Still minty by the smell on the fingertips

Posted on December 4th, 2009 6 great comments. Room for one more!

Dear reader, a moment of silence, if you will.

eclectic to the last

This is the sad news I mentioned on Wednesday; you have this weekend to drop in and pay your last respects, because The Carlton shuffles off this mortal coil on Sunday.


I spent more than one Ferris-Bueller’s-Day-Off-like day off here sipping up weird foreign and off-beat movies after a downtown traipse and a nice meal, a wonderful dénouement to a well-skipped afternoon of high school. The last movie to warp my susceptible mind was David Lynch’s “Lost Highway”. It was typical Lynchian fare, all dark corners and creepy music, and I remember the fuzzy dismemberment scene being particularly poignant on that tiny projection screen.

I think, ultimately, this is the theatre’s downfall. As I recall, the screens are slightly larger than modern big-screen LCD TVs, each screening room holds maybe twenty people, and the experience includes the standard sticky floors and a mandatory interaction with someone else’s discarded gum beneath the arm rest; still minty by the smell on the fingertips.

It’s dingy.

Was dingy.


It was one of the most sophisticated things I could do as a newly carded teenager – sip an over-priced drink or two before a film. (you’re not allowed to call them “movies” there) The Carlton is one of the only theatres (or at least was the last time I was there), that has a bar.

Had a bar.


Strangely, I wasn’t very popular at my high school. Not unpopular either. Just wallpaper. But my sideline clique observations taught me that all things are transient so, in some small way, I always knew this was coming.

At one time The Carlton was a desecration of whatever stood in its place before it, much in the same way that people are bitching about what will come in its place now. It probably won’t continue to be a theatre anymore but the history will be subsumed into something new and different. Its been happening pretty regularly around the city, just up the street is an excellent example:

affordable, low income, subsidized, housing, carlton street, toronto, city, life(big!)

It is sad to see the theatre go but, in retrospect, its demise was was spelled out well in advance. The market for interesting movies is still out there but it’s hard to justify plunking down increasingly hard-earned cash for that kind of environment; I have plenty of grungy filth to sit in front of at home, thanks.

The Invisible Hand wipes away anything that doesn’t measure up – I don’t even think that’s economics, just Darwinism. If it can justify its own existence, a building can withstand a wholesale razing of the neighbourhood and still come out swinging. Here’s a great example:

bell lightbox, hot dogs, wieners, supplier, store, wholesale, champs foods supplies ltd, toronto, city, life

The Bell Lightbox might be looming ominously in the background, but Champs is holding it’s own. What can I tell you, it’s a contender; the demand for street meat has never been higher.

I’ll miss The Carlton, no doubt, but the few history classes I did attend informed me that change is often painful. With just about everything available digitally, in high-def, at home, the time for mediocre theatres has passed. It’s no longer enough just to provide a way for your patrons to intoxicate themselves, the theatre also needs to not suck.

I have no idea how teens spend their time cutting class these days, but I’m fairly certain it’s not at The Carlton. I was a heck of a geek during my own teen years and I found that the theatre only seemed to attract people of my own nerdy ilk; not a sustainable business model. I doubt that the alternative film market will dry up in Toronto, it’ll just have to consolidate.

Unfortunately for The Carlton, it’s too late to join in.

Rest now, sweet, sticky prince.

6 Comments on “ Still minty by the smell on the fingertips ”

  • Pinoy Groundzero
    December 6th, 2009 11:57 pm

    You have a really interesting blog! Keep it up! Hope this brightens up your comment box’s day ;)

    Read more from Pinoy Groundzero at:
  • Patrick
    December 7th, 2009 12:05 pm

    Thanks, Pinoy Groundzero. You most certainly did brighten the comment box’s day! :)

  • Elise
    December 7th, 2009 3:26 am

    I lived in a small town growing up, so I'm familiar with the small screen (big screen) theatre experience. Although inadequate for the huge special effect blockbusters of today there's still a comfortable feel to watching a movie in an older theatre like that. It's more intimate some how.

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  • Patrick
    December 7th, 2009 12:11 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Elise, but if I want intimacy and a not-too-large screen, I’ll go visit a friend’s house who has a big-screen TV. To each his/her own, as they say, but in this case I guess there just weren’t enough people interested in this type of experience.

  • flipnomad
    December 8th, 2009 3:51 am

    old stuff gives way to new things…

    and yeah you're right

    change is indeed painful

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  • Patrick
    December 8th, 2009 7:49 am

    Agreed, Flipnomad. Like the pains felt during adolescent growth, or the pain administered by an asshole drug dealer with trust issues — necessary, but not pleasant.

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