Big Turnout In Little China as Toronto Underground Cinema Opens Its Doors
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Big Turnout In Little China as Toronto Underground Cinema Opens Its Doors

The lineup at 6 p.m.

How to identify a good rep cinema: a poster for David Lynch’s surrealist psychological thriller Lost Highway hangs tacked up next to a poster for Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s adrenaline-drenched Crank, and there’s nothing odd or over-eager about it. How to identify a great rep cinema: there’s also hundreds of people lined up down the block on opening night.
There was a palpable sense of anticipation last night as the Toronto Underground Cinema hosted its much-anticipated grand opening, welcoming hundreds of eager Toronto cinephiles into the revitalized screening space at the Acacia Centre near Spadina and Queen. Ever since Torontoist wrote about the theatre’s emergence last month, everyone from Eye to the Toronto Star to Kevin Smith and Roger Ebert has been keenly plugging the new screening space. And judging by the line snaking down Spadina Avenue, Toronto’s hordes of film buffs shared the media’s enthusiasm.

“I’m very excited,” said Toronto Underground co-manager Charlie Lawton before the theatre’s inaugural screening. “And a little bit nervous, but not nearly as nervous as I’d expected.” Any pre-game jitters were surely calmed not only by the turnout (many began lining up more than an hour before the theatre opened its doors), but by the warm reception. As managers Lawton, Nigel Agnew, and Alex Woodside welcomed the animated audience before the 7 p.m. screening of the 1985 board game–whodunnit Clue (followed by a screening of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China), they received hoots, hollers, and a scattered standing ovation from friends and film lovers thrilled to see a new indie cinema in on the block. Volunteers taking tickets and ushering patrons even dressed for the occasion, donning smoking jackets and French maid’s outfits befitting the comic murder-mystery proceedings of the Underground’s debut screening.

Filing into the theatre before Clue.

“Tons of people have come out to have a good time,” said Woodside. “This is what this place is about. We see films together and we have a good time.” The near-capacity audience’s expectations were immediately rewarded as the theatre’s gold curtains pulled back and the trailer for the 1980 Michael Caine pirate-thriller The Island rolled. The laughter and applause carried through the opening credits for Clue, with people applauding wildly for stars Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, and Madeline Khan.
Prefacing a double-bill of Clue and Big Trouble In Little China with a cult movie trailer, followed by a bunch of people clapping for Madeline Khan? Yup. The Toronto Underground is shaping up to be one of the city’s great rep cinemas.
The Underground’s special presentation programming continues Sunday with a double bill of Muppets Take Manhattan and Labyrinth, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Jim Henson’s passing. Regular daily programming starts May 28.
Photos by David Topping/Torontoist.