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Movie theater opens for hospitalized kids

Avrich brings firstrun films to sick children

TORONTO — Hospitalized children will now be able to escape to the movies, after Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich spearheaded the construction of a C$1 million ($910,000) state-of-the-art movie theater at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The curtain at the Hollywood at Sick Kids, a 230-seat state-of-the-art theater, goes up for the first time today with a premiere of “Shrek the Third.”

Avrich believes this charity project is the first of its kind in North America. He conceived of the idea of a movie theater for hospitalized kids and their families about a year ago when, while visiting a friend in hospital, he noticed a young child fumbling with a DVD player. “It seemed ridiculous that there couldn’t be a better way for these kids to escape,” he said.

It took just over a month to raise the money, equipment and services needed to convert an aging auditorium at the Hospital for Sick Children, which treats more than 250,000 patients per year.

Industry donors of cash, equipment or services include Cineplex Entertainment, Christie Digital Systems, the One X One Foundation and Deluxe.

The movies are free, and children who are unable to leave their hospital rooms will be able to watch via closed-circuit television.

Avrich (“The Last Mogul,” “Madness of King Richard”) is working with the studios to get three or four firstrun movies per year. In addition, he says they have been in contact with distributors, studios and groups such as the Sprockets Toronto Film Festival for Children to gather a library of movies on which to build an ongoing program.

“This is a world of walls that we live in, and that especially goes for those in hospital,” he said. “During a film, the walls come down; that’s the definition of theater, when a kid can walk in, or be wheeled in, and completely forget about life and be a kid again.”

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