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The rep cinema experience

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The rep cinema experience

Old 11-25-23, 05:27 PM
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The rep cinema experience

Over in the Vinegar Syndrome thread in HD Talk, I recently noted (with pics!) the opening of the new Vinegar Syndrome Store here in Toronto, which will now become a new favourite haunt whenever I'm in that neighbourhood. I also mentioned that they were savvy enough to open their store directly across the street from one of the city's venerated repertory cinemas, The Revue. I've never seen a showing in this particular theatre because it's the farthest from home, but I've been in the neighbourhood many times over the years and always stop to check out their calendars in the front poster window, invariably wishing I could go back a couple times a week to attend some pretty cool 35 mm screenings. In the year or two leading up to pandemic, and even moreso after the pandemic, I noticed that this theatre and all of the others here have shifted their programming to be more event-like, and it appears this is the year it's paying off in spades, with sold-out shows galore thanks in large part to an appeal to younger people – namely Gen Z and Millennials – who are all about Instagrammable and TikTok-able retro stuff.

So the timing of this Toronto Star article today about the city's booming repertory cinema scene was rather fortuitous considering the discussion of Vinegar Syndrome store and its proximity to The Revue cinema, which is pictured at the top of the article and mentioned throughout. Stories like these are a nice reminder that younger generations are still embracing 'old' movies, even as everyone probably thinks they're are all about staring at their phones. I know from (limited) experience that the audiences in these places actually run the age gamut, but like all things that suddenly (or gradually) develop retroactive appeal, a sizeable force behind that is young people who often have more time, less space (especially in this overpriced housing market) or need for bulky physical media collections, and less money for the pricier cineplex experience.

In fact, a number of the conversations I overhead while I was in the VS store was people chatting about seeing stuff at the Revue, either that night, or on previous nights, or missing out on tickets because of the sell-outs. The Revue's neighbourhood is a bit far from me, but whenever I visit the areas in which all of these rep cinemas reside and I look at their calendars out front, I really want to book time to go back and see a bunch of stuff, especially with an appreciative crowd that isn't full of the usual multiplex tweens and teenagers. I honestly figured the screenings at these places were as I remembered them from prior to the pandemic; sometimes busy-ish, often not, rarely sold out. Things have clearly changed for the better for the time being. However, by the time I get back home and look at the unconquered mountains of physical media in my place, the motivation for the rep scene dies a bit, and part of me feels that's for the worse.

On Friday evening when I left VS, I crossed the street to check out the Revue's calendar. Moments later a young woman walked up near the window as well. I moved over a bit so she could see the listing, but when I finished I nodded, smiled and headed off, I looked back a couple of times and realized she was still standing there, just waiting. She was clearly the first in line for the next screening (ACTION JACKSON, of all things), and I'd already heard that it was sold out. Even when I was (what I assumed was) her age, the rep cinemas in Toronto were popular, but even though I wasn't a regular attendee I rarely remember hearing about consistently sold-out screenings, so it's definitely a sign that the 'old movies' experience has become the latest social trend for the younger generations, even when they go alone. And I'm cool with that if it keeps the experience alive, especially if they start visiting the VS Store more regularly and maybe help turn DVD and Blu-ray players are the new record players for the retro-hip. One thing I didn't hear from the steady stream of visitors during the 2-3 hours I was fondling all the goodies in the store was scoffing at the notion of physical media, even from people who were clearly just checking out a kooky new store in their neighbourhood. Some seemed genuinely impressed that not only was physical media surviving, but that the packaging and artwork were indicative of something that had re-entered the realm of cool.

Toronto’s indie cinema scene is booming: ‘It’s a different experience than, like, the Cineplex’
Theatres like the Revue on Roncesvalles, the Paradise on Bloor and the Fox in the Beaches are attracting Gen Z by making going to the movies feel like an event.

Figured this might make a worthwhile thread for folks who have similar things happening in their cities, or other interesting stories from the past.

Full text here, in case it's paywalled for some folks:

On a freezing November night, moviegoers packed the Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles for a members only screening of the 1974 classic “Chinatown.”

Yasmin Katz, 17, was among the first in line.

“I come here every day,” said Katz, adding that while she attends new movie releases, she’s mostly drawn to the Revue for its repertory programming.

Katz is one of many rep cinema fans in Toronto. The scene has been booming post-pandemic, with screenings of older films, ranging from the iconic to the obscure, bringing in (often younger) crowds to movie theatres around the city every day of the week. Cinemas have leaned into the momentum by creating themed nights and parties: making going to the movies feel like an event.

Serena Whitney, programming director at the Revue, said their single screen, which originally opened in 1912, had been seeing increasing attendance since its first pandemic reopening in September 2021. Numbers have only grown since.

“This January, we started noticing that people were coming every day,” said Whitney. “January is generally the month where people don’t go to the movies, because they’re recovering financially from Christmas.” October 2023 was another record-breaking month.

While the Revue continues to play occasional second-run new releases and limited runs of newer films, its success is largely due to the theatre’s eclectic and (almost) daily rep screenings.

“It’s becoming a bit trendy to go to repertory screenings because they’re more event-based than going to the multiplex,” said Whitney, suggesting that young people have also been inspired by romantic cinematic depictions of characters attending screenings at older independent theatres.

The Revue offers monthly series like the horror-centric Nightmare Alley; the neo-noir soaked Neon Dreams; and the fun and rowdy Drunken Cinema. Then there’s Dumpster Raccoon, a series featuring “trashy” cult films and live performances before each movie; in December, there’s a singalong screening of the notorious 2019 bomb “Cats.”

Kristal Cooper, general manager at the Fox Theatre — a fixture of the Beaches neighbourhood since 1914 — said that attendance at the Fox has also recently risen above pre-pandemic levels, particularly among younger moviegoers.

“We’ve noticed more high school students coming out to things like horror movies where, before, that would have been mainly geared toward (an) older genre audience,” said Cooper.

Lately, the Fox has been aiming even younger by programming what Cooper describes as “hugely successful” special events, like their Kids’ Video Dance Party, complete with glow sticks.

The Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street West has also prioritized event programming and monthly series like Drag Me to the Movies and Queer Cinema Club, along with the live music and comedy shows that keep the multi-use venue going.

Lucy Walker, internal lead programmer at the Paradise, said she uses the theatre’s storied — and sometimes sordid — history to guide her. Built in 1937 in a beautiful, art deco style, the cinema has gone through many iterations.

“In the ’70s, the Paradise was Eve’s Paradise, an adult movie theatre,” said Walker. The theatre created a Sleaze Factory series in tribute. “It’s basically X-rated, soft-core, however you want to describe that mix of movies that we play late night.”

For moviegoer Maddie Shears, 31, it’s the variety that draws her out to the city’s rep programming, including old horror films and events like the Revue’s Trailer Trash, which screens classic movie trailers.

“It’s a different experience than, like, Cineplex,” said Shears.

TIFF Cinematheque at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is another important fixture in the city’s rep cinema scene. It offers free tickets for members and — new in 2022 — free membership for people under 25, which makes its curated series and retrospectives even more accessible.

Cinematheque regular Jenny Mao, 29, said the free ticket offer and the chance to see classics on the big screen have been a boon to her cinephilia.

“Making the commitment to come to the theatre, I think it’s really been beneficial in how I approach film and how I engage with film,” said Mao.

“The Cinematheque audience is younger than I think it ever was,” said Cameron Bailey, CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival. “And they’re really eager to see, not just new art-house classics, but they’re eating up the older films as well. We can show films (that are) 30, 40, 50, 60 years old to an audience that’s largely under 30. And that, to me, is maybe the most inspiring thing of all.”

David Cuevas, 21, another regular at TIFF and the Revue, hops on the train multiple times a week from Oakville just to take in Toronto’s rep offerings. He described the “adrenalin rush” of getting to see old films and talk about them with other frequent moviegoers.

“There’s culture here,” said Cuevas. “There is intent and passion and community here that I really appreciate.”

For most fans of rep cinema, it’s the experience that gets them out of the house and into the movie theatre.

“They’re doing something that I can’t get anywhere else,” said Steve Gold, 41, about the Revue. “They ran ‘Dracula’ for two nights and sold the place out two nights in a row. I couldn’t get a ticket. But ‘Dracula’ was on Netflix. People are coming for an experience that you can’t get at home.”

Last edited by Brian T; 11-25-23 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 11-26-23, 09:55 AM
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Re: The rep cinema experience

Which version of DRACULA were they running? I'm hoping it was the 1931 version with Bela Lugosi.
Old 11-26-23, 01:06 PM
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Re: The rep cinema experience

So jealous.
Old 11-26-23, 02:05 PM
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Re: The rep cinema experience

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
Which version of DRACULA were they running? I'm hoping it was the 1931 version with Bela Lugosi.
I assumed it was that one, but the only listing (undated now) on their site is for the 1992 version, as part of two different ‘events’ One as part of a series called the ‘Dumpster Raccoon’ and accompanied by live drag performances (which doesn’t surprise me based on Gary Oldman’s performance alone!):

. . . and another screening a few years ago as part of a series called ‘Designing the Movies’, which had Hollywood-via-Toronto costume designer Ane Crabtree discussing the film’s costumes (she didn’t work on the film) with the programmer:

Don’t know if they’ve played the 1931 movie before, but it’s highly likely. I do recall seeing other Universal Monster titles on the calendars in years past.

Originally Posted by Abob Teff
So jealous.
Me too! Even though I’m technically ‘in’ the city, it’s quite a haul to get there, especially with all this physical media holding me back at home. One of these days . . .
Old 11-27-23, 01:21 PM
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Re: The rep cinema experience

I've been lucky enough to live near two repertory theaters. I most recently went to see John Carpenter's Dark Star on 16mm at the one I recently moved closer to and it was awesome. I definitely plan on going back much more.
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