Monday, February 08, 2016

Sean Kelly

Death of a Cinema? A Recap of the Community Meeting at the Humber Cinema

It was an incredibly emotional night as I attended a "pre-application" community meeting at the Humber Cinema. The purpose of the meeting was for a condo developer to make their pitch for a new development on the site of the cinema and field questions, comments and concerns from the people in attendance.

The meeting was held in the main cinema in the lower level of the cinema. I was happy that there was a near-full turnout at this meeting, given how sudden the announcement of this proposed development was. In fact, the sudden bombshell was a recurring comment made by the people who spoke at the meeting.

The meeting was introduced by local counselor Sarah Doucette, who made sure to emphasize that this was was pre-application meeting and that the plans were not yet submitted and/or approved by the city, with there to be a more official meeting after approval. The main part of the meeting involved a presentation made by the principal architect behind this project.

One thing that became painfully clear during the presentation is that the Humber Cinema was not at all included in any of the proposed building designs. I held back tears as the proposal discussed the details of a 14-storey condo complex, which would include two lower levels of retail space.

It was obvious that the developer was attracted to the prime piece of real estate right on the corner of Bloor and Jane, which includes the Jane subway station being right across the street. We were presented with sketches of three possible building layouts, all of which would tower above the six-storey building that lay adjacent.

It would be safe to say that this proposal was generally not well accepted by the people in attendance at the meeting, who among other things were concerned with the size of the building and the increased traffic that it would generate. I was one of the first people to make a comment at the meeting, which resulted in me getting up and reading a statement that I had prepared, which was actually met by applause.

Here is the full text of what I said:
Hello, my name is Sean Kelly.

I was a resident of the Bloor West Village area from 1986 to 2013. I am currently a freelance film writer, currently writing for my own site Sean Kelly on Movies, as well as the online magazine Toronto Film Scene.

It would be an understatement to say that I have a nostalgic connection to the Humber Cinema. As a teenager, I saw countless films at both the Humber and Runnymede Theatre, which helped to develop my love of cinema. It was a very sad day for me when the Runnymede Theatre closed back in 1999, but at least the building received historical status and is preserved, despite now housing a Shopper’s Drug Mart.

I believe that it is a crime that the Humber Cinema did not receive the same treatment as the Runnymede Theatre, particularly since it was first opened in 1949 as one of the first five theatres of the Odeon Theatre chain, which would later become part of Cineplex Odeon. When Cineplex closed the Humber back in 2003, this building was simply left to rot for eight years.

I considered it a very big deal when the Humber reopened back in 2011. While there were some bumps in the road, I believe that the Humber has been thriving over the course of the last five years and is an important part of the Bloor West Village community. I am personally still a very regular patron of the Humber, even though I haven’t lived in the area for the last two years.

The last thing this community needs is a 14-storey monstrosity that will forever change the face of Bloor West Village. This is the latest example of condo developers in the city of Toronto, who want to build condos with little or no consideration about the area they are developing. While I may be just one person with nostalgic memories of a local cinema, I am sure that I am not alone in the belief that this condo would like transform the great Business Improvement Area of Bloor West Village into just another over-developed area of a city that is becoming overdeveloped.

Thank You
I was happy to hear that many of the other people at the meeting supported my disapproval of the Humber Cinema being torn down as part of this development. While part of me fears that these concerns fell on deaf ears, I am sure that the developers were taken aback by the largely negative response to their proposal. My goal personally was to argue that the Humber Cinema was a historical building, having been first opened in 1949. I even yelled out this fact as the architect was talking about the possibilities of the cinema being incorporated into the development plans. Sadly, the architect's response was solely to yell at me for speaking out of turn, in which I responded by getting up and leaving, refusing to give any more of my time.

Just I was leaving, I was actually approached by a reporter for, Bloor West Village's community newspaper, The Villager, to whom I answered some questions about my concerns. I will definitely keep an eye out and see if I am quoted.

I will be the first to say that I am not really the activist type and while I am happy that I didn't passively stay at home, it was still a very stressful experience. I will be really sad if the Humber Cinema does end up being replaced by a condo, since it was once of the few resurrection stories in a city full of dead cinemas.

If you want to help save the Humber Cinema, I have created an online petition to try and get the cinema declared a historical landmark.

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).