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Monday, January 16, 2012

Sean Kelly

Movie Theatres of My Life

I've been going to cinemas for pretty much my entire life.  I can probably say that I've been to most cinemas in Toronto at least once and there's many that I still go to on a regular basis.

I thought that after all the posts I made about the Humber Cinema last year, I should go back and talk about the other cinemas I have fond memories of growing up.

While it would be too much to talk about EVERY cinema I've been to, I thought I would talk about the ones I have the fondest memories of and/or went to the most frequently.  Some of these cinemas are now closed, while others I still regularly go to. Enjoy.



Famous Players Westwood
Location: Bloor and Kipling
Started Attending: Late 1980s/early 1990s
Closed Down: 1998

While nothing but a dilapidated building remains today, the Westwood cinema was the primary cinema of my childhood.  My parents would often take me to this theatre to see many family friendly films.  These included most Disney films, the Super Mario Bros film, and I believe I also saw Hook in this theatre.  I stopped going to this theatre when I started going to movies alone and the theatre closed down in 1998.


Famous Players/Alliance Runnymede
Location: Bloor and Runnymede
Started Attending: Early 1990s
Closed Down: 1998

The Runnymede Theatre was a historical theatre in the Bloor West Village neighbourhood where I grew up. While I went to a few films here as a child, the cinema is most memorable for being the location where I saw my first movie without parental supervision.  Shortly after I turned 13 in 1995, Batman Forever was released as one of the big summer blockbusters of that year.  I was so excited to see the film and was very happy when I found out it was playing at the Runnymede.  I then proceeded to go back and forth between the Runnymede and Humber for my movie-going needs.

The Runnymede Theatre closed in 1998 (I went to see Shakespeare in Love at the theatre on its final day) and it has since been converted into a Chapters bookstore (though it still retains the basic layout of the the theatre).

Cineplex Odeon Humber
Location: Bloor and Jane
Started Attending: 1988
Closed Down: 2003 (reopened independently in 2011).

I thought I would at least mention it, however I already talked enough about my history with the theatre.

Cineplex Odeon Sherway
Location: Queensway and West Mall (just across from Sherway Gardens)
Started Attending: 1989
Closed Down: 2001

My most memorable early memory of the Sherway Cinemas was in how it was the location where I saw one of my first non-animated films (Ghostbusters 2).  I became a more regular attendee of the theatre in the late-90s, following the closure of the Runnymede Theatre.  The Sherway Cinemas quietly closed down in 2001, when it was replaced with the nearby Queensway Cinemas.

Cineplex Odeon Square One
Location: Square One Shopping Centre
Attended: Early 1990s

The Square One cinema (which I believe is now operated by Empire) was a cinema I've only been to a handful of times in the early 1990s.  Most of these visits were for seeing special Disney Double Features that used to happen, in which we saw an upcoming Disney film a few weeks early, before staying to see a film that was already in release.  The most memorable of these parings that I saw was Aladdin, followed by The Mighty Ducks.  The Square One cinema is also memorable for being the theatre where I saw Batman Returns (yes, I was a big Batman fan as a kid). 


Cineplex Odeon Queensway
Location: Queensway and Islington 
Started Attending: 2001

The Queensway cinema opened in 2001, replacing the nearby Sherway Cinema, and today it remains my primary cinema.  If you ever saw Harold and Kumar Go to While Castle, you would know that the Queensway appears on screen in the film (ironically, I did not see that film at the Queensway).

Famous Players Paramount/Cineplex Scotiabank
Location: John and Richmond
Started Attending: Early 2000s

While I thought that the "ScotiaMount" was a cool theatre when it first opened, today I consider it a perfect example of how corporate movie theatres have become.  These days I prefer only going to this cinema for IMAX films and I tend to consider other locations before coming here for normal films.


Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinemas
Location: Bay and Bloor (in the Manulife Centre)
Started Attending: 2003

The Varsity is Cineplex's main arthouse cinema and it's pretty much the place to go for limited release or foreign films (though mainstream releases play here too).  I first went to the theatre during my first Toronto Film Festival in 2003 and it helped with my decision to make the theatre my venue of choice when I started volunteering for TIFF in 2006.  Even though the theatre is now no longer used for TIFF, I still make a point to come to the theatre semi-regularly.

Alliance Cumberland
Location: Avenue and Cumberland
Started Attending: 2005

A true arthouse cinema, I first went to the Cumberland in 2005 to see Brick and I made it a point to try and return regularly to see films that were outside the mainstream.  In it's heyday, the Cumberland had a discount ticket price that made the theatre an inexpensive alternative to mainstream theatres.  However, while the cinema still plays independent films, the ticket prices have gone up and more mainstream films have started showing more regularly.


AMC Yonge & Dundas
Location: 10 Dundas East (Yonge and Dundas)
Started Attending: 2008

The biggest multiplex in downtown Toronto opened in one of the best ways ever - free movies!  I fondly remember seeing a free screening of 3:10 to Yuma at this theatre as part of its grand opening and I have been a regular attendee at the theatre ever since.  In my opinion, the AMC is the best of the cinemas in downtown Toronto and I find that the atmosphere is a bit more pleasant than Cineplex.  Also, because films often play on multiple screens, the theatre has the best showtimes in the city, with a new showing often starting every half hour.

The theatre also has some decent indie selections.  The most memorable of these that I saw was the full 4 hr+ roadshow version of Che.  I definitely love seeing films at this theatre.

And I think that's where I will stop.  While there are at least six more cinemas I could put on this list (Silvercity Yorkdale, Silvercity Eglinton, the Boor Cinema, Kingsway Theatre, Bell Lightbox and Toronto Underground), I think these ten cinemas best reflect my memories of growing up seeing films in Toronto.  Perhaps I will write a follow-up someday and talk about some more of the cinemas I've been to.

Until then, I hoped you enjoyed this list.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).