Peter Gatien Limelight

The rise and fall of Peter Gatien now captured on film

The Hoxton is a fitting venue to celebrate the launch of Billy Corbin's film Limelight. As the latest venue in a series of bars run by Richard Lambert and Jesse Girard (who are also behind Parts & Labour and former club The Social), The Hoxton represents a growing empire of boutique style clubs.

Limelight is also a story about building a club empire, albeit on a much larger scale than anything on West Queen West. The film chronicles the rise and fall of Peter Gatien and his New York Empire of nightclubs, and through that story, tells a bigger story of the rise and fall of the nightclub as incubator of underground culture.

In Toronto, when we think of the Richmond street club scene we don't exactly think of leaders in culture, but in the 90s, new trends in music and fashion were pioneered in big clubs. The story follows Peter Gatien, born in Cornwall Ontario. By the age of 17, Gatien had already owned and sold a nightclub he ran in Cornwall. Not seeing much potential in Cornwall in the 1980s, Gatien left for Manhattan. He started to build his club empire in the 80s, but it wasn't until the 90s that it was complete.

Gatien believed in large-scale clubs. The pillars of his empire were Tunnel, a club in the form of a subway, Club USA, Palladium and Limelight, an old converted church. People were ready to party again after the threat of AIDS somewhat passed and of course a new drug made people happy party monsters. Little was known of Ecstasy when it first hit the clubs. It was thought to be as harmless as Marijuana and it wasn't even illegal until 1996.

Limelight, the movie, has a 1990s aesthetic - it looks like an episode of Metropia. As the film progresses it looks less like an episode of Metropia and more like an episode of Law & Order as it delves into the many lawsuits waged against Gatien from the city of New York during the reign of Mayor Giuliani. The film provides a compelling insight into New York's war against "Nightclubs".

What it doesn't cover is Gatien's post-Manhattan escapades in Toronto, or, specifically, the rise and fall of CiRCA. But I suppose that can be left to the sequel.

For a list of showtimes for Limelight, check this page in our movie listings section.

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