Tonight in Toronto, the newly renovated Bloor Cinema will make its official debut as the “Bloor Hot Docs Cinema” — the primary venue for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and a year-round showcase for documentary programming in the city.
After two nights of open house screenings of Lucy Walker’s “Waste Land” to give the public a free opportunity to check out the venue, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema will open officially with secret sneak preview of a film that will be premiering at this year’s film festival. Scheduled public programming kicks off Friday with “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
“This will be home to one of the only documentary cinemas anywhere,” Hot Docs’ executive director Chris MacDonald told Indiewire. ” We are, however, under no illusions: our success as a festival doesn’t guarantee we will packing the cinema every night. It will require a lot of hard work, which we are game for. There is enough great content, we just need to build the audience.”
Originally one of the first “picture palaces” in Toronto when it opened back in 1913, the Bloor Cinema is a city icon. But under the threat of closure and redevelopment, Toronto film company Blue Ice Group decided to purchase it and team up with Hot Docs. Under renovation for seven months under architects Hariri Pontarini found inspiration in the venue’s past incarnations. The expanded lobby will feature a large, transparent wall enabling an open view from the street into the auditorium and the refreshed facade will feature a marquee with a large, vertical sign rising along the front of the building.
“This partnership is a game-changer for Hot Docs and great news for Toronto’s film lovers,” McDonald said. “Investors were anxious to purchase and develop the property, but the Bordonaro family was determined to leave the Bloor in cinema-loving hands. Hot Docs and Blue Ice are anxious to meet this challenge. In an era where arts and culture are at risk of funding cuts and indifference from some quarters, this is one of Toronto’s good news stories of the year. We are thrilled.”
As for the programming. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema programmer Robin Smith told Indiewire that the cinema will focus primarily on programming a selection of the best theatrical documentaries, both new and old, to what he sees as a “rapidly growing documentary audience in Toronto.”
“Every month we will be premiering new first-run documentaries along with a collection of ongoing programming series that focus on the wide variety of genres/themes that exist in the doc world,” he said.
Some first-run docs on tap for the next few months include Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s “Fightville,” Xun Yu’s “The Vanishing Light Spring,” Errol Morris’ “Tabloid,” Alex Stapleton’s “Corman’s World,” David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s “Girl Model,” and Dmitry Vasyukov and Werner Herzog’s “Happy People: A Year in Taiga.”
Additionally, they’ll be showcasing classics docs via the Essential Docs series (which every Saturday afternoon shows one of the most acclaimed docs of all time) and showing rockumentary/concert films via a program called “ROCK-DOCS.”
For for more information, check out the cinema’s new website.