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Metro Theatre porn cinema to become indie film hub

It smells a bit like cheap soap and the floors have a sort of Willy Wonka warp, but the Metro Theatre at Bloor and Christie just might be the next art-cinema destination. After a makeover, and extensive daily cleanings, that is.

Yes, the last movie theatre in Toronto dedicated to the communal porn-watching experience will switch to a roster of independent films, foreign flicks, and documentaries come evening time. Jonathan Hlibka and Nadia Sandhu are the duo behind the initiative (why is it that every sentence sounds like it has a double entendre?), looking to transform the space for a three-month trial "pop-up" period.

"This is very much a labour of love," Jonathan says, before taking us inside Metro for a tour. "It's a passion project; we've taken a lot of what we're learned at Projection Booth East and applied it here."

Metro Theatre Toronto

Last summer, Jonathan and Nadia took the struggling Gerrard Cinema and transformed it into Projection Booth. Equipped with new technology, Grinder Coffee, and daily programming of independent flicks, Projection Booth (East) will now serve as guide for this new west venture. The difference, of course, is that Metro will still screen porn flicks during the day.

Metro Theatre Toronto

"In a funny way," Jonathan says, "I think it adds to its mystique. And it's in a great neighbourhood, so we thought, 'Why not go for it?'"

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The new partnership may serve as a boon for Metro's current owner and now partner, who is reportedly swimming in debt, and also listed the cinema at $3.59 million last year. The Projection Booth partnership will give the space a much-needed facelift — an overhaul that will include new carpets, new projectors and sound, fresh coats of paint, and new seat covers. The concession stand will also be redone, ideally with a menu from local businesses offering "take-out to your seat."

Metro Theatre Toronto

There are two cinema rooms in Metro Theatre — one with 300 seats and a 35-foot screen, and another with 240 seats and a 20-foot screen. Jonathan says they're planning on four screenings per night (starting around 8:30 p.m.), with special weekend events that may include live music, comedy, and DJs paired with films. And of course, I have to ask about the cleaning regiment.

"Isopropyl alcohol," Jonathan replies without skipping a beat. "Everyday, probably an hour before the first [evening] screening," he says, "we'll get in there and make sure everything's clean."

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For now, I spot a couple more napkins than I'd care to see on the ground, as well as an empty pack of cigarettes or two, but that should all change by August 24, when Projection Booth (West) is planning its soft launch. The list of films for the first week is still TBA, though prices are set at $8 per show or $14 for two (people or flicks).

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Photos by Morris Lum

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