The Revue Cinema has been sold to a group that hasn't expressed any intention of keeping the old movie palace alive. The rest of the former Festival repertory cinemas are either dead or in flux.
And now, like a gratuitous kick when the Toronto cinephile community's down, comes news that the old Roxy at Danforth and Greenwood -- a former member of the Festival group that has been closed and vacant for more than a decade -- has been sold as well. And it could soon be a gas station.
"We are evaluating what we can do and what we can't," says Robert Taberge, Toronto spokesman for the Roxy's new owner, Imperial Oil. The company also owns the lot next door, formerly an Esso station. "We haven't figured out what we're going to do. . . . The two sites open up a list of opportunities."
The company's hesitation is due to the fact that the late-1930s deco building -- originally called the Allenby and designed by Kaplan and Sprachman Architects, the firm behind the Revue and the Eglinton -- is listed by city council as a building of heritage interest. This listing, the first stage to becoming a heritage property outright, with all the regulations and protections that come with that status, was passed by council in 1986. The next step, referred to as designation, was never taken.
"It becomes a different kind of burden to the city when you designate something," says Councillor Shelley Carroll, chair of the city works committee. "So we don't do that until there's a threat."
This may qualify: When pressed about Imperial Oil's specific plans, Mr. Taberge says: "If or when we build, it will be one of those 'On the Go' sites."
Brain Gallagher, head of the city's Preservation Services, who remembers the Roxy's infamous midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the 1980s, says there are ways to deal with this.
"The standard policy with listed buildings is that if an owner applies to demolish, there is a 60-day delay," he says, during which his people bring the building's case before council, asking for specific protection. "Our success rate is almost 100 per cent."
Though not every site listed as a building of heritage interest is defended by Preservation Services, the Roxy, Mr. Gallagher says, definitely would be.
But Imperial Oil is no slouch either, especially when it comes to their 'On the Run' chain, which marries gas stations with convenience stores. There are now 110 locations in the Greater Toronto Area.
Timing may be on the oil giant's side: Council is about to recess until after the municipal elections and won't be back until January. If the company submits its application now, the clock will tick out before council reconvenes.