Toronto Underground Cinema for Sale!

I’ve previously posted about the tragic closing of the Underground. However, it appears that anyone interested in revamping operations at the beloved Spadina basement theatre can do so, for the price tag of  approximately $1.6 million. The listing is here.  For posterity’s sake, here are the details:


88 Spadina Ave

$1,629,000 Mortgage Calculator
Toronto, ON, M5T 3B2
MLS: C2465933

Theatre! Movies! Screening! Lectures! Shows! Fabulous Venue! 706 Seats * 40′ Ceiling * Great Venue * Lower Level W/Operative Concession Bar * Mens & Womens Bathroom W/6 Stalls/Washrooms In Each,Lower Level Vestibule,6500 Theatre Space Approx 10,000 – 11,000 Overall Space Incl Theatre,Main And Lower Level Lobby,Projection/Film Room, Electrical And Storage Rooms,3 Fire Exits,Front & Rear Entrance,Bathrooms


Property Type: Commercial
Age: 16-30
Lot Size: 10000 sqft

Night of the Comet

(poster by Daniel Bresette and can be viewed here)

For its final night, the Toronto Underground Cinema ran the inspired double-bill of Night of the Comet and the Last Waltz. Having not seen Night of the Comet before, I was pleasantly surprised. A playful 80s zombie / post-apocalyptic one-off, it combines the MTV sensibility of Valley Girl and Fast Times at Ridgemont High with the ominous dread of Dawn of the Dead. With its tongue firmly planted in cheek, the film (to its credit) does not take itself too seriously. As a result, it has dated extremely well.

Actors Robert Beltran and Catherine Mary Stewart give fun but not hammy performances that are a joy to watch. The 80s soundtrack delivers an expected jolt of energy that helps sustain the film’s pace. This is the type of fun, late-night fare that CityTV used to specialize in. While it appears that the DVD is out of print, those who are interested shouldn’t find it too hard to track down a copy. For more info, check out this informative site.

Also, it is worth commending the guys at the Underground for the theatre’s great run during its 2.5 years of operation. Nigel Agnew, Alex Woodside and Charlie Lawton ran programming that was personal and spoke to their interests. Frequently brave, they took risks on screenings that they were passionate about. Who else would screen stoner classic Heavy Metal on a weeknight? Toronto is definitely worse off without them. I remain hopeful that even if the Underground does not re-open,  Agnew, Woodside and Lawton will go on to do other interesting things and continue to play a role in the Toronto film scene. Am I the only one who is going to miss seeing the Golden Harvest logo (which should be famous to any seasoned kung fu nuts) on the wall by the stair case?

And on that note, the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” scene from Night of the Comet.

UPDATE: The Toronto Underground updated its Facebook page with the following goodbye message. For the purpose of posterity, I’m posting it here as well:

That’s all folks!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this thing over the last few years. It has changed the 3 of us more then we can say. We are sad to see it go, but welcome a new chapter of life.

To everyone who came last night to watch the films and party with us; thanks for making the bitter sweet, totally sweet! It was a fucking blast, and now we are all hung over!

See ya’round Toronto!

Toronto Underground Cinema to close in September

One of the more exciting things to happen to Toronto in the last few years has been the reopening of the Golden Classics Theatre on Spadina as the Toronto Underground Cinema. Since opening, the Toronto Underground set itself apart by screening classics and offbeat fare like Heavy MetalInfernal AffairsDeep RedThe BeyondCowboy Bebop, and Detroit 9000, scheduling monthly burlesque shows and programming truly awesome events like the original Batman screening / Adam West Q&A. When the theatre announced in July that it was closing for August for renovations, most of us thought that the theatre would only come back stronger and better. However, John Semley for the Toronto Star reports that the Underground will be reopening shortly only to close for good in mid-September. Definite bummer. 

It’s hardly an amicable breakup, but the Underground crew knew it was a gamble going in. “We were never working with a reasonable budget to do what we were trying to do,” says Woodside. “And we just decided we were going to do it anyway.”

The Underground will screen its last double-bill Sunday, Sept. 16: fittingly programmed screenings of the cult doomsday flick Night of the Comet and The Band’s 1976 farewell concert film The Last Waltz. Both films will be projected in 35mm.

Read the rest of Semley’s article here.

Then and Now: the El Mo

In Then and Now, a series of articles detailing the history of Toronto night clubs, respected writer Denise Benson has a feature on the El Mocambo during its 1989-2001 years. Interestingly, Benson bypasses the club’s more famous earlier years to make the case that the club was just as vibrant at the turn of the century. One of Benson’s great strengths as a writer is her ability to get quotes from those who were there. This article is no exception with interesting insights from among others promoter Dan Burke, past owner Enzo Petrungaro, and DJ Davy Love.

“I’d quickly learned that, as a new player in the field, I had to tap into acts, labels, and booking agents that weren’t already sewn up by established competitors,” Burke writes in an email interview. “So that’s what I did—and very deeply so—once I was at The El Mocambo. Whatever was cutting-edge—The Toilet Boys from N.Y.C., stoner rock acts from Man’s Ruin Records, nerd heroes like Wesley Willis, electroclash ensembles like Chicks on Speed, Japan’s Zoobombs and The 5,6,7,8s, Montreal’s The Dears—I got the best of them, and made the El Mocambo an important international club again.”

The Deadly Snakes, The Sadies (sometimes with R&B legend Andre Williams), Danko Jones, Sum 41, and Peaches were among the local favourites booked by Burke. He was also responsible for repeat visits by Japan’s Zoobombs, who recorded their album, Bomb You Live, at the El Mo in April 2000, and released it on Toronto’s Teenage USA label in 2001.

“Being a show promoter is like gambling,” says Burke. “When you win, sometimes you also get to see a great show. When you lose, sometimes you get to see a great show. It’s the greatest job in the world if you can keep going.”

Check out the article here.