Hot Docs Festival Gets Into Movie Exhibition Biz

Hot Docs and film financier Blue Ice Film form joint venture to purchase and program the Bloor Cinema, a downtown Toronto indie theater.

TORONTO – The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has followed the Toronto International Film Festival into the indie film exhibition business.

North America’s largest documentary festival has leased the Bloor Cinema in downtown Toronto, its anchor venue for 12 years, as part of a joint venture agreement with new theater owner Blue Ice Film.

Blue Ice, a Toronto-based film financier, recently teamed up with Doug Mankoff’s Echo Lake Entertainment to launch a private equity film fund for mid-budget movies with bankable stars and directors for global sale.

Now Blue Ice has bought the Bloor from Toronto's Bordonaro family for an undisclosed price.

After being refurbished, the Bloor Cinema will reopen this fall, with Hot Docs programming and managing the century-old film house year-round.

The indie cinema will also play host to the annual Hot Docs festival and its monthly Doc Soup screening series.

The Bloor Cinema deal marks the latest attempt by marquee Canadian film festivals to bridge a widening gap in the domestic exhibition market between commercial multiplexes with mostly Hollywood movies and indie arthouse theaters.

The cinema leasing deal follows the Toronto International Film Festival last year launching Bell Lightbox as its year-round home.

Besides hosting the annual September festival, Bell Lightbox and its five cinema screens now feature first-run films, retrospectives and specialty programming.

Elsewhere in Toronto, indie theatres have increasingly been shuttered and turned into book stores or live event venues.