When AMC bugged out of Canada last year, industry watchers fretted about what would happen now that Cineplex had essentially no competition on the megaplex front. (Empire Theatres and Rainbow Cinemas operate on a far smaller scale.) Would Cineplex go mad with power? Would smaller movies be shut out of the running entirely? What about the children?
It's turned out surprisingly well. Cineplex did snap up a number of AMC houses, including the downtown Yonge-Dundas 24, but for the most part the new owners haven't interfered with the business model. The programming is a mixture of studio blockbusters and smaller titles, with a scattering of Indian and Asian films in exclusive Toronto runs. And over the past few months, Cineplex has quietly turned Auditorium 16 into a repertory theatre. They call it the Event Screen.
Admission for most screenings is just six dollars, though Saturday morning children's features are only $2.50. (Premium prices are in effect for special presentations like the Sinister Cinema horror screenings, which currently features The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh.)
There are music docs, themed series - this month, it's "Romance Me," with William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet and Amélie, and "Vegas Baby," offering Honeymoon In Vegas, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Swingers and the original Ocean's 11 - and revivals of classics like Roman Holiday and Full Metal Jacket. The new HD restoration of Cleopatra will screen at 2:30 pm on May 22, in advance of its Blu-ray release on the 28th.
The recent Tragically Hip documentary Bobcaygeon screens this week in the "Mostly Music" series; next week, it's Bachman & Turner: Live At The Roseland Ballroom NYC, with Randy Bachman himself in attendance for the May 17 show. And on May 14 and 28, Ryerson sociology professor Murray Pomerance will discuss Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation in the "Film 101" series.
The May schedule (PDF link) looks remarkably like a rep-cinema pullout from the glory days of the Bloor, before its reinvention as a documentary venue. And maybe that's the point; in the 21st century, the repertory theatre as we knew it can only survive within the host body of a corporate megaplex. Who'd have imagined we'd end up here?