Opinion: A Final Goodbye to the Humber Cinema

Fairwell message from the Humber Cinema website

A moment that I have dreaded for the past three years has finally come to pass, as the Humber Cinema will be closing its doors for good tonight at midnight. Like many such closures in the city, the Humber is closing down to make way for a new condo development at the intersection of Jane and Bloor.

The Humber Cinema in 2011

Longtime readers would know that I hold the Humber Cinema close to my heart since it was one of the two local cinemas I grew up going to, with the other being the Runnymede Theatre, which has now been closed for two decades. I had said goodbye to the Humber once before, as it was suddenly closed down by Cineplex in the summer of 2003 and remained dormant for nearly a decade. Even though there were plans back then to build a condo at the location of the cinema, those plans were originally scrapped and the Humber Cinema was reopened in 2011.

I don’t want to repeat the many headaches associated with the Humber’s reopening, including mentioning a certain infamous theatre manager, who I admit I don’t have the best recent history with. However, the issues were eventually sorted out and the Humber seemed to be thriving as an independent local cinema.

I am sad to admit that my attendance at the Humber has lapsed over the past couple of years. Part of this comes from how I now live further west and it’s easier for me to go to the Cineplex Queensway than take the subway Jane, specifically to visit the cinema. It actually saddens me that my final visit to the Humber Cinema has long since come and gone, with me already having seen all four the films playing on this final day of operations.

The Odeon Humber in 1949 (photo Ontario Archives AO 2154)

This, along with the recent news that the Scotiabank Theatre downtown is also going to be the victim of condo development, demonstrates how little regard the city of Toronto has towards its cinema history. The Humber was one of the city’s oldest cinemas, with its history dating back to 1948 as one of the first five cinemas of the Odeon chain, which would eventually expand into Cineplex Odeon. In theory, this would be grounds to have the Humber declared as a historical landmark, though a petition I had started to get a designation made wasn’t exactly that successful.

We live in an age now when the cinematic experience, in general, is taking a backseat to streaming and just watching movies at home. This isn’t really all that surprising since the corporate nature of modern multiplexes doesn’t have the best atmosphere, which is further made worse by disrespectful patrons, who treat cinemas like their living room. As someone in his mid-late 30s, I am probably part of one of the last generations, who remembers a time of going to small local cinemas, where you would only have to pay $4 to $6 for a matinee show.

The main screen in the lower level of the Humber

It saddens me that there are probably going to be a lot of people, who are going to hear about the Humber Cinema closing its doors for good and will just end up shrugging their shoulders at a small local cinema closing down. I’m sure not everyone had the deep connection to the Humber that I had and that it was just another cinema. However, the Humber is the place where I saw The Land Before Time when I was only six years old. The Humber is where I saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace during opening weekend in 1999. The Humber is where I saw both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. The Humber is where I saw The Hunger Games at a midnight screening. I have say many memories of this cinema in Bloor West Village and even though the Humber is going away, the memories won’t.

A video tour of the Humber I shot in 2012
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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).