The Runnymede Theatre then and now. Picture to the left courtesy of Toronto Public Library.
I have been fortunate to live in the Bloor West area for over 20 years. The neighbourhood appealed to me even way back when I was a teenager growing up in Scarborough. One day in the mid ‘80s my high school buddy Colin, a connoisseur of repertoire foreign cinema, convinced me to skip school and take the subway all the way from Kennedy Station to Runnymede to watch a movie with him at the Runnymede Theatre. This was my first time in the neighbourhood, and right away Bloor West Village impressed me with its cafes, bakeries, restaurants, flower shops, and long sidewalks. Things which are not easy to find in Scarborough in one spot. I love old theatres and the Runnymede Theatre was beautiful.
When I moved to the Bloor West area in the early 2000’s the Runnymede Theatre had become a Chapters bookstore, where I would spend countless hours browsing with friends and eventually buying so many books. It is fair to say this building holds special memories for me. So, I cannot honestly say I was thrilled to see it become a Shoppers Drug Mart years later, but I was still happy to see this heritage building remain intact.
Who back in the ‘80s or ‘90s would have thought the Runnymede Theatre would later become a pharmacy and thus play a key role in fighting a global pandemic by providing vaccines and antigen tests? As someone with elderly parents I was strongly motivated to be vaccinated and managed to receive my two doses quickly this past summer: the first dose in a Shoppers Drug Mart in Brampton (back in May that was the closest vaccine location available for me at the time); and the second dose at the Metro Convention Centre in late June.
One of my goals this year was to meet my youngest niece who was born last year in the US. Travel restrictions made it impossible to meet her in person, so, I only had seen her in FaceTime and Zoom for about a year. When air travel to the US became possible, I got a Covid antigen test at the former Runnymede Theatre, now the Bloor West Village Shoppers. The antigen test is a requirement to travel to the US, even for those who have received two doses of the vaccine. As expected, for someone with two doses and who works from home, the test result was negative. So, I was finally able to fly, and needless to say it was a thrill to meet my niece in person.
I hope the Runnymede Theatre is never demolished. Or if it were to be demolished, I wish it lasts for “10,000 years” like the love story in the beautiful Hong Kong film Chungking Express. This wonderful building reminds me of watching classic foreign-language movies, wonderful reads, spending time with great friends, and the antigen test that allowed me to at long last meet my youngest niece.