I must start with the fact that I have been very torn about writing this article. With the news now out that the Toronto Underground Cinema will be closing its doors for good on Sunday Sept 16th, my prediction from when the Cumberland went away in May has unfortunately come true: another member of Toronto’s immensely populated Repertory Cinema scene has fallen, and this time it’s personal. The main reason as to why I have struggled with what to say is that the Underground is not merely a cool little place in the heart of the city with tons of history and an awesome vibe – it’s also populated and run by friends.
Opened in 1977 under the tent pole of the Golden Harvest film production company, the Golden Classics cinema as it was then known, highlighted the best in classic Golden Harvest Kung Fu films in a very crowded marketplace on Spadina in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown. Thriving from the late 70’s through to the early 90’s, the Golden Harvest eventually ran into financial woes and had to close its doors. After another failed attempt that lasted less than a year, the theater languished for 15 years before another attempt to change the house into an experimental film/live performance hall proved unfruitful. Then three young cinema enthusiasts banded together and approached the owner with the idea and concept behind the Toronto Underground Cinema.
Under the new management of Charlie Lawton, and Bloor Cinema alumni Alex Woodside and Nigel Agnew the theater re-opened as the newly christened Toronto Underground Cinema. Utilizing fellow former Bloor Cinema employee Peter Kuplowsky to help program and book the films for the theatre, the cinema got off to an auspicious start, documented in The Rep web-series, but quickly grew to prominence due to themed events featuring the likes of directors Kevin Smith and Edgar Wright. When the Bloor was shut down for almost a year for renovations it was the Underground that stepped forward to host event nights like the ‘Dream Date with Freddy Krueger’ in conjunction with Toronto’s Fan Expo. The Underground also became the new home for Rue Morgue Magazine’s Cinemacabre nights, and, in what may have been their most profitable partnership, they hosted the 2011 version of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
But sadly the theatre itself had started to show its age; some major issues, which had been skirted for years, needed to be resolved. The guys had known all along that there was work that needed to be done, but convincing the people that matter, the ones with the money, turned out to be a goal that never came to fruition. So after closing in July in hopes of starting the renovations that never happened, the guys have since decided to close the doors and move on. I will truly miss the great times and friends of the Underground, some of the after parties are now legends. I wish the boys all the best in whatever they do next.
That said, the guys have decided to go out on a high and have stacked the last two weeks of the Underground’s existence with some excellent counter-TIFF programming. Starting Sept 6TH the theater will host it’s last Film Festival, with the 2012 version of the Toronto Indie Film Festival, the highlight of which is another chance to watch the excellent My Father and the Man in Black on Sept 13th at 9:15. On Sept 8th at 11:50 pm (yes that’s ten to midnight) the boys will host one last cinematic grindhouse blowout from the crew at Vagrancy Films. If you have never been to a Vagrancy show they are a not to be missed events and this time promises to be no different with the screening of Emanuelle Around the World in 35MM! Then comes the final night blowout on Sept 16th with two 35MM film presentations: 1984’s cult classic, Night of the Comet, and the fitting finisher of The Band’s concert film, The Last Waltz.
So if you have been an avid supporter of the cinema or have never been, there are plenty of reasons to get out there and check out the cinema before it’s too late. Goodnight dear Underground, hopefully your slumber is short lived.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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