End of the Uptown

During the demolition of The Uptown Theatre in Toronto, a wall collapsed, killing one and trapping others. This is of course very sad. However, seeing as I don’t know the people, but I do know the theatre, I’m thinking much more about the loss of the Uptown theatre — it figured so prominently in my childhood.

I probably saw 200 or so films at the Uptown during my youth. It was one the few ‘big screen’ theatres in Toronto when I was young (this was when miniscule-screened mulitplexes like at the Eaton Centre was the fashion), and the would always play whatever the big movie of the moment was on the big screen, and one or 2 others on the downstairs screen. Due to the laziness of the staff, it was always easy to buy a ticket to one matinee and spend the rest of the day there, hopping from theatre to theatre. I snuck in several AA- (now PG-13) and R-rated movies in that manner.

One of the best things about the Uptown was that between the very front row of seats and the screen there was at least 20-feet of space. Which meant that at halloween, there was always lots of space for people to act out during the annual Rocky Horror presentation. Every Friday at midnight, they would have a showing of some sort of cult-classic. During one of these, a re-screening of Last Tango in Paris, a couple had sex in front of the rest of us. Which is the first and only time I’ve ever seen someone else having sex. The Uptown was also the first place I ever ‘fooled around’ (to be polite) with someone in a public place, way up in the back row, also at a midnight show there.

I celebrated several birthdays, bringing along a score or so of friends to see some movie, getting drunk and roudy, shouting at the screen. Only once were we ever kicked out, so I’ve a soft spot for the former staff there for having been so tolerant. It was also a theatre where as long as you were fairly quiet, you could safely smoke pot while watching a movie — the theatre was so large, and so rarely full that if you sat at the back no one would care. Come to think of it, that may be in part why I don’t like sitting at the backs of theatres — I associate being at the back with making out or getting high or drunk, and sitting at the front as engaging and paying full attention to the film.

Goodbye Uptown. I’ll miss you.