Smoking popcorn forces cancellation of Humber’s hot docs

by | Jan 17, 2020 | A&E

John Grant, Arts Reporter

Humber’s 51st annual documentary screening at the Ted Rogers Cinema went up in smoke as an overheated popcorn machine and a triggered switch forced the evacuation of the building and the event postponed.

“Within seconds, 500 plus people were vacating the cinema. I’ve never seen that many people vacate that cinema that fast, which was quite amazing,” said Donna O’Brien-Sokic, a professor with the Media and Creative Arts program at Humber College.

A Toronto Fire pumper arrives at the Rogers Cinema on Bloor Street near Bathurst Street on Jan. 7 to deal with a smoking popcorn maker. Humber College’s 51st annual documentary gala was cancelled that night and rescheduled for March. (John Grant)

The night began as planned at the Bloor Street West theatre near Bathurst Street on Jan. 7 with the showing of the first documentary called Perpetuum. The documentary had a great response from the audience.

Unfortunately, things would take an unexpected turn for the worst. Technical difficulties would arise during the second documentary called Friendly Faces in Safe Places, which halted the entire event.

“We’ve been screening at that cinema, since before I even came to Humber, I would say for probably at least 40 or 50 years,” O’Brien-Sokic said, “We’ve never had a screening flameout like our screening flamed out last night.”

O’Brien-Sokic said there were two problems that night, a malfunction because a switcher on the switchboard in the control room malfunctioned just before fire alarms were set off because of a smoking popcorn machine.

Nobody knows exactly what triggered the popcorn machine to go array. Regardless, the entire building was evacuated as Toronto Fire responded.

“I actually thought that at first the fire alarm going off was a joke, which you should never think of fire alarm is a joke,” O’Brien-Sokic said.

Many students were distraught their documentaries weren’t shown during the screening and were left feeling empty.

“I was really disappointed,” Samantha North, a second-year Film and Television student at Humber College said, “I didn’t even really know how to react afterwards. When I got home, I was just like, ‘what do I do?’ I didn’t feel that nice satisfaction that I would have.”

Joanna Benevides, a second-year film student, was confused with the events that transpired that night.

“We had no idea that the whole system had supposedly broken down,” she said. “So, we all just assumed that it would be a 10- to 15-minute wait at most.”

“The next thing we knew, we were being evacuated for a completely different reason,” she said

Nobody was hurt in the chaos, and the event was rescheduled for Saturday, March 14, at 2 p.m.