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The Rep

Rep theaters are why I’m not a lawyer.

A rep, for those of you who don’t know the term and suspect that I misspelled The Ref, is a nickname for a repertory theater, a moviehouse that shows old films. I was going to law school in Boston when I first encountered several of these nirvanas, which showed different double features every day of many films I had always wanted to see. My education in torts and constitutional law soon gave way to an education in cinema.

Of course, that was in the days before cable and home video. The advent of the VCR and the DVD didn’t kill off movie theaters, but they very nearly exterminated rep houses, which lost the portion of the market that simply wanted to see old and classic films and was left with the smaller but more avid pool of viewers who want to see movies in a communal setting on a big screen.

The Rep centers on three young Toronto movie fans who in 2010 got a chance to open their own rep theater, in the former location of a Chinese theater on Spadina Street. Filmmaker Morgan White was one of their first patrons, and filmed their progress from early on. Their ups and downs are interesting—to some extent this documentary works as a primer on how not to start up a small business, especially one with a diminishing customer base.

But the film works best as a history of repertory theaters in the US and Canada, featuring interviews with the operators of the few remaining successful ones. (Buffalo has never really had one, though it’s been tried a few times: The last such attempt was the Granada Theater on Main Street just south of Winspear, now a pizza place.)

It’s a tribute to a vanishing perception of movies and how they are meant to be seen—publically, with strangers, blown up to superhuman proportions and without a remote control. If you truly love movies, you have to be touched by it, even as you know you’re looking at something that is receding into the mists of memory.

The Rep will have two screenings at the Screening Room, tonight (Thursday) and Tuesday at 7:30pm.

Watch the trailer for The Rep

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