Independent Cinema Review: Imagine Cinema’s Carlton

What once stood at the renowned 20 Carlton Street location was none other than The Odeon Theatre Toronto, operating from 1949 to 1973. Hollywood elite attended The Odeon’s opening night and was home to Canada’s first Theatre-restaurant. Standing at that location today is Imagine Cinema’s Carlton, once known as Carlton Cinema, the first multiplex in Toronto to focus on art-house content. The cinema remains focused primarily on independent, art-house, and festival picks otherwise ignored by big box cinemas.

Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema exterior

The location is old, but not too old; rebuilt in the 1980s and without many renovations since. Restrooms are on the opposite side of the cinema from the theatres. The aisles and rows are narrow; the theatres themselves are narrow. There are accessibility accommodations for those with mobility issues, but use the restroom before the film starts, or you’ll miss a good chunk.

Accessibility: 3/5 WHEELS

at Concession

As for COVID-19 precautions for those concerned, or perhaps about Monkeypox, the staff were not masked, and neither were most patrons. Seats are close together, but at a matinee, there is plenty of room to spread out.

COVID-19 Protocols: 1/5 MASKS

This location is right downtown, there are plenty of bus routes, street cars, and subway stops around. Take your pick! Or wander around you’re in the bustling downtown, why not?

Transit-ability: 5/5 Trains

Imagine Cinemas can be great for ticket prices when they stick to their $10 GA price. However, like most places, the concessions will get up there. A small popcorn, drink and a sweet snack could cost you upwards of $20.

Prices: 3/5 COINS

Inside the theatre

The Three Big S’s of the Viewing Experience:

Sound: Decent, nothing to rave or complain about… except the emergency exit had soundproofing errors; we could hear a truck or scuffle in the alley at one point. Otherwise, it was fine; not too loud, not too quiet.


Seating: The seats are not upgraded like other Imagine Cinemas. They were old and stiff, the aisles were very narrow. Sitting behind someone does not give you much room between their head and your popcorn. The theatres are also quite flat, and narrow – you’re basically at the same level as the person in front of you.


Screen: The screen is on the smaller side and considering how long and narrow the cinema is you’re better off closer to the screen than most other newer cinemas. The size doesn’t diminish the viewing experience as much as assumed, it feels much more intimate than larger screens.


Admittedly, the Imagine Cinemas Carlton was late to open, but the staff were friendly. However, the overhear light was left on when our film started, and another patron had to leave to ask a staff member to turn it off. Not the most on top of it crew, but friendly!

Customer Service: 3/5 HELPING HANDS

hallway of theatres

Films on the Roster

In the content department, their schedule is updated weekly with any changes. Special screenings and events are promoted during the pre-shows. Imagine Cinema’s Carlton has a solid range of review cinema and special screenings.


For Indie vs Mainstream content, the schedule when I attended had one major franchise film, a review film, a smaller franchise film, and three independent/festival picks. Which is a pretty good ratio.


They currently have no Canadian titles. Although special events brought to the cinema by other organizations do.


All in all, Imagine Cinemas Carlton is a solid choice for consistent pricing, hours, and interesting content.

TOTAL SCORE is 38/55




About Isobel Grieve 42 Articles
Isobel is a bisexual Toronto-based writer. She has a B.A.H. in English and Media & Cinema Studies from the University of Guelph and a Postgraduate Certificate from the Humber College Television Writing and Producing program. Isobel writes about Arts and Culture; you can follow her @IsobelGrieve on Twitter.