The New and Improved Innis Town Hall: It’s Worth all the Fuss
If you’re a cinema fan, and you live in Toronto, chances are you’ve seen a movie at the Innis Town Hall. Not only the main teaching and screening space for Innis College at University of Toronto, it’s also a community space, open to the public. Many film festivals screen there; the Cinema Studies Student Union has run free Friday films there for years; and the Town Hall has hosted political debates, Oscar night broadcasts and hockey game finals. It’s the heart of the college, and one of the university’s few theatres.
Last night, February 26, 2015, the Innis Town Hall celebrated its official grand re-opening, bringing this vital university space into the 21st century and the digital film age. With new seats (!), a fantastic new sound system, sound dampening architecture, and a fabulous expanded control booth, the new Town Hall is now a totally up-to-date digital theatre space for screening and learning. It looks awesome too, with warm wood grain on the walls and a new stage area. And my butt didn’t go numb, even after sitting for three hours. Wonder of wonders!
As an alumna of the Innis College Cinema Studies program myself, I have a lot of experience sitting in the Town Hall – so I know of what I speak. One of my earliest university memories is of attending the movie marathon during orientation. (I distinctly remember seeing Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract there for the first time. I was so totally hooked.) Already registered for Intro to Cinema, I settled into what was then bench seats for an entire semester of silent film at the Innis Town Hall and never looked back.
Yet despite the Town Hall being a magical movie place, a teaching space, and the centre of the college and film community, it wasn’t known for its comfort. Or its aesthetic beauty. With this recent overhaul, it could rightfully be known for both now.
Last evening, attendees were treated to a few speeches and special guests, and a screening of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. The film was followed up with, very appropriately, a Q&A with one of the film’s stars, and Innis Cinema Studies alumna, Sarah Gadon, and moderated by George Stroumboulopoulos. Intelligent and insightful, it was interesting to hear Sarah talk about her work with Cronenberg and on other films, the Canadian film and television industry, roles for women, and how her time at Innis helped to shape her.
And though the new and improved Innis Town Hall has fully come into the digital age with this renovation, it hasn’t left its film past behind. Though it now boasts 4K digital projection, as the main Cinema Studies Institute teaching space, the facility still has 16 and 35mm capabilities.
Good to see the college maintain its commitment to being a community venue for Toronto, and gratifying to know that the Innis Town Hall will head into the future, equipped for the next generation of cinema studies students! And all our collective butts are grateful for the more comfortable seats.