After a long drought it now seems Hamilton has not just one, but two repertory cinemas in the lower city. This March saw the rebirth of two of Hamiltons movie palaces to their former glories: The Westdale Cinema and the Playhouse Cinema.
John and Wendy Tutt have a long history with repertory cinemas. In Waterloo ON in 1985, when your humble writer was just entering Film Studies at U of W, Tutt took a gamble and opened the Princess Cinema at the back of an almost derelict Kent Hotel in Uptown Waterloo, ON.
The cinema blossomed through the years, and also was an early anchor in the revitalization of the entire hotel building complex through the years. It now contains a brew pub, pool hall, cafe, jazz club, bar, and deli.
Later, the Tutt’s took their success down the street, and purchased an old furniture store on King Street in Uptown Waterloo. Here they had a chance to build & retrofit from scratch a twin screen cinema, w cafe, restaurant and wi-fi lounge, which opened in 2005.
In the Fall of 2017, I received a call from Terrance Odette, a local filmmaker about a “For Sale” sign he had seen on Sherman Ave. N. in Hamilton. I knew the real estate agent of the listing,so put them in touch. The property in question, was an old vaudeville hall/cinema from 1914 . It had been used by a church group for many years, and was now sitting vacant.
After a few visits, and a thorough inspection, the Tutt’s took another gamble on a down on its luck building and neighbourhood. They purchased the property on Sherman Ave. in the Winter of 2018, and recent business school graduate and cinema buff Jacob Tutt came on board to help handle the task of much needed renovations; and to become the General Manager upon the cinema’s opening in Spring 2019.
The renovations tuned into much toil and trouble, but with the help of the local trades the Tutt’s were able to honour the legacy and design of this wonderful building ,while bringing it into the modern era.
With excellent acoustics, a renovated theatre fly system, and a retractable cinema screen (is this the only one in Canada? ); The Playhouse is primed not just for film but as a new concert and theatre venue as well.
But film is at the heart of The Playhouse, and that was very much on display with the sold-out opening night screening of Cinema Paradiso on Friday March 1, 2019.
With a full printed monthly schedule, and membership card in hand, I enjoyed every aspect on this “new” cinema. From the excellent accessible seating and washrooms, to the snack bar (soon to be licensed), to the comfortable seats, layout, and projection image; it was a great night to revel in the joy on cinema.
Plus, it was a great occasion to catch up with some old friends and maybe meet some new ones. I even had the chance to see Jan Uhde ,my Film Professor from the University of Waterloo, which was really cool.
And it was nice to see the old Westdale Theatre manager Geoff Tressider as part of the new staff at The Playhouse. He spent many years keeping independent cinema screening alive in Hamilton-and hat’s off to him for that!
If you want more information on the cinema and their current schedule go to: https://playhousecinema.ca
Plus here are a couple links to some interviews with Jacob on 93.3 CFMU-FM
See you at the the movies!