The Carlton Cinemas' Resurrection

As Torontoist reported earlier this week (with pictures), Magic Lantern Theatres (who also operate the Rainbow Cinemas) have their eye on a June 2010 target date to reopen the Carlton Cinemas, which they purchased from former owners Cineplex Odeon.

Cineplex shuttered the cinemas Dec. 6, 2009, and the event received mixed reactions from the media (including myself), whereas others chose to mark the final night by attending a screening, and snapping a few photos for posterity.

MLT's official press release states the 9–screen cinemas will be refurbished and will provide a mix of Hollywood, foreign and indie fare, although I hope the upgrades will include genuinely comfortable seating (the old setup featured stiff seats in cramped quarters), true 5.1 surround sound setups in each theatre, and digital projection systems.

The rebirth of the Carlton might also prove to be a worthy experiment in reformulating the old neighbourhood theatre concept into more than just showing an eclectic film fare. On the one hand, it'll be a welcome quick walk for locals less inclined to trek down and navigate through the kludge of people traffic in order to reach the AMC complex at Dundas Square, as well as the Varsity screens at Bloor & Bay or trek a bit father to the Cumberland.

The Carlton might also be able to service the needs of small groups of cinemagoers or filmmakers wanting to rent a screen for a private use, and perhaps offer the occasional live HD broadcast to patrons (such as the Olympics), or limited runs of classic and cult films from Blu-ray discs, which the Varsity experimented with during the winter holidays.

Because studios practice a kind of hit-and-run style of exhibition – movies open big and loud, but don't last as long in theatres because of preordained ancillary release dates and commitments – cinema owners augment their revenues with absurdly high snack food prices, licensing counter space to brand name vendors, and adding amusements to lobbies, as well as noxious pre-trailer ads that obliterate any hushed conversations between patrons before the house lights have dimmed; collectively they form an assault that makes people prefer watching movies at home for less money and advertorial noise.

Instead of a straight refurbishment, the Carlton's new owners should view the cinemas as an opportunity to create a fusion of classical film exhibition – avoid as much of the vulgarity that's prevalent in the city's major screen complexes – and exploit the advantage of watching a movie that may well be coming soon to, or already present on home video, but is unlikely to be played as big and loud in a modest-sized apartment or condo.

Additionally, the new owners should consider setting up an elite team of in-house behavioral police, expertly trained to extract ringing phones and glowing devices from addicted patrons, and use wide-ended Idiot Sticks for families and patrons who bring chatty living room behaviour into a public theatre.

Just a few suggestions.



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