Hot Docs Details Bloor Cinema Overhaul, Off-Screen and On
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Hot Docs Details Bloor Cinema Overhaul, Off-Screen and On

The Bloor's new owners have announced programming and architectural plans for the long-standing Annex rep house.

Award-winning Toronto architectural firm Hariri Pontarini is to restore the cinema's once-proud façade. Photo by Julian Carrington.

In early July, we reported that Hot Docs had acquired the Bloor Cinema with the intent of carrying out an extensive overhaul, both off-screen and on. With the film house nearing its 100th anniversary, and very much looking its age, news of the impending renovations was generally well received by Toronto film fans. More controversial was the planned shift in programming, away from cult staples and second-run releases toward non-fiction films. Last Thursday Hot Docs announced that Robin Smith, president of doc-focused distributor KinoSmith, would be taking the programming reins.

According to a release from Hot Docs, “Smith will be responsible for selecting and booking films to screen at the cinema, including first-run documentary titles and some fiction films, as well as the programming of documentary retrospectives and other non-fiction programs and special events.” This corresponds with the statements of Hot Docs executive director Chris MacDonald, who revealed at a recent public consultation session that the organization envisioned an approximately four-to-one ratio of non-fiction to fiction programming at the new-look Bloor.

On his appointment, Smith said, “I’m ecstatic to be involved with Hot Docs in the programming one of Canada’s oldest and largest cinemas. I’ve been a loyal fan and friend of both Hot Docs and the Bloor throughout my whole career, so having a chance to be involved in this new venture is beyond belief for me. I couldn’t be happier to be given such an exciting opportunity.”

Smith—whose former affiliations include TIFF, Lionsgate, and Seville Pictures—founded KinoSmith in 2007 and has previously partnered with Hot Docs in curating the Hot Docs Collection, a series of DVD and Blu-ray releases of acclaimed non-fiction films and popular Hot Docs festival selections. Dramatic features distributed via KinoSmith include Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff and vaunted indie genre piece Bellflower, which bodes well for the quality, if not the quantity, of the Bloor’s feature programming going forward.

The Bloor's beloved but bedraggled interior will soon be a thing of the past. Photo by {a href=""}wvs{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Helming the design of the physical reconstruction is Toronto-based firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, which, in addition to producing prize-winning designs for international and regional projects, won a Toronto Urban Design Award for its work on the Pape/Danforth Public Library. That design, which preserved the library’s ’20s-vintage exterior, is a promising indication of what the firm is planning for the Bloor.

More specifically, the Hot Docs statement promises “a larger screen, a larger and revitalized lobby and concession area, improvements to the seating and building façade, a wheelchair accessible washroom facility on the main floor and improvements to the second floor washroom facilities, as well as a refresh of the interior design that aims to draw attention to the building’s celebrated history as an over 100-year-old cinema.” The organization will release additional details in the coming months and anticipates that the cinema’s grand re-opening will occur in December or January.