Toronto’s old Uptown 5 Multiplex Theatre

25 Nov


Loew’s Uptown Theatre c. 1993, after it was converted into five separate theatres. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 165.

A previous post on this blog about Toronto’s Uptown Theatre, explored the past of this grand movie palace. It mentioned that this theatre was closed and it reopened on December 25, 1969 as a multiplex theatre with five separate auditoriums. At the time, Nat Taylor owned the theatre. In 1979, he partnered with Garth Drabinsky to create Odeon Cineplex Corp. The architects for the renovations of the Uptown were Mandel Sprachman and Marvin Giller. Nat Taylor’s experience with the conversion of the Uptown culminated in the construction of the Eaton Centre Odeon Cineplex, which when it opened, was the largest multiscreen venue in the world.

The Uptown 5 was among first multiscreen cinema complexes in the world. When the conversion had been completed, the main auditorium of the old Uptown had been divided lengthwise to create two theatres, which were side by side—the Uptown Two and the Uptown Three. In the former balcony, a ceiling extended out over the auditorium below to create a separate theatre—the Uptown One—containing 922 seats. The lobby was redone in vibrant greens for the new multiscreen theatre. 

For a link to the previous  blog, about Loew’s Uptown Theatre : 


This view of the entrance of the Uptown is prior to it being converted into the Uptown 5. The view gazes from the top of the escalator, where patrons entered the Uptown from Yonge Street. Although the colours were changed when the theatre was renovated to create the multi-screen complex, this photo reveals the splendour of the old Uptown, as the decorative plasterwork was retained after the conversion.  Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 241

                   Fonds 122, Series 122, File 241 DSCN1668

The entrances for the Backstage One and Two were on Bulmuto Street. The two smaller theatres were created from backstage area of the former Uptown Theatre, which were a considerable size as the theatre had originally been built for live theatre, including vaudeville. The Backstage theatres screened art film. The Backstage One seated 185 patrons, and the Backstage Two seated 149. After the old Uptown was converted, the five theatres had a total of 2268 seats, which was almost equal to the capacity of the former Uptown.   Photo-city of Toronto Archives,Fonds 122, Series 122, File 241

Backstage   Fonds 122, Series 881,  File 241

The Backstage Two Theatre, Photo City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 241


Another view of the Backstage Two Theatre, Photo City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 241

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

To view links to posts about Toronto’s Heritage Buildings 

Book published in 2014 about Toronto’s old movie theatres, which explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen”


To place and order for this book, either in electronic or hard copy format, follow the link below.

        Theatres Included in the Book

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)



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One response to “Toronto’s old Uptown 5 Multiplex Theatre

  1. Greg Hannah

    May 24, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    In the Uptown theatre section the first photo of the #1 auditorium is not the Uptown, I believe it’s Imperial Six cinema #2 – although I remember it having curtains, at least in the mid 70’s to when it closed in the mid-80’s. Also, the first Uptown Backstage photo (film reels on wall) is not the Uptown Backstage, the two photos below are. Again, I think this is one of the two “backstage” cinemas at the Imperial Six.
    Please feel free to contact me, I practically lived in cinemas since about the mid 70’s and worked in cinemas for 25 years starting in 1980 and will be happy to freely share information and photos for your excellent site here.


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