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The Revue Film Society traces its roots to May 2006. That’s when local resident Susan Flanagan was shocked to see that her local cinema, The Revue, right around the corner from where she lives in Toronto’s High Park area, was about to close. She contacted some friends, and the word spread. Soon a group of concerned neighbours and cinephiles gathered, and the Revue Film Society was founded because of her initiative.
Supporters canvassed neighbourhoods, raising awareness, people gave generously, T-shirts and buttons with Save the Revue were printed, meetings were held and press releases crafted. By the end of the year, The Revue Film Society had raised more than $100,000 from businesses, neighbours and film buffs from across the city, demonstrating just how strong an attachment they had to the 244-seat theatre.
The Revue closed at the end of June, 2006, and the Revue Film Society set about finding ways to save the theatre.
Efforts were made to discuss a possible lease with representatives of the owners at the time, the McQuillan siblings, whose father Peter had owned and operated the theatre as part of the Festival chain for years before he died. But they wanted to sell. The RFS also discussed leases with various potential buyers, but those deals did not go through.
Finally, local residents Danny and Letty Mullin approached the RFS expressing interest in purchasing the theatre. They thought it would make a good investment, since Roncesvalles Ave. is growing in popularity, and they also had fond memories of theatre-going as children, Danny in Liverpool, Letty in the Philippines. The RFS put the couple in touch with the owners. The sale finally went through, and a lease negotiated between the RFS and the Mullins went into effect August 1, 2007. The Revue Cinema, since then has been run by the not-for-profit community-based entity.
An army of volunteers then went into action, helping to get the cinema ready to reopen. The theatre was cleaned, the gum removed from seats; walls in the theatre were patched and painted (much of the work done by volunteer Melanie Huston, of Paint Box Interior Painting); High Park Paint and Wallpaper donated paint; Josef Aigner, of Artistic Glass, contributed new glass shades for the Deco theatre lights; and Pollocks cut a deal on the carpet.
Meanwhile, Tim Bourgette, who had run the Revue before as part of the Festival chain, secured all of the necessary permits and set up the distributor accounts needed to start operations.
On October 4, 2007, The Revue reopened with a screening of Some Like it Hot and a big party, well attended by theatre supporters, including local politicians.
The RFS has a five-year-lease with option to renew. The rent runs at $7,000 a month, and in addition, the Revue pays all taxes and utilities. By 2010, the RFS was on the hook for almost $28,000 a year in municipal taxes, representing an increase of almost 50 per cent. The current lease will end in 2012, the year the theatre marks its centenary.
The generous donors and all of the volunteers made The Revue’s rebirth possible. We hope we’ll be around for a long time, always improving, trying to offer more variety and bringing unique content to the big screen inside the little theatre with heart on Roncesvalles Ave.
Cinema Nights photo © Mike Charbonneau