ARTS AND CULTURE
The Film Nerd Guide to Toronto
Known as "Hollywood North", Toronto is a haven for the film-lover. Here are the cities best bets for getting your cinephile on.
Toronto is one of the best places to nerd out as moviegoer in North America. Several neighbourhood rep theatres have survived the VOD revolution and there is a constant stream of film festivals and screening series that cater to Torontonians’ diverse tastes in cinema beyond the 10 days the Toronto International Film Festival takes over. Whether you rare into participatory cult movie screenings, b-movie horror, documentaries, silent films or classic Hollywood flicks, the city could be your own personal film school if you know the right places to look.
TIFF Bell Lightbox
The Toronto International Film Festival’s year-round home is one of the most comfortable places to watch a movie in the city. The Lightbox is a magnet for celebrity watchers in September but its projection facilities (including 4K and 70mm) and top-notch sound make it the best place to catch new indie releases, foreign films, director retrospectives, experimental films and Hollywood classics the rest of the year – occasionally with filmmakers in attendance. It also houses a book shop, a gallery, and the Film Reference Library, which includes 80 special collections devoted to Canadian cinema.
The vast majority of Toronto’s video stores have shuttered, but there are enough people who prefer the offline browsing experience to keep a handful of speciality shops alive. The library-like Bay Street Video is home to the city’s largest DVD collection for sale and rental. Queen Video is a long-running rental institution with thousands of titles. Suspect Video and Eyesore Cinema are the places to go if your taste in films falls on the freakier and geekier side of the cinema spectrum.
Hollywood Canteen is the place to shop for vintage posters, film and TV scripts, and film biographies in particular. If you are still in the mood to browse, walk a few blocks east to the second-hand store BMV which has a large collection of film-related book on its lower level. Further south, the TIFF Shop in the TIFF Bell Lightbox has a good selection of recent titles as well as a highly curated selection of DVDs.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
One of the city’s oldest repertory theatres, the Bloor underwent renovations and re-launched in 2011 as a documentary-focused cinema. It is the flagship theatre for the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, which takes place in April, and hosts perennial popular screenings of cult classics, namely The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in addition to the latest docs.
For Torontonians that prefer to stay close to home rather than trek to the multiplex, there are a handful of single-screen neighborhood rep theatres spread across the city. In Little Italy, The Royal Cinema is the place to catch local, first-run indie and cult classics including Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. The Revue Cinema near High Park regularly programs silent films and runs book-and-food-related film series’. North of Bloor are The Regent Theatre and Mount Pleasant. Further west in Etobicoke is the Kingsway Theatre and the Fox Theatre is the vintage movie house option in the Beaches.
The Seventh Art
Auteurs are the focus of The Seventh Art, an independent video magazine about film that produces video essays and interviews in addition to bringing the occasional high-profile guest, such as Whit Stillman, Paul Schrader and Andrew Bujalski, to town for mini-retrospectives.
Toronto Film Society
The country’s oldest film society initially formed to show non-mainstream or censored films not playing in regular cinemas. With DVD and streaming making once-hard-to-see gems widely available, the Toronto Film Society has shifted its focus to show rare and obscure archival prints of films from the 1930s through the 1960s. Programs are organized seasonally and generally take place on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights.
Toronto is the headquarters of horror magazine Rue Morgue, which regularly hosts screenings at the Royal Cinema of cult films such as Wolfcop and Discopath. The magazine also runs the annual Festival of Fear, a horror and pop culture event that takes place on Labour Day weekend as part of the star-studded Fan Expo at the at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Contacts for Places Mentioned:
- TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St W.
- Bay Street Video, 1172 Bay Street
- Queen Video, 412 Queen West and 480 Bloor Street West
416-504-3030 and 416-588-5767
- Suspect Video, 605 Markham Street
- Eyesore Video, 801 Queen Street West
- Hollywood Canteen, 608 Markham Street
- BMV, 471 Bloor Street
- The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West
- The Royal Cinema, 608 College Street
- The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
- The Regent Theatre, 551 Mount Pleasant Road
- Mount Pleasant Theatre, 675 Mount Pleasant Road
- Kingsway Theatre, 3030 Bloor Street West
- Fox Theatre, 2236 Queen Street East
- Toronto Film Society, 173 B Front Street East
- Rue Morgue, 1411 Dufferin St.