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Bloor Cinema reopens to the public

March 18th, 2012 · No Comments


Bloor Hot Docs Cinema opened Mar. 14. Renovations had been ongoing since last summer. New chairs, theatrical lighting, and surround sound are new additions to the updated theatre. Courtesy Joseph Michael.

By Alexa Huffman

New chairs and a screen are the first sight seen when entering the newly renovated Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor St. W). These are not the only changes to be found.

The projectors have been refurbished. There is surround sound, theatrical lighting, and a public address system to help assist in live events.

The changes, along with the partnership between the Hot Docs Canadian Documentary Festival and the Toronto-based filmed company, Blue Ice Group, are set to serve the Annex community.

“We met with hundreds of community members, local businesses and audience members over the past eight months and incorporated as much of their input as possible,” said Chris McDonald, HotDocs’ executive director.

“These are difficult times for the arts and cultural community in this city,” said McDonald, in his opening speech of the special media preview on Feb. 29. He has high hopes for the theatre as it will be hosting not only the Hot Docs Festival this April, but will continue to rent the theatre to other local film festivals.

Neil Tabatznik of Blue Ice is also very optimistic about the opening as he talked among the ladders and drywall on the stage. He says the sound and the fury of documentaries are being lost on the computer and television screens at home.

“That’s why the idea is to create a home for permanent documentary releases is great,” said Tabatznik. “Build it and they will come.”

The home has been months in the making. A large part of the responsibility has been on architect Siamak Hariri, who Tabatznik says “… changed the tired old lady into the beautiful women that she is.”

“We engaged in an interesting process which is the story of Toronto,” says Hariri. “It’s a wonderful combination between memories and desire.”

Hariri utilized all the space available, looking at old pictures from the days when the Bloor Cinema was a vaudeville theatre. A person would walk into the middle of the theatre and see the stage. Today there is a glass screen where you can view the main gallery.

“Build it and they will come”—Neil Tabatznik, Blue Ice Group Principal Director

It is a way to reclaim and rejuvenate the past while connecting with the technology of today. This is a passion of Robin Smith, the cinema programmer for Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. He is excited choose which documentaries to screen.

“I always knew there was a large documentary audience,” said Smith, who joined Hot Docs last August. “Stand up comic films are documentaries, concert films are documentaries, so you can really play around with this to appeal to people who wouldn’t even call themselves documentary fans.”

Although the cinema will mainly focus on documentaries, fictional films will also be shown, including cult classics. Smith says it’s all about having the community have a cinematic experience. “There’s something social, something warm and inviting,” said Smith. “Cinemas are a place to have discussions.”

Bloor Hot Docs will try to create this social atmosphere with filmmaker’s speeches and panel discussions.

The goal is to have an event theatre especially for Annex residents who have been heavily invested in what is going on in the cinema. “The Bloor was a landmark for the Annex and a staple for people who lived in the Annex,” said Smith.

“This is now [a] unique venue. It’s rare to find a historic cinema like this with its bones kind of kept the same but revamped into the 21st century.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema underwent extensive renovations since the summer. Hot Docs and Blue Ice Films have been able to renovate and renew every last detail of the facility. The Bloor reopened its doors this month. Courtesy Lisa Logan.

With the screen capable of screening high definition movies and old reels, prices cheaper then mainstream movie theatres and old Bloor membership cards being recognized for finite period of time, there should be an eager audience.

“We know we have to open our doors and kind of re win people back,” said Smith. “I think we are all excited by that.

Doors open on Mar. 14 with a week of special screenings and events. The first public screening is Mar. 16 with a showing of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.


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