Interview with Morgan White, director of the Rep

Toronto documentary director Morgan White spent several months filming Charlie Lawton, Alex Woodside and Nigel Agnew as they struggled to manage the now-closed Toronto Underground, which was arguably Toronto’s most interesting rep theatre experiment in years. Documentary The Rep is the result of his efforts. Toronto Film Scene editor-in-chief Krystal Cooper recently featured an interview with White that is worth reading and can be found here

What was the best part of making the film?

I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people making the film, many of whom I call friends. Meeting Alex, Nigel and Charlie, and getting to know them and call them friends, will always be the best part of this whole project.

The most frustrating?

Not surprisingly, the guys from The Underground! It’s very hard to spend most of your time with the same people, following them with the intention of getting to the deepest part of their personality. Sometimes that proved to be a challenge, and one that was both frustrating and exhilarating.

For more info on the rep, including screening times and episodes from the original web series, follow this link.

George Romero interview

Further to my earlier post on tonight’s Creepshow screening, I note that the Toronto Star‘s Philip Brown has an interview with director George Romero worth reading here.

Romero on Hollywood remaking his classic horror films:

I try not to see them. I saw Dawn and thought it had lost its reason for being because there’s nothing about consumer society and what could they even say? Malls were already starting to close. And The Crazies? They even managed to turn that into a zombie movie.

Do you know that he lives in Toronto and now has dual citizenship? Who’d have thunk it.

 

 

Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Toronto Port Authority is screening Creature from the Black Lagoon tonight as part of its sail-in cinema program. Tickets are free (and still available). Viewers are invited to bring their blankets and treats and watch this Universal Studios classic in glorious black and white from the shore as the film is projected onto a floating screen on Lake Ontario. It’s hard to think of a more perfect film (Jaws?) to show in this manner. With the forecast for tonight calling for clear skies, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. For more details, go here.

All behind-the-scene stills from Retronaut.

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.

Toronto’s only Porn Theatre to Start Nightly Screenings of Art, Schlock, Indie and Foreign Films

The story of Toronto’s west end Metro Theatre is fascinating. Opened in the 1930s, the Metro is one of the Toronto’s oldest independent theatres. The theatre switched to adult-only fare in the 1970s (I remember reading that the owner held the Canadian distribution rights to the Emanuelle series), and has been dying slowly ever since, a not uncommon fate for adult film theatres.

Generally, the story of the Metro and its downfall is a depressing one, particularly the owner’s perpetual bad luck (he actually had dreams of screening Bollywood movies), who is by all accounts a nice guy (the ticket booth used to stock charged car batteries for people with car problems). The Metro has always had a place in my heart. Back in the ’90s, I was lucky enough to catch Shaw Bros. classic Master Killer: 36th Chamber of Shaolin at the Metro where it played as part the Kung Fu Fridays series.

However, there may still be hope for the theatre yet. The Toronto Star reports that Jonathan Hlibka and Nadia Sandhu, owner-operators of east end rep theatre the Projection Booth, have a management deal to program nightly screenings at the Metro.

Hlibka and Sandu plan to schedule a mix similar to that of the Projection Booth–recent indies, documentaries and cult faves. This is great news and Hlibka and Sandu are the right people for the project.

Pagliaro, Jennifer. “Toronto’s Last Porn Movie Theatre to get Art House Cinema Makeover.” The Toronto Star. 3 Aug 2012.

Jonathan Hlibka is smiling in the Metro Theatre‘s front lobby, pointing behind the concession stand to the Caribbean-themed mural of a giant big-beaked toucan and the words “Welcome” spelled out in yellow and orange paint.

Nearby is another out-of-place bird — so dirty it’s hard to tell if it’s bronze or gold — perched atop a stone fountain, buried under piles of junk and debris through a nearby door whose frame hangs orphan from any wall.

“It’s like Scarface,” Hlibka says of the west-end Koreatown space. “I love the space…I love how ostentatious and how gaudy it is. It’s charming.”

Al Pacino reportedly liked it, too, and was rumoured to have sat in one of the dingy theatre seats during the filming of his 1989 film Sea of Love, in which the opening credits feature the exterior “XXX” marquee.

In those days, the theatre had passed through the glorious cinema boom, having switched to adult movies — what film buffs call “skin cinema” or simply, pornography — for more than a decade.

But after sinking its current owners into debt, the province’s last porn palace may finally make a comeback with the help of Hlibka and partner, Nadia Sandhu, who hope their “labour of love” will transform the near Bloor St. W. theatre, near Christie St., into a nightly arthouse cinematic experience.

The pair, who run the distribution company Studio Film Group, will be kicking off their trial run on Aug. 17 with regular programming of “art, schlock, indie and foreign” films.

“Consider us like a pop-up shop,” Hbilka said.

For more on the Metro’s depressing but interesting history, also check out the following stories.

Akler, Howard. “A Tale of Two Theatres: While the Bloor Cinema is Reborn, nearby Metro Threatre Languishes.” National Post. 10 Mar 2012.

Kennedy, Brendan. “The Metro: Still X-rated, still for sale.” Toronto Star. 29 Dec 2011.