The cinema opened its doors as a film house on December 23, 1913 under the name Madison Theatre, making it one of the first picture palaces in Toronto.
By the end of the decade, the Madison was joined in the Annex neighbourhood by Allen’s Bloor Theatre (now Lee’s Palace) and the Alhambra Theatre, both opening in 1919 near the Bloor and Bathurst intersection.
In 1940, under the management of 20th Century Theatres, the Madison was demolished and rebuilt according to the plans of prolific theatre architects Kaplan & Sprachman. All that remained of the original theatre were its two side walls. In 1941, the newly rebuilt venue opened as the Midtown and remained a popular neighborhood cinema through the 1940s and 1950s, famous for packed weekend matinees and horror double-bills.
By the mid-1960s, theatre admissions across Toronto had declined, and in 1967 the Midtown, under the management of Famous Players, was renamed the Capri.
The theatre continued the Midtown’s programming approach until 1973 when, re-christened as the Eden, it switched to heavily-censored adult films.
In 1979, Famous Players closed down the Eden and re-opened it as the Bloor Theatre, offering first-run films for as increasingly family-oriented neighborhood. Within a year, the Bloor Theatre closed and was taken over by Carm Bordonaro and his partners. With the new management came the introduction of memberships, classic and genre film programming, and packed houses.
Later, upon Carm’s departure, the Bloor Cinema became part of the Festival Cinemas chain, and operated as such until 1999 when Carm and his brother Paul returned to manage the venue. Then, in 2010, the Bordonaro family purchased the building to ensure its survival as a cinema.
In 2011, after turning away numerous property developers, the Bordonaros found a like-minded buyer for the struggling cinema in Toronto-based Blue Ice Group, a film financing and production company, and its partner, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Under the management of Hot Docs, the Bloor Cinema offers a year-round home for first-run Canadian and international documentaries, as well as special documentary presentations and showcases, including the popular Doc Soup screening series. Continuing its longstanding role as a community cinema, it hosts many of the city’s independent film festivals and offers audiences some repertory and specialized fiction film programming.
The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema reopened in March, 2012 after undergoing renovations to upgrade projection and sound capabilities, improve seating, expand restroom and lobby facilities, and refresh its facade.
For more information on the history of the Bloor Cinema, visit silenttoronto.com.