I have lived in the west end of Toronto most of my life and have never been to The Revue Cinema. I know I’m not the only one as embarrassing as that is to admit. These old cinemas harken back to simpler times and promise a similar film experience.
The Revue Cinema’s history is an interesting one. As per its website:
‘The Revue has occupied its Roncesvalles Avenue location since 1912, and until June, 2006, never closed its doors. That gave it the distinction of being one of the oldest continuously running movie theatres in the country.
In 2006, at the urging of the Revue Film Society, the Toronto Preservation Board recognized the heritage value of elements of the Revue’s façade, recommending historic designation. The building is described as having classical Edwardian details, typical of the World War 1 era.
The distinctive Art Deco marquee was a later addition but became the feature everyone associated with the slightly shabby but endearing neighbourhood theatre. It came crashing down one night in February, 2007, when a weakened supporting chain snapped under the weight of ice and snow. The metal lettering that graced the canopy was saved.
The Revue, which was part of the Festival Cinemas group, had been owned by Etobicoke resident, accountant and film buff Peter McQuillan. He passed away in 2004 and his children decided to sell The Revue. The Revue closed on June 30, 2006.
The Revue Film Society, raised close to $130,000 to support a rescue effort. In 2007, the community-based organization negotiated a lease for The Revue.
In August, 2007, the lease was put into effect and an army of volunteers scrubbed, fixed plaster, painted and scraped gum from under the seats. A newly crafted Revue Cinema letters were mounted where the marquee had been. New carpets were also installed. Many supplies were donated by local businesses, such as paint from High Park Paint and Wallpaper.
Early in October, 2007, The Revue re-opened with a gala screening of Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot and a post-screening celebration. The next chapter in the theatre’s history has now begun, using the new motto: Reel Diversity, Real Community.’
This past Thursday night I decided to watch ‘The Master’ at The Revue Cinema. When I entered the theatre I said hello to the girl behind the candy counter and she said hello and introduced herself to me. It was genuine, friendly and warm energy.
I was more excited to see The Revue Cinema than the actual film. When I walked in just a shave before 9 p.m. an event was finishing up. This theatre still had its original ticket booth in the front of the cinema, curtained door coverings, the lobby of the theatre was tiny and had people from the event milling about, a vintage candy and popcorn stand looked stocked, inviting and very darling. Inside the theatre the scale was grandiose, beautifully painted white walls with peacock coloured panels, crown mouldings on the ceiling and painted white wood panelling. The chairs were lounge ready and very comfy. I would say even Lazy Boy worthy. The floors were clean and not sticky. This theatre was lovingly maintained by warm hands and hearts. I sat in my chair and took in the theatre. The Revue Cinema is a Toronto landmark.
There is only one cinema at the Revue and it’s majestic. The sound surrounded me. As I watched ‘The Master’ my mind wandered and I wondered how many films had been shown here, how many faces has this theatre seen, what stories does this cinema know?
There was a middle aged couple in front of me, who were chomping away at their popcorn. I overhead, the gentleman state at one point ‘I grew up in this neighbourhood and walked by The Revue all the time but never came in. I can’t believe I’m here’. I grinned.
Prior to the film’s commencement the screen flickered messages of the theatres history. ‘The Revue is 100 years old’, ‘Our patrons are our friends’ and ‘If you become annoyed by someone in the theatre, tell a manager’. Wow. Simple messages full of pride, trust, and appreciation. I will put my money into a not for a profit movie theatre that authentically has their patron’s backs.
People quietly wandered into the theatre – by the time 9:15 p.m. rolled around and the first few minutes of the film started, the theatre was filled with 40 people.
‘The Master’ – in typical Paul Thomas Anderson fashion, I need to watch this film again. Similar to that of his previous film ‘There Will Be Blood’ – ‘The Master’ is complex. The film was partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but also used early drafts of There Will Be Blood, stories Jason Robards had told Anderson about his drinking days in the Navy during the war, and the life story of John Steinbeck.
The film was a hard watch. Viewing people’s exposed vulnerabilities taken advantage off is difficult to bear witness to. Paul Thomas Anderson does this well. With his extreme close-ups, multilayered storytelling and developing characterization whose truths slowly unravels with a determined thread makes for great film watching.
I’m glad I watched ‘The Master’ at The Revue Cinema. The ambience amplified my film experience. If you are looking for a movie experience that is not overly complicated, chilled, with state of the art film equipment while taking in a piece of Toronto cinematic history– get on the streetcar at Dundas Street West and get off at Howard Park. Let’s keep the glowing awnings of The Revue Cinema alive and brightening up our street and imaginations for another 100 years.
The Revue Cinema
400 Roncesvalles Avenue