I was there Saturday night, along with the hordes of ticketholders, to watch Undead, an irreverent and delightfully gory Australian zombie flick - the last to spool through the projectors at the legendary Uptown Theatre. Some were scalping tickets. Others waited for hours in the rush line in the hope that tickets would become available at the last minute, among them Calum McLeod and Dan Lespierre, long-time friends who've been watching movies at the Uptown since the late 70s, starting with Airplane and Rocky II.
More than 900 people packed the Uptown 1 at midnight to listen to Colin Geddes, the Toronto International Film Festival's (TIFF) Midnight Madness programmer, introduce the closing film with a stirring memorial to the Uptown that was followed by a moment of silence and a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes.
When I first caught wind of the news that the city's treasured theatre was set to close this year, a mixture of blind optimism, naíveté and denial prevented me from actually believing the threat.
We'd already lost the Eglinton, York and Capitol cinemas, but the Uptown is a landmark that has been an integral part of the growth of TIFF. I obviously wasn't giving enough credence to a city renowned for erasing its links to the past.
I never saw the original circa-1920s theatre before it was gutted by fire in the early 60s. Indeed, it will only be eight years ago this week that I saw my first film in the Uptown balcony, the world premiere of the then little-known Bryan Singer thriller The Usual Suspects.
But the theatre's natural and elaborate beauty has always had an allure that never failed to leave me in a state of breathless awe, as though I were entering C.S. Lewis's magical wardrobe.
It was at the Uptown that I had my first major celebrity sighting while eagerly escorting my friend up the stairs to give him a glimpse of the wondrous Cinema 1, feeling like I was showing off the Big Wheel I got for my sixth birthday.
Right by the entrance sat Quentin Tarantino with two winsome and extremely coked-up blonds on either side, waiting for the start of the Midnight Madness feature. The director was less than friendly to us.
I was at the Uptown when Singer returned with his next film, Apt Pupil, in 1998.
Having worked late that night, I arrived at the theatre at the exact time the film was scheduled to start and had no time to change out of my suit and tie.
The usher mistook me for someone in Singer's entourage and proceeded to seat me in one of the rows reserved for the VIPs.
I was there, too, when Tim Roth screened his wrenching but superb directorial debut, The War Zone, which depicts - sometimes graphically - the way sexual abuse can tear a family apart.
We almost didn't get the opportunity to watch the whole film, because a visibly distraught audience member stood up during one of the more controversial scenes and launched into a tirade before walking out and attempting to set off the fire alarm.
It took several ushers and Roth himself to calm the man down. The film was followed by an unprecedented 75-minute Q&A session during which numerous audience members bared their souls in front of complete strangers about sexual abuse in their own lives.
Three years later, I was volunteering the night Al Pacino's Chinese Coffee debuted. As Pacino walked from his limo surrounded by bodyguards, the crowd of stargazers began to swarm the doorway.
Another volunteer and I immediately took on the job of crowd control, using all our strength to hold the doors shut and keep the masses at bay once Pacino - looking much tinier and noticeably more vulnerable than in any of his films - was inside.
As I look ahead to next year, I find myself unable to envision the festival without the Uptown. I feel almost betrayed.
Famous Players refused to invest $2.5 million to make the Uptown wheelchair accessible, accelerating its closure. Yet the company plans to replace it with a more modern 10-screen theatre and condo complex at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, which is sure to cost significantly more than that. If preserving any theatre warrants a boycott of the company, this is surely the one.
After Saturday's final showing, TIFF's Geddes urged the audience to do everything we could in the coming months "to save this beautiful space."
Then he invited everyone to come up onstage for photographs. Some stayed wistfully in their seats, paying their last respects to an old friend.