City Scenes: Toronto Cinema Spaces

Film venues and screening spaces are among my favorite fixtures of the urban mediascape. For me, the crown jewels of Parisian cultural superiority are not the sidewalk cafe tables but rather the abundant cinemas (and also the multi-story bookshops that seem to be all around). Toronto also has a strong film culture and a number of unique cinema venues. During my first visit to the city I came across flyers for Reg Hartt’s wonderful Cineforum, and attended a screening of Nosferatu with Radiohead’s Kid A as the silent film’s alternative soundtrack (a pairing that Mr. Hartt’s flyers promoted as Kid Dracula). When I was in Toronto again last October I was pleased to see that the Cineforum was continuing this Halloween-season tradition.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time on this trip to catch a screening. While preparing this post I was surprised to discover that I had not written about my Cineforum experience previously, and crestfallen that I was unable to find any of my photos from that first visit. The Cineforum is located in a house on Bathurst Street; the entry and screening room are bedecked with paintings, film posters, and movie memorabilia. When I was there the “theater” seating consisted of an assortment of office computer chairs. I had arrived early so Mr. Hartt screened some Keystone Cops shorts while we waited for the posted start time of Kid Dracula. Screenings at the Cineforum are typically preceded by some introductory remarks from Mr. Hartt; you might notice the concluding text on the above flyer that quotes Jane Jacobs (whose urbanist ideals and Torontonian legacy Hartt alludes to often) as saying that Hartt’s introductions are the highlight of the Cineforum experience.

Whereas the Cineforum offers an idiosyncratic intimacy in a small-sized space, the Cinesphere goes big. Located at Ontario Place on Toronto’s waterfront, the Cinesphere opened in 1971 as the first permanent IMAX theater in the world.

The eponymous sphere that houses the theater space is situated on its own little island along the waterfront.

The theater closed for renovations just before my visit but I hope to check it out once it reopens.

While wandering along Spadina Avenue I stumbled across an intriguing door bearing the words “Cine Cycle.” After some online sleuthing I learned that CineCycle is an underground cinema and bicycle repair shop. It’s a super interesting concept that I’d love to learn more about; there didn’t seem to be any scheduled events during my visit. Although they did have flyers promoting a Halloween-eve screening of Return of the Living Dead.

The Revue Cinema (Toronto’s oldest standing movie theater) was celebrating the upcoming holiday with a Dario Argento retrospective series, but again the timing didn’t work out with my schedule. I had become disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to continue my tradition of Halloween-time horror movie screenings in Toronto, but then I saw that Fathom Events was promoting a 40th anniversary screening of John Carpenter’s The Thing. So I made my way to the Cineplex in Yonge-Dundas Square.

This is not an offbeat or off-the-beaten-path cinema space, but rather a corporate multiplex smack dab in the middle of one of Toronto’s busiest commercial centers. So it offered its own flavor of the moviegoing experience. The Thing is also a stone-cold classic and it was a treat to get to see it on the big screen for the first time.

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