Revival theatres and art house cinemas in Ontario
Film buffs can also enjoy documentaries and indie or foreign films often overlooked by first-run commercial theatres, as well as cinematic-themed events.
Another key aspect of the revival, repertory and art house cinema experience is the nostalgia. Often housed in heritage or historic theatres with retro marquees, revival cinemas come complete with old-fashioned candy, concession stand style popcorn and sometimes even the iconic red velvet carpet and ropes.
Revival theatres also meet the needs of the local arts community by hosting a variety of other events and performances. Many of these theatres offer annual memberships or passes with perks and discounts. Check in advance for forms of payment at the door.
Here’s a selection of beautiful repertory and art house theatres across Ontario.
Originally known as the Elmwood, the Hyland made its debut as a local movie house during the Depression in the 1930s.
Today it’s the place to go for an affordable night out to watch mainstream, art or international films on the big screen.
Chatham Capitol Theatre opened in the 1930s as a movie house. Over the following decades it underwent various renovations and now screens films and hosts many live entertainment shows.
The 1208-seat venue boasts art deco architecture details with opera balconies, gilded décor and elaborate ceiling designs, plus modern acoustics and an orchestra pit.
Movie Night at the Capitol features classic to contemporary film selections.
Location: 238 King Street West, Chatham
The Capitol is not only a cinema venue for Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) screenings but also hosts concerts, dance performances and is the home of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
First opened in 1920, the theatre screened classic films such as Singin’ in the Rain and Gone with the Wind. After considerable restoration, the building was designated as a Heritage Site in 1999 and continues to support Windsor’s arts community today.
Location:121 University Avenue, Windsor
Built in 1914 as a vaudeville and motion picture theatre, Hamilton’s oldest cinema featured the beaux and art deco architecture of the time. Renovations occurred in the 1950s and again in 2018 to capture its original appearance, including the restored neon marquee sign.
Independent, international, cult and classic films are screened at the theatre. Fans can also enjoy the experience of viewing 35 mm films.
Location:177 Sherman Avenue, North Hamilton
Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington
Located on the second floor of a historic 19th century brewery, this 177-seat, single-screen art house cinema has been in operation since 1985. It runs international, independent, current hits, film festival hits and documentaries, in addition to cult classic and special movie presentations.
Audiences with a preference for mainstream films can check out Princess Twin Cinemas.
Location: 6 Princess Street West, Waterloo
With just twelve seats, this is the Guinness World Record holder for smallest movie theatre, perfect for a group outing.
The cinema’s décor is a nod to Victorian era, the1920s sprinkled with iconic moments in pop culture and the concession stand serves home spun cotton candy and gourmet house popcorn.
Location: 62 Wellington Street, Stratford
Get your literary and cinematic fix in one spot! Located in downtown Guelph, The Bookshelf is versatile arts venue featuring an independent bookstore, café and small indie cinema.
Location: 41 Quebec Street, Guelph
Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Canada's longest running independent move theatre is located in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood. Opened in 1914, it was first called The Theatre Without a Name.
It’s a special place for film buffs to rewatch movie classics and tribute films and to salute cinema icons and underrated talents throughout the cinematic era.
Location: 2236 Queen Street East, Toronto
Formally known as the Madison Theatre, the Eden, Festival Cinemas and Bloor Cinema, this century old movie house is a landmark institution in Toronto Annex neighbourhood.
Since it first opened its doors in 1913, it’s attracted audiences to see weekend matinees and double feature shows. Recently renovated, it still retains its vintage décor and is now home to the popular Hot Docs Film Festival screening documentaries from Canada and around the world as well as other independent films and special programs.
Location: 506 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Specializing in independent and cultural film festivals, Revue Cinema is community-run movie house in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. It has recently been voted Toronto’s best independent film venue for three years in a row by readers of Toronto’s indie weekly NOW Magazine.
Catch innovative and engaging movie events such as Anime! for classic and new anime films and Drunken Cinema, presenting interactive cult classics. The Dumpster Raccoon series reintroduces movie fans to long forgotten movie classics and includes a pre-show live drag performance.
Location:400 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Located in the heart of Little Italy and just a few minutes walk from Kensington Market, the Royal Cinema hosts themed film festivals as well as other performances such as live comedy shows and concerts.
The Royal is home to The Great Canadian Comedy Film Festival featuring the work of comedy film makers from Canada and around the world. It’s also the venue for The Great Canadian Horror Film Festival.
Location: 608 College Street, Toronto
York, Durham and Headwaters
Lovingly restored by local movie buffs in 1996, the Roxy Theatre is an art deco style theatre located in Uxbridge showing first-run new films, older movies and select film festivals.
Enjoy the charm and nostalgia of an entertaining escape into the world of cinema without sacrificing on quality or comfort. The theatre boasts state-of-the-art digital projection and sound equipment.
A variety of concession options popcorn with real butter or other toppings such as ketchup and white cheddar. You can also purchase handmade grazing boxes and beer and wine are also available near to the concession stand.
Location: 46 Brock Street West, Uxbridge
Open May to October, Highlands Cinemas has provided movie nostalgia in cottage country for decades.
The cinema has five screening rooms showing first-run films and new releases as well as some classics. Owned by a movie buff, there’s also a movie museum with rare and interesting cinematic memorabilia, such as the largest film projector collection in Canada, life size movie characters and movie posters.
Location: 4131 Kawartha Lakes County Road 121, Kinmount
Located a few blocks from the Rideau Centre, one of Ottawa’s oldest cinemas showcases independent and mainstream movies and hosts special events for film lovers.
First opened in 1947 as the Nelson Cinema, the building quickly changed hands and became a Famous Players chain until 1988 when the single-screen cinema became an independent theatre again.
Improved equipment and renovations have kept the appeal of the cinema experience without losing the theatre’s rich history.
Location: 325 Rideau Street, Ottawa
One of the favourite independent movie houses in Canada’s capital, this single screen cinema has been delivering movie magic since 1932.
Modern upgrades present the best in sound, clarity and colour and the theatre can screen digital format or traditional 35 mm films.
Arrive early to stock up on popcorn with real butter, candy and beverages from the concession stand.
Location: 1074 Bank Street, Ottawa
Built in 1918, this purpose-built cinema and live performance venue has served as the hub for independent cinema and year-round entertainment in Prince Edward County.
Located in downtown Picton, the Regent Theater screens diverse movies and thought-provoking documentaries and hosts concerts, special events and more.
Location: 224 Picton Main Street, Picton
Bringing the magic of the silver screen to Muskoka since 1949, this family-run cinema has three theatres that alternate between recent releases and old classics.
Location: 106 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge
Catch the latest movies, classic Hollywood hits and family-friendly films at this long-running theatre. Originally opened in 1947 under the name Blue Bird Theatre, the theatre in Burk’s Falls is now owned and managed by the village.
Location: 172 Ontario Street, Burks Falls
Northeastern Ontario’s only arthouse cinema screens the best in independent film. It also hosts a variety of fun events for pop culture fans, such as Oscar watch parties and Saturday morning cartoon sessions featuring hours of retro cartoons and commercials with unlimited bowls of cereal.
Location: 162 Mackenzie Street, Sudbury
Last updated: November 14, 2023