This edition showcases a particularly special cinema. The very cinema that started Rowthree, as the original founders happened to like the extra leg room offered by the eponymous third row of the Bloor. However that row is long gone, as the cinema has been undergoing a several month overhaul of the interior and exterior space after it was acquired to be the permanent home for the HotDocs Festival.
This history of the cinema near the corner of Bathurst St. and Bloor St. is a lengthy one, spanning nearly 100 years. For those keeping score at home, that is pretty much the span of distribution of feature length films. After being knocked down in the 1940s to the bare walls, then rebuilt, it functioned for a time as a soft-core porn theater in the 1970s before re-opening in the 1980s back to a neighborhood cinema under its up until today, moniker of The Bloor Cinema (the names of the past have been many: The Madison Picture Palace, The Midtown, The Capri, The Eden.) As of today, it is the Bloor Hotdocs Cinema. but let’s be honest, people are just going to call it The Bloor, and current owners, the Blue Ice Group had the good sense to have the type-size of The Bloor significantly larger than it’s Hotdocs subtitle.
I had the chance to preview the cinema which is still a bit covered in drywall dust and not-quite-dried maroon paint. The exterior marquee signage has yet to be completed, but the cinema is set to open March 16th, 2012 as a doc-heavy repertory cinema and home to both the Hotdocs film festival, as well as renting itself out to the thriving festival scene around Toronto. The interior has undergone a massive face-lift and re-design. A much bigger lobby with the concession area shunted off to the side, there is an unusual glass wall that allows someone in the lobby to see into the auditorium (along the lines of people viewing a police interrogation (or daycare or focus group) behind one-way glass.) One can see the stage, the backs of all the seats, and a bottom sliver of the screen. The screen and stage have also been moved a lot closer to the front row of seats and the back seats are gone to make room for the expanded front lobby area. By my guess, if Andrew, John and myself had met at Toronto After Dark in 2012 instead of 2006 (assuming that TADFF goes back to the Bloor and does not stay at the Toronto Underground Cinema) this website would be called RowSeven.com.
Things are very handsome and new and shiny: modern multiplex seats and the latest state-of-the-art projection (*DCP) with 7.1 Dobly Digital sound. Gone is the “Kevin Smith shat here” (possibly penned by the man himself who was there often enough) graffiti in the Men’s Room toilet stall. The seat count, while reconfigured, is basically the same; 710 seats in total, 271 on the main floor with the aisles along the walls instead splitting up the now-quite-wide rows. The new Bloor has an air of the type of slick interiors of a multiplex, but it still retains curtains in the front of the screen, a large second floor balcony which now does not have dozens of unusable broken seats. Somebody mentioned that there may be a bar on the second floor atrium (there is no mention of this in the press kit, but this would have been handy when Andrew & I were allowed to occupy the cinema all by our lonesome at 3am one night in 2008 to record our centennial podcast on Thomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In!) I am more hoping that they have fixed the dreadful acoustics that used to be up there.
Time will tell if the Bloor continues its tradition of repertory screenings in between the multitude of documentaries that will be the mainstay of the rebranded cinema. Alfred Hitchcock films, The Secret of Nihm and The Darkside of Oz (Wizard of Oz set to Pink Floyd) and occasionally Robocop or other eighties blockbusters were much of the programming along with Rue Morgue’s cinema macabre nights and local film premieres and first run features prior to the facelift. They are kicking things off with an amusing middle ground, as the cinema reopens to the paying public with a documentary on Roger Corman. Apropos if you ask me.