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The Demise of the Gerrard Cinema

Posted by Chandra Menard / December 4, 2009

The GerrardThe answering machine at the Gerrard Cinema says "One film, 7:30, $5" -- in Tamil. But, it took a few days, and a lot of help from my friends, to sort that out.

Still, it seemed like the perfect occasion to attend an authentic Bollywood screening had presented itself.

Or maybe not. Later that night, I popped by hoping to stumble into a line up around the corner, but instead I found an empty theatre and a guy moving stuff around in the lobby... and thus another local movie house on the brink of closure, this time on the East side of Jones at Gerrard.

With the closing of the Carlton in mind (this weekend!), I pretty much invite myself in. After all, this was likely to be my last chance to see the inside of the Gerrard.

The GerrardThe area, which is not quite Little India, has seen better days. On the 1000 block of Gerrard, a few too many stores are boarded up, and some of the cinema's neighbouring businesses include odds and ends like a Western Union, a salon called Youngr [sic] Hair Design, and a "business consulting" shop.

At first glance, a well-stocked fridge in the lobby seemed promising. But as I ventured into the screening space, under the bright overhead light, I couldn't guess as to how you could fill such a large, rundown space.

My unofficial guide (the guy cleaning up the place) wasn't sure what the owner planned to do with the venue, but explained that the theatre hadn't been operating for a while --that patrons have moved on to (what I am guessing are bootleg) DVDs on sale up the street for a dollar or two.

It was surprisingly difficult to dig up photos and stories about the Gerrard, even though it's been operating as a cinema (on and off) since 1933. A search through the files at the Urban Affairs Library generated only movie listings and a brief mention in a book about Toronto cinemas (yep there is one!) The Nabes: Toronto's Wonderful Neighborhood Movie Houses. Back in the day, the space had been called the Wellington, the Bonita, possibly the Athenian, and like many of the older theatres in the city, it might have also been a porn house on a few occasions. More recently, as the Sri Lakshmi and the Gerrard, it showed South Asian films.

The night wasn't a complete bust, mind you. I had recruited a friend with the promise of a stop at the Lahore Tikka House nearby. And, the exceptionally nice guy showing us around let me walk off with a a couple of reels, a piece of the folding cinema that will soon decorate my livingroom wall.

In other movie theatre closing news, the Carlton is commemorating its last weekend with multiple screenings of the hilarious medieval spoof, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The film was on, management tells me, during the multiplex's opening weekend in 1981. Screenings are on December 4th, 5th, and 6th at 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30. For anyone looking to relive those nostalgic teenage make-out sessions or see one last film in theatre this weekend, here's a link to the Carlton's schedule.



DS / December 4, 2009 at 10:33 am
I'm pretty sure that this theatre used to operate as a Chinese Theatre, named Sun Wah back in the 80s.
Eric Veillette / December 4, 2009 at 10:35 am
Wow, too bad. It's one of the few screening houses within the city catering exclusively to Tamil films.

I have a photo in my files of one of its earlier incarnations. Will email to you.
Adam Gorley / December 4, 2009 at 10:36 am
Used to walk by here all the time between my parents' house and Gerrard Square (and other points west).

When I was a kid, it was all Chinese films. The area has become significantly less Chinese and more diverse in the years since.

The theatre switched to south-Asian 15 or so years ago, as far as I can remember.

Maybe the slow (and questionable) gentrification of the 'hood (Home Depot, Staples? Surely those are good signs) will encourage some film buff to re-open the place as a revue cinema.
bovie muff / December 4, 2009 at 11:12 am
The Tamil population in the area is likely too small to support a dedicated theatre. If you're interested in movie theatres playing movies from south Asia (Tamil films aren't actually 'Bollywood' films) check out <a href="";>Albion Cinemas</a>. They run three such theatres around the city (suburbs).

Actually it's funny it's called Albion Cinemas...I guess the source is from the road the initial theatre was on, but Albion is also the old name for England I think.
bovie muff / December 4, 2009 at 11:15 am
also, most of the movies have english subtitles.
chandra replying to a comment from bovie muff / December 4, 2009 at 01:00 pm
movies at the Albion Cinemas have english subtitles? thanks for the tip, i'll check that out one of these days...
Tad Michalak / January 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Gerrard Cinema is still opened, It may be under new management? The inside has been renovated & the outside has been updated a bit. They are still playing Tamil films, some of which on occasion have english subtitles.
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