The Ultimate Handbook for the Toronto Cinephile

The Ultimate Handbook for the Toronto Cinephile

Photo Credit: Toronto Journey 416

Detailing the best places in Toronto to indulge in the artistry that is cinema

Andrew Roberts, Copy Editor

There is so much to do downtown that it can be overwhelming. Especially as U of T students, we typically spend a lot of time on campus. It’s important to always have a good idea of the resources at your disposal if you want to get a bite to eat, have a place to study, or, as in my case, take a load off and experience a film. Over the last four years at U of T, I have developed a passion for cinema, and the different theatres and shops located downtown have become the tools that help me strengthen this passion. After watching nearly 400 films last year, I have compiled a list of my favourite places downtown that helped me get to that number. If you are willing to take this journey through cinema with me, I hope you will find something helpful in this guide.

Section 1: Downtown Theatres

As U of T students, we have reasonable access to three Cineplex locations (Varsity, Scotiabank, and Yonge-Dundas), which all have their pros and cons. Varsity is the closest to the St. Mike’s border and is only a five-minute walk from Brennan Hall. Varsity also typically has access to the best “arthouse” films of the year, which cannot be seen anywhere else in the city. My favourite theatre experiences in the past few years were a French film called Titane (2021) and the Best Picture Korean film Parasite (2019), which were both exclusive to Varsity. Scotiabank Theatre has the best IMAX experience in the city and is the best choice to see this year’s Oppenheimer (2023). You can get there via the subway to Osgoode station. Yonge-Dundas is the “hip” option, as it has the larger theatres and is conveniently located next to the Eaton Centre. Getting used to all three options is key, as Cineplex likes to move its films across theatres for no rhyme or reason. Cineplex also offers a subscription service called “Cineclub,” which costs ten dollars a month; for this price, you get one free ticket a month, discounts on all other tickets, and discounted concessions. It is an absolute steal if you frequently visit Cineplex locations. The Cineplex app is also essential as you can purchase tickets remotely, load gift card credit, and store your Scene Card information.

TIFF Bell Lightbox
Cineplex does not show all the movies available or restored older films, which is my biggest gripe. The Lightbox offers a free membership to everyone who is under 25. I am basically asking you why you don’t have this membership already. With the membership, you get free tickets to restored film screenings within the “TIFF Cinematheque” program, and access to presale tickets to the Film Festival come September. Some of my favourite experiences at the Lightbox include the North American Premiere of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future (2022) and an early preview of Babylon (2022). To get to the Lightbox you can take the subway to St. Andrew station. 

Imagine Cinemas Carlton
There’s a small old-school theatre near Yonge and Carlton that may show films that are not available at the other theatres mentioned. An example would be when I saw Terrifier 2 (2022), which was not screening anywhere else downtown.

Section 2: West End

Revue Cinema
For all your cult classic needs. The theatre atmosphere is great and the location is run by people who care. Revue’s location is great because it is near Dundas West station, a shorter commute for me. It offers student discounts and a paid membership; however, I do not have the membership so I cannot vouch for it. My favourite experience here is when I watched Tenebrae (1982) with a special introduction by the keyboardist who scored the film.

Section 3: East End

Fox Theatre
Scratches the same itch as Revue, but on the other side of the city. The theatre plays a combination of classic films along with some new releases. Getting there is a pain because it is within The Beaches neighbourhood, the nearest station being Main Street. My favourite experience here was the Toronto premiere of Mad God (2022), introduced by the film’s producers.

Section 4: Video Stores

Bay Street Video
Now, this is sort of the “advanced” section of the handbook, as physical media collecting is not for everyone. It gets pretty dangerous for the wallet as well. However, Bay Street Video has the largest DVD collection in the city, and you can pretty much find whatever you need to rent or buy. The store is across the street from the Varsity Cineplex location, a five-minute walk from Brennan Hall. If there’s something they do not have, you can kindly ask the clerk to ship something in for you, which is amazing as they cover the shipping fees. If you take any cinema courses at U of T you can also apply for a discount toward renting films which is a big help.

BMV has two locations downtown: one on Spadina and one near Yonge and Dundas. The store sells used books and physical media. You can find a lot here for a reduced price. Many students use this place to hopefully find some textbooks, but they also have a large selection of DVDs, Blu-rays, and 4K discs.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I hope this is enough to inspire your own curiosity of exploring downtown. Your findings may not even be film related but can lead you on the path to discovering your own passion and thus creating your own handbook!