Major theatre chains can be a nightmare for dedicated cinephiles. Multiplexes are full of screaming children, most of the films are poorly written, and the steep prices at the ticket booth and concession counters make video piracy honourable. Not all of the films are terrible though, and I do stop in occasionally. But when I want a truly memorable movie-going experience, I head to the Mayfair theatre.
The Mayfair Theatre, on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South, opened its doors in 1932 and is the longest-serving cinema in the city. I stumbled upon it one beautiful, breezy May evening a few years ago when the weird Will Ferrell Spanish-language film Casa De Mi Padre came to town, a movie that I had given up on ever seeing in a theatre. The Spanish-style internal architecture of the building complemented the dialogue of the film to create a terrific and unique atmosphere. I fell in love with the place immediately. I kept going back. I'm ashamed of the fact that it took me seven years of Ottawa life to discover the place. That said, I couldn't have picked a better month to begin attending.
Over the course of the following summer I was treated to an assortment of independent, documentary, and Canadian films that were avoided by major theatre chains. It was a terrific lineup, including Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the most prestigious sushi chef on the planet; Footnote, an Oscar nominated foreign language comedy; and Bernie, a black comedy about a murderous funeral director. The exposure to quality film reinvigorated my faith in the entertainment medium.
The Mayfair offers loyal customers a financial advantage, providing a yearly membership for 10 dollars. Members may then view any movie for an easy six bucks. When you consider the steep ticket prices of the mainstream chains, investing in a membership is an easy decision. They also apply the standard half-price Tuesday discount the large theatres have. You heard it here: quiet theatre, charming atmosphere, better films, and lower prices. View the schedule on their website regularly for monthly film info.
Kristopher Bras is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995, and is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
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