Midnight Madness Blog

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Movie Theatre Memories
After yesterday's second screening of Not Quite Hollywood, I once again had a chance to talk to Brian Trenchard-Smith, the dean of 'Ozsploitation'.  I'm always  interested in early film memories -- what you saw and how old you were -- but I'm also interested in where you saw it. At the age of four and a half, Smith's earliest film-going experience is quite unique. His father worked on an airbase in Lybia, and Brian saw a film projected outdoors on a sheet. He can't remember the film -- perhaps a western -- but he remembers the experience well.

VIDEO: Brian Trenchard-Smith shares some movie-going memories with us.

To genre fans, the movie theatres we patronize are just as important as the films they show. It might only be a building, but to me, it's practically organic.  Whether it's a megaplex, a run-down second-run cinema, or a bicycle repair shop moonlighting as a cinema, these places bring us the escapist comfort we seek; the dark rooms we step into allow us to forget about the outside world, and as Neil Gaiman once put it -- albeit in a different context -- to let "others think of things of import and consequence."

Veterans of the festival will remember that the first seven years of Midnight Madness screenings were held at the Bloor Cinema. Hal Kelly, who ran the excellent 'zine Trash Compactor for several years, has great memories of seeing Motorama in 1992, but not because he thought it was any good: "Mary Waronov came with it and I got to spend time with her. She gave me the programme for the film retrospective they held for her at Cornell where she went to school before she went off to join Warhol, The Velvets & Corman. She was great."

Due to substandard equipment at the Bloor, we found a new home after the 1994 season: The Uptown. Built in 1920 by architect Thomas Lamb, it got to enjoy the later days of Vaudeville; it premiered the earliest films of Buster Keaton and was there for the dawn of sound when it played Paramount's first talkie, Interference, in 1929. Its walls reverberated the highs, lows, and overall evolution of the film industry. When Mandel Sprachman redesigned the theatre into five different screens in 1969, gone was the opulence of the movie palace. In came the orange carpets and the lack of detail which that era brought along.

The news of a new venue wasn't taken easily. "There was a lot of grumbling," says Colin Geddes, who was still a few years away from taking over the programming for MM. The first MM screening in that new venue was Screamers. "As soon as that opening title sequence started, everybody was blown away by the sound." I'm pretty sure many people were converted to this new place of worship that night.

Nowadays, the Uptown is home to some condo development. They've brought back the theatre's original facade, but a facade is really all it is. Many will remember that the final screening at the Uptown was a Midnight Madness show. Before the 2003 premiere of  Undead,  champagne was served to the audience, and after a moment of silence, the screen was toasted, then given a standing ovation.

VIDEO: Check out Colin's YouTube page for a clip of the final night at the Uptown.

So with this bit of nostalgia, I'm throwing it out there to all the MM attendees past and present to share some memories of your favorite MM and TIFF venues. This year, some of the afternoon MM screenings have taken place at the new AMC. How's that been for everyone?