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Inside the new Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Posted by Derek Flack / February 29, 2012

Bloor Hot Docs CinemaThe new Bloor Hot Docs Cinema had an unveiling of sorts today, as media were granted access to have a look around prior to the grand (re)opening on March 14. Amidst the the construction workers, ladders, and various tools lying around, there are plenty of signs that point to the fact that this has been a sensible and caring update to the nearly century-old movie house. While numerous technical improvements have been put in place, the historical character of the cinema was clearly at the top of Hariri Pontarini Architects' mind when going about the renovation.

Opened in 1913 as the Madison Picture Palace, what will now be known as the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema has taken many names and forms in its day, but has always remained a theatre of some sort. Kudos goes to Chris McDonald of Hot Docs and the Blue Ice Group for ensuring that it will continue on in this capacity. I know that not everyone is jazzed about the doc-heavy programming, but subsisting as a second-run rep cinema just wasn't in the cards.

Bloor Hot Docs CinemaThe expanded lobby, which now features a glass wall that looks onto the theatre, should make the Bloor more event friendly than in the past, though I worry that light from this feature could prove distracting to those who find themselves near the back of the main section of the cinema. As was the case in the past, noise from the lobby area also carries into the theatre area a bit too easily, but let's not get too nit-picky.

While there are still a number of crucial projects to be completed in the roughly two week period before the Bloor is set open its doors — namely, the concessions stand and the exterior of the building — the work that's been done to improve the film-watching experience has been extensive. It might not compete with the TIFF Lightbox as far as amenities go, but this will be a fantastic place to watch a movie.

Here are some of the key improvements and technical specifications:

  • Seating capacity comes in at 710
  • The screen is 40' by 17' (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
  • The sound system is a Dolby CP650 Cinema Sound Producer, which will have the benefit of new speakers and extra amps (thank god — the sound was brutal in the upper balcony)
  • The washrooms have been renovated (with a ground-floor accessible option)
  • Lower level seating has been completely updated
  • Upper level seating has been restored/reupholstered
  • The marquee is currently being rebuilt in the same style as before

Additional Photos:

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Matt / February 29, 2012 at 02:40 pm
Wow. That's different. And great—but I'll still miss the old Bloor's "lived in" vibe.
Strav / February 29, 2012 at 02:42 pm
some nice art deco / old school movie theatre design elements in there including the lobby yellow. Nice.
laurie / February 29, 2012 at 02:44 pm
looks so good! do you think they intended for the bottom of the cupholders to look like wee film reels? cute.
Gloria / February 29, 2012 at 03:00 pm
Did they add some powerful AC for the balcony? It gets ... cozy up there sometimes.
Todd Toronto / February 29, 2012 at 03:05 pm
Charming as the Bloor was, the screen always seemed two small for the space. Glad it got a new one.

Shame it'll mostly be used for documentaries. Great as docs can be, I'll miss the Bloor's former diverse programming.
Toby Buckets / February 29, 2012 at 03:41 pm
Before and after shots would be great. Anyone have some old photos?
Welshgrrl / February 29, 2012 at 04:14 pm
Looks great! Nicely renovated without losing too much of what makes the Bloor special :)
MH / February 29, 2012 at 04:28 pm
Delighted to see that the lower seating has been replaced. The movable armrests are an important feature for accommodating people of size and those with certain types of disabilities -- very important, given the social-justice-promoting priorities of the documentary-loving crowd. I look forward to visiting!
Lee / February 29, 2012 at 06:08 pm
Looks great but I'm honestly disappointed. To have this beautiful theatre house ONLY docs is bloody ridiculous. So it will be the one stop shop for film festival documentary's in Toronto, woopty fucking do.
KN / February 29, 2012 at 07:31 pm
I have enjoyed seeing movies at the Bloor for many years, but my one complaint was always that they didn't show enough documentaries. It's my favourite type of film, so I can't wait for the re-opening, it's a dream come true!!

I just hope they stick to their mandate of showing mostly docs and don't start showing more and more regular films that people can see anywhere else. In fact I hope they consider showing 100% docs. Maybe they could partner with U of T or Ryerson for some screenings. If people want to see feature films there are so many other options available in this city.
canmark / February 29, 2012 at 08:14 pm
Thrilled with the renovations and the documentary programming.

(For the haters, there will be some non-documentary programming, as well. For example, their website says: "On select Sunday afternoons starting in April Back to the Bloor showcases classic fiction films that helped define the Bloor Cinema in its popular rep years. April will feature: Terry Jones’ MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979); Joel and Ethan Coen’s THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998); and Jim Henson’s LABYRINTH (1986).")
Judith / February 29, 2012 at 09:01 pm
As wonderful as the renovations are, will miss the foreign feature film screenings. It was one of the few theatres that one could see them (at a reasonable price) on the big screen.
RA / March 1, 2012 at 08:48 am
Looks gorgeous! I just hope they still have Rocky Horror there :)
Seishin / March 1, 2012 at 10:19 am
"The expanded lobby, which now features a glass wall that looks onto the theatre, should make the Bloor more event friendly than in the past, though I worry that light from this feature could prove distracting to those who find themselves near the back of the main section of the cinema"

An easy solution to this would be to install some pull down blackout blinds. Just saying.
Michelle / March 1, 2012 at 11:28 am
I love this, and I'm glad they've changed formats. There are lots of places with "diverse programming." There is no place that is dedicated to the documentary. Toronto Underground has Rocky Horror now and it's a fantastic location. Mind you, I see their schedule is blank for all of this month. I hope they can pull something off...
karen / March 1, 2012 at 01:00 pm
Bravo for both renos and docs! I see the urinal photo - sure hope the ladies' equivalent has been greatly enlarged and spruced up.
Sam I Am / March 1, 2012 at 02:03 pm
I really hope they don't get rid of McLane & Co for Die Hard 1/2 christmases
Jeff / March 1, 2012 at 09:31 pm
There will be a curtain that covers the new large window. This will close once the main feature start.
Chris Gostling / March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am
Also exciting to note, all of the fantastic concessional treats will be provided by Toronto's own OMG Baked Goodness the Official Supplier of Goodness for the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. From Candy & Chocolate Spiked Caramel Corn & Whoopie Pie's to Popped Tartes and Chocolate Dipped Salty Sweet Treats, OMG is bringing a tasty twist to Toronto's newest Cinema experience!
handfed / March 4, 2012 at 02:04 am
the movable arm rests fit with the "social justice" agenda of the owner? I can't believe I just read that.
kevin toft / March 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm
Can'nt wait to go an see a movie! Missed it. I think there will be some movies in between all the docs. Which can still be fun.
KEVI TOFT / March 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm
I loved the popcorn the old place had. I'll miss that.
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