A long-standing cultural institution for people who crave more than just entertainment, Toronto’s Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is a year-round film event with a difference. Operated and programmed by the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, it showcases the best of Canadian and international documentaries using state-of-the-art equipment in a restored 684-seat heritage building. How many other cities in the world can boast such a treasure?
You and your friends collectively decide to see a film outside your comfort zone: an in-depth look at an adventure into the far reaches of Antarctica. Make your way to the cinema at Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street in the heart of the lively Annex neighbourhood, and look for the giant, neon-lit, vertical marquee with red block letters—it’s hard to miss. You notice a crowd that’s as diverse as the cinema’s offerings: young and old, professionals and bohemians, and patrons of all ethnicities and cultures.
At the entrance are glass doors with steel fixtures. As the lobby leads you to the concessions, you find yellow walls and an elegantly patterned carpet. You’re confronted with the massive window pane that gives you a clear, wide view of the auditorium’s interior, but don’t worry—the curtains are drawn during screenings so you won’t be distracted. You gaze in at the curved ceiling and gold-trimmed burgundy walls and realize you’ve stepped into an Art Deco movie house from the 1920s.
You’re feeling peckish, so you follow the scent of real-buttered popcorn to the snack bar while your friends scope out the seating situation. The balcony is attractive but, for the best view, they manage to snag the coveted centre seats in the middle of the lower level. The pinstripe grey seats are cushy enough, and you know you’ll be able to spend the next two hours in comfortable style.
During the film, you’re swept away on a cinematic journey through communities in the harsh yet magnificent wilderness of Antarctica. You enjoy the film, but the best is yet to come: a Q&A session with the director himself. It’s a stimulating delight sometimes offered for those who seek more than a simple film-watching experience.
By the end, you’re all so impressed that you vow to return for the cinema’s popular Doc Soup program, showcases, and special presentations such as the encore series of audience favourites. A few of your group consider buying memberships to the theatre, which provides discounts, exclusive invitations, and free popcorn. Bronze memberships are well-suited to the low-key fans in your group, but the real film fanatics go for Gold.
The journey doesn’t end when you exit the doors of Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Cross the street to Insomnia Restaurant & Lounge for cocktails and three-cheese nachos, over which you share your favourite moments and lessons learned from the documentary.