Toronto's last adult entertainment theatre will soon reach back to its roots as an independent cinema, as two entrepreneurs try to give the Metro Theatre a new lease on life.

"I hope this will become the independent art house cinema in the west of Toronto," said Jonathan Hlibka, who along with business partner Nadia Sandhu hopes to revitalize the 1930s-era theatre.

When Toronto's appetite for porn in public gave way to VCRs, the theatre began its long decline. Most of the posters of scantily clad bodies lining the entrance of the theatre are faded, the marquee is missing a few light bulbs and there are no film titles displayed.

The Metro, as it's known, has been on the real estate market for a decade, and is listed at $3.8 million.

'We're coming up with a really detailed sterilization process.'— Nadia Sandhu

Hlibka and Sandhu see potential there and plan to show indie, art house and foreign films four nights a week, while the theatre will continue to show adult films in the afternoon. The pair will also hold events and parties to bring the community together.

Hlibka had been in talks for about a year with the theatre's owner, Karim Hirji, who came from Tanzania in the 1970s and bought the cinema with his father.  

The theatre will open to non-adult films around Aug. 24 with the Irish film Snap. The grand reopening will happen sometime in September.

Metro always outside the mainstream

Ryerson University professor Paul Moore, who has studied the history of movie theatres, thinks the idea might work. The Metro, he notes, was never a mainstream theatre but was instead independent at its opening in 1939, showing a "scandalous" B-movie called, Delinquent Parents: The Unforgettable Drama of Modern Youth and Selfish Parents.

Though he says it won't be a theatre that will appeal to families or children, it will fulfil a niche in Toronto by having foreign films downtown.

"It's going to be for hipster, university students and esthetes that are interested in global cinema and adults and downtown cosmopolitan types that are interested in cinema," he said. "And I don't think that a downtown hipster kind of person is going to be that worried about this being a pornographic cinema in the afternoon."  

The market for pornography in movie theatres was gutted when the VCR came along in the early 1980s. Adult theatres have also suffered for the same reasons independent cinemas have — competition from the Hollywood blockbuster, the mega-plex, and the internet. 

"The ones that are left are serving an art house clientele or a very niche neighbourhood community-centre kind of model," he said. 

Seats will be re-covered  

Adult films will continue to be shown at The Metro during the day, and cleaning up the grime-covered theatre will take work and the entrepreneurs' own money.

The carpet will be ripped out and the seats re-covered, and there will be daily cleanings after the adult films let out.

"We're coming up with a really detailed sterilization process," Sandhu said. 

However, the blood-red walls, gilded accents and crystal chandeliers will stay, as will the hand-painted Mary Poppins and Charlie Chaplin portraits — a counterpoint to posters of the porn industry's biggest stars, including one signed by Ron Jeremy.

Hlibka and Sandhu revived an old theatre in Toronto's east end last year and have faith in their plans for this one.

"It's the most diverse city in North America. We should have a place where we can come and share each other's stories on film," Hlibka said.

With files from @kimberlygale