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Hot Docs makes concessions at the Bloor

Posted by Guest Contributor / August 18, 2011

Hot Docs Bloor CinemaFor those who many not have heard, the Bloor Cinema is under new management. Hot Docs has come on board to manage the theatre, and last night they hosted an open forum to discuss what this new enterprise is going to look like.

Everyone came with their own questions, from the smaller festival runners, to former employees, to neighbourhood regulars. The tone was set early as Hot Docs Executive Director Chris McDonald shared that, in response to feedback; their programming projections had changed from % 100 documentaries to a mere 80. Yikes.

Throughout the night a number of people expressed that that was still far too many, and each time McDonald scribbled away on his note pad. This, along with his repeated assurances, was the first sign that Hot Docs is open to public feedback.

So, here are the things you want to know.

  • The prices at the Bloor will be similar to what they are now, if not exactly the same.
  • They would love to open in October, but it's looking more like November.
  • They are applying for a liquor license.

And here are more details that came out of the meeting:

  • The women's bathroom is going to have more stalls.
  • The venue as a whole is going to become more wheelchair accessible with a washroom downstairs and adapted seating on the ground floor.
  • Hot Docs would love to see the other festivals, such as the Reel Asian Film Festival and Toronto After Dark come back to the Bloor.
  • There is a desire to program more interactive experiences such as Q&A's and organized pre/post screening get togethers.

Tonight's event ended with a question, "Tomorrow what will you tell people you learned here?" My answer to that is simple. I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful, but I'm still uncertain. Until the reopening late this fall I'm going to continue to cling to that hope though. I'm going to continue to hope that my favourite theatre will keep its atmosphere, but grow, improve and somehow become something new and better.

Writing by Joel Torrens. Photo by danepstein in the blogTO Flickr pool



Michelle / August 18, 2011 at 11:58 am
Honestly? I think Hot Docs is the best thing that could have happened to the Bloor. Independent theatres are going the way of independent book stores: they are dying. Hot Docs can inject new life into the cinema and the area. Unlike the Bloor as an independent business, Hot Docs has various partnerships to draw on, so they are not solely reliant on ticket sales. They also did Toronto Underground a big favour because they moved After Dark there. Personally, I don't know why there would be an expectation that Hot Docs would be open to public feedback, but it's great that they are listening. I just hope they aren't forced off track by people who are worried about, what, exactly? Having a unique new entertainment option, the revival of a dying movie house, and having more people spending money in the area? I'm sure we can all go to the big theatres for mainstream movies, or hit up one of the other indies if we don't feel like a documentary.
Dmitri / August 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm
I am quite excited about this change. This is one of my most favorite cinema venues in Toronto; it has housed some amazing films. Hopefully some of my films will be screened there someday...
Adam replying to a comment from Michelle / August 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm
How exactly are independent cinemas dying? If anything, between the Fox, the Revue, the Royal the Underground, and now the Projection Booth, the community is booming in Toronto.
Pete / August 18, 2011 at 01:44 pm
I am so happy about this change! I'm not much of a movie fan but I *love* documentaries. Whenever the Bloor Cinema schedule would come out each month, the first thing I would do is scan the titles to see which (if any) documentaries were playing that month. Usually there were a few but the pickings were slim.

I would love it if the new Bloor shows nothing but docs but even 80% would be great. I hope they don't shy away from showing locally-produced films (about the G8 or whatever), it would really give a boost to local, independent filmmakers. Can't wait till November!
handfed / August 18, 2011 at 02:28 pm
What's all this business about independent cinemas dying? The Bloor was flourishing, until these folks came and bought it. They want to screen 80% docs? They must be out of their mind!
Ash / August 18, 2011 at 05:02 pm
handfed - the Bloor was not flourishing. read the press from Carm after he and his family sold the theatre. his family were holding out for a buyer because it was a tough business to be in, and they held on until they could find someone who would keep it as a cinema and give it the restoration it deserves. kind of them to care considering they sacrificed more than most people would have to keep the bloor alive all those years.

documentary is one of the only genres that doesn't have a lot of screen space in this city. hot docs now has their own theatre, and they are a doc festival so docs is what they should be screening. i look forward to them offering me the best in doc cinema year-round and i think it's very inclusive of them to care enough to ask what people think because it is at the end of the day, a business, and they can do whatever they want with it.

of course, you may be one of those people who would have preferred it to be bought up by a developer and turned into condos. because that, my friend, is the direction it would have gone without the right buyer.
Nat / August 20, 2011 at 07:18 pm
I would hate to see Reel Asian Film Festival and Toronto After Dark go back to the Bloor. The Underground is great!
Matt / August 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm
I'm excited about the revamp of the Bloor, however I hope they don't mean 80% documentaries all year long!
I go to the Bloor for things like Indiana Jones matinees and the back-to-back David Lynch evenings.
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