The Top 5 Toronto theatres for solo cinema excursions.
Whether you’re a bar staffer with friends who work during the day, or you’re taking a not-entirely-genuine sick day, or you’re just looking for a couple of hours of alone time, seeing a movie on your own can be a comforting activity. After all, you don’t have to worry about finding four seats together in a crowded theatre, or having to share your food with that friend who’s “never hungry,” or forcing a smile and nod when the person you’re with makes a comment every five seconds or, god forbid, texts long messages during the show. I know some of you anxiety-ridden souls out there simply comply with these annoyances and secretly rage inside, so give yourself a break: Go sit in a dark theatre for a couple of hours, lose yourself in a movie, and chill out. These are the best theatres in Toronto to do it.
1. Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond St. W.
First, a word of warning: Don’t go here on a cheap-Tuesday or a Friday night. You will encounter large crowds and perhaps somebody you’re trying to avoid. But the Scotiabank rules because of the food options—there is something satisfyingly naughty about devouring a sandwich in a setting traditionally meant for popcorn. Once inside the theatres, I favour the seats in the wings, where you can often claim one chair for yourself, the other for your jacket and bag, and a third for the food spread. In the smaller theatres, the wing seats start more than halfway up the stairs, with the first row perched above the threshold of the exit below—a valuable surface that can be used as a table or the perfect boost for your feet.
2. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W.
It’s best to go to the Lightbox on a random Sunday, preferably to a movie that is playing in one of the art-house multiplex’s big theatres. (The smaller ones are too, well, small, and make you feel like you’re in a lecture watching a movie that you wish you were viewing on your laptop in bed.) If luck is on your side, there will be maybe six people in there with you, fellow loners usually. Where to sit? Take your pick! The last movie I saw there was Blackfish, and the theatre was so dark and empty that, during the attack scenes, I hugged my knees to my chest in fear of a ghost killer whale lurking underneath the seats. The big, beautiful theatre also complements the grandeur of the lobby, whose clean, open space has a soothing affect on the mind and soul not unlike that of a museum.
3. Yonge-Dundas Cineplex (formerly AMC), 10 Dundas St. E.
The beauty of this place is its location. Tucked up somewhere in the neon lights of Yonge-Dundas Square, this multiplex is my trusty weeknight place. I recommend going to a show just past suppertime, preferably a film that has been out for a couple of weeks. The small, cozy theatres don’t have that classroom feel you encounter in a Lightbox shoebox, but they do have the same comfy chairs as the big theatres. My imagination always runs wild as I enter the lobby through the short escalator sandwiched by walls. I picture that I am in an abandoned city: The concession stand is never manned by anyone and, somehow, there are never people in the lobby between shows. It’s like a scene out of Resident Evil—eerily tranquil, given that you’re above a shopping centre and a food court, and squeezed in between restaurants that overlook one of the busiest areas of Toronto. (Bonus: This theatre also a has a program promoting independent films.)
4. The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W.
The Bloor is ideal for a quick-and-dirty movie-going experience. With basically no lobby in which to loiter, you can run in and out of the theatre as quickly as you please. Sit either eye level in the upper balcony, or grab a seat downstairs and gaze upward at the cinematic splendour before you. This cinema is licensed, so you can sip on an alcoholic beverage while you enjoy the show, though, if you’re going to do that, maybe you should grab an aisle seat to expedite bathroom visits. (Also: the bathrooms are always really clean!) This is an especially enjoyable theatre to frequent because you can still feel the history in the room, and dream of a time when people used to dress up and treat a screening like a proper event.
5. The Varsity, 55 Bloor St. W.
The Varsity is an excellent people-watching post: as you ride up the escalator, you can spot businessmen grabbing coffees, or fussy ladies with expensive bags going shopping (I assume). I can’t vouch for the Varsity’s VIP section, but the regular-folks theatres are great. They’re well-maintained and, somehow, I have never been annoyed by a loud-talker, or a cellphone user here. I don’t know what the contributing factor is, but my experience is that really well-mannered people end up at the Varsity. And though it screens its share of blockbusters, the Varsity also deals in art-house fare. If you’re looking for a quick escape but can’t afford a vacation, catching a foreign film here is the next best thing.
What is your favourite theatre for solo movie-going? Let us known in the comments section below.
CORRECTION, FEB. 10, 2014: The original version of this article failed to mention that the former AMC theatres at Yonge-Dundas Square had changed ownership to Cineplex.