Metro Theatre to be transformed into rock-climbing centre

The infamous Metro Theatre on Bloor Street is on its way to becoming a family-friendly venue

Owner of the soon-to-be-built Basecamp Climbing Gym hopes it will be a place for the community

The Metro Theatre, located east of Christie Street on Bloor Street West, is set to become a rock climbing centre. (Kimberly Gale/CBC)

The Metro Theatre is trading in its handcuffs for harnesses. 

The former porn theatre near Bloor and Christie streets is being converted into a downtown rock-climbing gym.

Matthew Languay, 27, owner of the soon-to-be-built Basecamp Climbing Gym, hopes it will be a place where the community can gather. 

"I've seen the Metro a million times and we took a look at it and realized that we could take this seedy, sort of scummy location and turn it into something that the community can be proud of and that caters to families, kids and friends," Languay said.

The Metro Theatre went up in 1938 as a mainstream cinema. In 1976, the films switched to an adult-oriented genre. 

Although the 75-year-old theatre made an attempt in 2012 to go back to its cinematic roots (this time with a focus on indie films), it wasn't able to distance itself from its explicit past. 

Kickstarter campaign to help with renovations

"There were a couple of theatres in it at the end of the day, and some owners tried to go through and screen other films, but I think that there was a certain stigma attached to the space that meant it was difficult for them to change the image," said Ward 19 Coun. Mike Layton​.
Matthew Languay wants to transform a former Toronto porn theatre into a climbing gym. (CBC)

In 2013, the building was sold to a numbered company for $2.9 million.

Languay has a 10-year rental agreement with the owner and is shouldering a big part of the construction costs that relate to putting up the rock-climbing gym and restoring the original marquee out front. 

He's turned to Kickstarter to raise $25,000 to help with the renovation expenses.

Languay doesn't expect charity, though. Participants are buying discounted memberships and lessons, invitations to the launch party and the chance to have their names put up in lights on the marquee out front.

"We realized that we could start a Kickstarter and hopefully have the community support the gym that they're going to, one day, climb in," said Languay.

The Kickstarter campaign raised over $10,000 in less than three days. The campaign ends on May 29.

Tallest walls in the city

In an attempt to pay homage to the original theatre's history, Languay says they will be keeping the marquee and restoring it in a similar style, but emblazoned with the word Basecamp.

As for the Metro Theatre sign, which residents of the area might remember as featuring a cartoon girl, he's hoping to find a collector who will cherish it for its historical value or find a way to incorporate it into the gym.

Languay expects that the gym will employ 20-30 people once it's up and running in October. Basecamp will feature the tallest walls in the city for rock-climbing, measuring 40 feet in height with various types of walls to accommodate a wide range of skill levels.

Layton said the idea is "little bit out of the ordinary," but says he might go and try climbing himself.

"I think it would be a lot of fun to go and try. I've never done rock-climbing before, but I'm up for the challenge."

With files from Jasmin Seputis