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Urban Toronto: Humber Cinema Returns to its Former Glory

The history, design, and development of Toronto’s building projects, brought to you by UrbanToronto.
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Top: the Humber Cinema last week; photo by Marcus Mitanis/UrbanToronto. Bottom: the cinema as it appeared in 1949.


After almost a decade of sitting idle, and briefly under threat by a controversial condominium development, the Humber Cinema at Jane and Bloor has recently reopened for business.
Cineplex Odeon closed the establishment in 2003, effectively marking the end of twin-screen theatres in Bloor West Village. (Four years prior, Famous Players had abandoned its theatre at Bloor and Runnymede. It’s now a Chapters bookstore with much of the interior restored and thankfully intact.) For a long time, the only choice for neighbourhood moviegoers hoping to catch new films was to drive to the 18-screen multiplex Queensway Theatres.
Now, residents have an encouraging alternative: the 1940s-era Humber Cinema officially re-opened a few weeks ago, restored by businessman (and trained architect) Rui Pereira. For now, only the 300-seat main floor screen is operational; the 500-seat auditorium downstairs is under restoration and should be ready by the end of August. The plan is to eventually also open two smaller 60-seat theatres in addition to the larger screens.
The ongoing refurbishment of the building is long overdue; Cineplex Odeon had gutted the space entirely of the seats and screens and the structure was home to a family of raccoons for months. Not only that, but the unique brass and copper rails were stolen by vandals, the lobby was water-damaged, and the furnace was broken. Several years and $350,000 later, the raft of renovations has recaptured the cinema’s atmosphere, bringing back the stylish movie-going days of the 1950s.
Additional details about the Humber Cinema and a complete set of photographs are at UrbanToronto.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/JonHorvatin Jon Horvatin

    Growing up in the Bloor West Village my grandfather used to routinely take me to the Runnymede famous players on weekend afternoons. I still remember the orange tang.

    It's great to see there is finally a bit of resurgence to the restoration of old properties. Maybe Toronto's history is not yet doomed. 

    Can't wait to “Dinner & a Movie” all on Bloor. :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5QE6EGHDRGWO2RVB6VSCJGPEKM Kevin

    I had my first date with my wife at the Humber. “12 Monkeys” if I recall. The best part was the walk home – something I've never done along the highway beside the Queensway Cinemas. Can't wait to go back!

  • http://twitter.com/KenHunt Ken Hunt

    Don't let your wife find out that you  aren't 100% sure what the first movie you saw with her was!

  • Mark Ostler

    I used to love going to the Runnymede and the Humber when I was a kid. I actually worked at the Humber for quite a while and was on staff when the place closed down. I transferred over to the Varsity, but didn't stay there long. The audience experience in a small theatre is so far removed from that in a multiplex, but so is the work environment in equal measure. I haven't yet had a chance to go, but I'm sure it won't be much longer before I head down to Jane and Bloor to catch a movie.

  • HotDang

    He can blame Terry Gilliam for the forgettable movie, and thank his wife for the memorable walk home. It's all good.

  • http://twitter.com/jayhud Jennifer Hudson

    Jusrt got home from taking the kids to see Cars.  We were so excited to go as we live in the nighbourhood and used to go there when we were dating. It is horrible.  There was no airconditioning and it is HOT out.  There was one girl, selling tickets, serving popcorn and drinks then running up to start the movie.  The washrooms were dirty and a few stalls out of order.  The doors to the basement reno were wide open, total hazard if some kids ventured in.  The carpet and seats look like the original from 1940, I don't believe this place has been renovated at all.  What a disappointment.