A hidden cinema and art space that also happens to be a bike-repair shop, CineCycle is an intimate studio tucked away down a Spadina alley. The small coach house* is one of the many locations that CineCycle owner and founder Martin Heath has occupied during his more than 50 years in the business. He gave us a tour.
CineCycle has no actual address, but has gained fame worldwide. “I’ve often seen tourists pointing down the laneway at the iconic doors,” says Heath. Before settling comfortably behind 129 Spadina Ave., various spaces around the city served to house his passions: 466 Bathurst St., 317 Spadina Ave., and 11 Grange Ave. The latter, intended as “a live performance gallery in an abandoned noodle factory,” ceased public events due to noise complaints.
Hidden behind the projection screen are over 1,000 reels of film, the oldest of which is a 20-minute, 1908 version of Ben-Hur. Two Sundays per month, Heath hosts “From the Vault,” where he screens films from his own stash for the public. A true cinephile, he has a hard time choosing a favourite film from his personal collection, but Son of Tutti Frutti—co-directed by Heath and two others in 1972—comes out on top.
Over the course of its 18 years, CineCycle has held plays, fashion shows, art displays, film festivals, concerts, benefits, and (twice now) the Erotic Bicycle Film Festival. In order to prepare for each event, Heath has to move all of his bicycle equipment from the studio into a cul de sac beside the building. To speed up the process, everything has been mounted on wheels: It takes only 75 minutes from start to finish.
The walls are filled with unique pieces from local artists, including a stencilled bicycle painting by Janet Bike Girl and a massive plywood piece from the 1970s by Oliver Girling. “The artwork in the bathroom is sort of a porno collage by [Toronto artist] Tom Dean, and I’ve put in a few Fassbender posters from the ’70s.”
CineCycle will be one of many venues around the city participating in the Images Festival, taking place April 11–20, imagesfestival.com.
* The coach house used to be a horse stable when 401 Richmond was occupied from 1899 to 1944 by the MacDonald Manufacturing Comapany, which specialized in tin lithography. By the end of the 1960s, it became a storage space for fur.