Hot Docs Consults the Public On the Bloor Cinema's Future
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Hot Docs Consults the Public On the Bloor Cinema’s Future

A crowd of about 100 gathered in the Bloor's screening area with the lights turned up. Normally hidden in the darkness, all the theatre's chipped paint and worn upholstery was plainly visible

Last month, Blue Ice Film announced it would purchase the Bloor Cinema to serve as a permanent, year-round home for Hot Docs, the annual documentary festival. Hot Docs is planning to renovate the theatre, but they’re attuned enough to their core audience—cinema nerds and Annex residents—to know that change might lead to backlash. And so Wednesday night, in the theatre, they held a community consultation session.

“Demolition is scheduled to start next week,” said Chris McDonald, executive director of Hot Docs, before the session began. The plan is to reopen next fall, though initial predictions that the cinema could be back in business by October are looking increasingly fanciful. Hot Docs may screen films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox if the Bloor isn’t in usable shape in time for the season’s first Doc Soup installment.

Wednesday’s consultation was not the first. Hot Docs has been talking with nearby business owners. The response, according to McDonald, has been “very positive.”

The organization has never owned or run a theatre before. “This is a brand new business, for us,” said McDonald. “And we’re not taking anything for granted.”

It would perhaps be cynical to suggest that the whole consultation exercise had been set up to defuse criticism, but on the other hand it was evident that Hot Docs was interested, at least in part, in currying favour with the crowd. There was free popcorn. They were literally buttering people up.

At 7:00 p.m., a crowd of about 100 gathered in the Bloor’s screening area. With the lights turned up all the theatre’s chipped paint and worn upholstery, normally hidden in the darkness, was plainly visible. For better or worse, the time is right to invest some money in the building’s upkeep.

Harvey Lalonde, who has been involved with the Bloor Cinema for five years (three as a volunteer, and two as paid staff), and who will likely be returning at next year’s Hot Docs as a dignitary when a documentary about his life as a serial film-festival volunteer debuts there, was optimistic about the renovation.

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