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Bloor grand tour

February 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

Cinema has worn many hats over the century, online doc shows

Inside The Bloor Cinema with filmmaker Robin Sharp. In 2005, he and fellow filmmaker Peter Kuplowsky pieced together the history of The Bloor Cinema for your viewing pleasure.

Inside The Bloor Cinema with filmmaker Robin Sharp. In 2005, he and fellow filmmaker Peter Kuplowsky pieced together the history of The Bloor Cinema for your viewing pleasure.

By Matt James

The Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.), like a lot of centarians, has shrunk with age.

Back in 1941 when it was known as the Midtown, it could seat 1,125 people. You could catch a flick for 35 cents, and if you threw in an extra dime, they would let you smoke in there.

These days it seats around 800, smoking is not allowed, and while this revue theatre is still affordable, most trips to the movies will cost you upwards of $15, minus the popcorn.

A good way to learn about this historical building and keep some money in your pocket would be to watch The Bloor, a 20 minute documentary available online about the Annex institution.

When Toronto filmmakers Robin Sharp and Peter Kuplowsky learned the theatre was celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2005, they decided to create an homage to the past of the building. The Bloor was filmed between summer 2005 and winter 2006.

While a film soundtrack boomed from behind the thick doors of the theatre in mid-December, Sharp agreed the bowels of The Bloor were best for a quiet and uninterrupted interview. Walking down a maze of small, narrow and uneven hallways with tight tricky turns, any visible open space was rimmed with aging and forgotten film paraphernalia languishing in the dark.

It was that historic ”waste” that drove Sharp and Kuplowsky to make their film. Both employees of the theatre, they were surrounded by constant reminders of its history; the stunning architectural design, the yellowed photos hanging from the walls. Backstage, old reels and cases lie still untouched, and letters once used on the marquee lay thick with dust that’s literally been there since the 1940s.

We made our way down to the basement and entered a room that smelled predictably damp, settling into old chairs at an old table. Sharp told me what the most complex part of making the film was.

“The trickiest part was to sort of unearth all these old documents,” he said.

They spent countless hours in the library searching for documentation on the cinema.

As a youngster, Sharp grew up in the neighbourhood and became an oft-paying customer at The Bloor long before staring working there as an 18-year-old. Nearly five years later, he still enjoys a weekly shift on Sundays. He feels he’s come to know the building like you would a friend.

The end product Sharp and Kuplowsky put together is a short, catchy film worth watching—especially for those with any appreciation of history and great music.

The soundtrack and voiceovers take the viewer back through some of the most unforgettable decades of music.

“The music was extremely important in setting the film’s tone,” said Sharp. Because of the historical nature of the documentary, it was important that the tracks matched the times.

While the film allows the viewer to travel back in time, there is a slight focus on the building in the 1940s. A decade dubbed as those who lived it, “the golden age” of the theatre.

Personal experiences from dozens of colourful characters such as past and present managers, owners and employees are shared—from a general manager reminiscing of the first time the theatre showed The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1981, to the time when soft-core porn dominated the big screen, to when it was managed by Ed Bruce as The Eden.

“It was before porn on video,” said Sharp. “Everyone would come out to this communal theatre situation—it’s so bizarre.”

What began as a vaudeville theatre would get a number of name changes over the years. And like many of its patrons, The Bloor and it’s predecessors endured change and overcame much adversity. Today it stands as the city’s oldest original-screen movie theatre.

The Bloor is available for free online here. Or simply visit YouTube for Part 1 and Part 2).  For more information call Sharp at the theatre at 416-516-2331.

Tags: Arts · General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bob // Feb 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Nice to see that the Gleaner finally has a website. Does anyone know what the Eden actually was?