everything. One man's trash is another man's treasure - and it is no more apparent than at the Trash Palace!
What are characteristics of "trash" cinema?
The genre of Trash Cinema has many permutations and combinations. A trash film may have an unexpected lead as the star - like Ray Milland in Frogs. It's a laughable film, made even more laughable with his dignified approach to his role... Sometimes it's the plot (The Doll Squad - rats infected with bubonic plague will be unleashed on the world by a madman, and only a squad of seven female hit-women/crime-fighters can stop him - one of which being Tura Satana), sometimes it's the dialogue alone (This Is A Hijack - un-frickin-believeable dialogue!). But the best Trash Films? They combine all of the above elements. Like The Force On Thunder Mountain. Or Death Sport. Or Dinosaurus. Sure-fire audience pleasers!
You expanded to a 60-seater space after the first six months, is business good?
The expansion of the Trash Palace is directly influenced by the print shop outgrowing the old 800 foot space... We average about 30 people a night... I like to think people come back because, unlike the average movie going, big-buck experience, the Trash Palace is run by people that Care. We care about our patrons' comfort. All of our seats are padded. There's a coat rack for coats. Popped corn is $2, and sodas are $1. Tickets are only $5. We play smooth soul and r'nb before, during and after screenings. We take intermissions at reel changes, so people can step outside into the courtyard to have a smoke. We shoot our own 16mm snack bar trailers and splice them on to the beginnings of reels. Can you name me one theatre that does that? I thought so. Our snack bar attendant The Mouth is highly entertaining, by the way. Our introductions to the films are brief and to the point. We sneak in old trailers, cartoons, and classroom films wherever we can. I purchased a smoker last summer, and audiences were treated to slabs of smoked Texas ribs, North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, Memphis slaw and more. This winter, I've been using a slow cooker to do the same thing. Patrons feel so comfortable here, they celebrate their birthdays and bring cake and ice cream for everyone. Even our bathroom is sweet - a four-foot plastic light-up Santa is the only light in there. Cool and creepy! We even installed a separate urinal for the dudes in the audience. What's not to love?
How did you get into this line of work?
It all started with discovering that Film is something that one can Collect, like comic books, or GI Joes, or Wonder Woman figures like my wife does. ABC Books on Yonge Street, 1995. That's where I bought my first five films - all 10-minute 8mm condensed versions of monster movies... in April 2007 I took stock of my growing collection of features (I had 13), and realized that I had enough films to do a screening every other Friday for six months. Once I realized that, I came up with the name Trash Palace, a friend suggested the tag line Toronto's Classiest Cinema, and I put together a running order of the films. Designed and screenprinted posters and a handbill, and just....waited to see what would happen. The first film I ever screened at the Trash Palace was on Friday May 9, 2007. Sugar Hill, a Louisiana blaxploitation zombie film. Six people showed up, and they were all my friends. Two weeks later was TNT Jackson, another blaxploitation film starring Jeannie Bell, an early-70's Playboy Playmate, getting in topless kung fu fights in the Phillipines. Four people showed up, but I didn't know two of them - they had bought advance tickets. The next week was Schizo, by the infamous British director Pete Walker. Thirteen people showed up, and I didn't know any of them. It just kept going from there. I kept putting up posters, and handing out handbills...and then we had our first sellout with Death Sport on July 6, 2007.
You have no idea how happy I was that night. My idea was working!
What is your favourite film in your collection?
I'm going to say it's a tie - between all of my Chimpanzee comedic 16mm shorts from the 40's and 50's (available on the "Chimp Fest!" DVD at the merchandise table for only $10!), and The Force On Thunder Mountain. It's about a father, a son, their dog, a camping trip up a mountain, and a force from another dimension. The plot of the first reel is completely different than the second reel. There's a spaceship literally spliced out of Invaders from Mars and inserted into the film at one point. The dialogue is just ridiculous. When there's nothing happening and the father and son are just walking, the son will see something, get excited, and say to his father, "Look! A hawk!" And then the footage cuts to interminably lengthy stock footage of a hawk in flight. Unbelievable. This is the only film that we screen every programming cycle, and the only film that has it's own t-shirt - which says "I Survived The Force On Thunder Mountain." We have a couple of people that have seen the film every time we've screened it - which is five times so far. The next is on Friday March 27.
You also rent the facility for private events. Could I have my girlfriends over to watch The Notebook, or is the screen dedicated to the obscure and trashy?
Yes, we do rent out the room occasionally. What did someone point out to me a couple of weeks ago? Oh yeah: "You're not renting the Trash Palace, you're renting Stacey Case for the night." Which is true. I have to be here to open up, run the snack bar, do sound, run the projectors (we have a video projector as well, and can screen from dvd and vhs video sources)...being a married man, it takes a certain amount of dollars to get me to part from my wife on a Saturday night, or a Tuesday night, or whatever. So, if you make it worth my while, I will rent out the room. We've had book launches, private short film screenings for cast and crew, Saturday matinees for kids birthday parties (showing cartoons etc), bands...it's all fair game. The room isn't for everyone - just certain types of people that dig the vibe we have going.
Trash Palace screens Deadly Eyes this Friday, March 13th, and more every following Friday, plus a Dusk To Dawn 2nd anniversary show on Saturday, May 9th. Tickets have to be purchased in advance at Eyesore Cinema. Photo by Stacey Case.