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Category Archives: Old Toronto movie theatres

The old Odeon Theatre in Parkdale—Part II

Odeon Theatre, 1913, at 1558 Queen West

The Odeon Theatre in 1919, located on Queen St. West in Parkdale. City of Toronto Archives.

The Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West, was located in the former village of Parkdale, annexed to the city in 1889. The theatre opened in 1919, a year after the end of the First World War. The film being screened in the 1919 photograph is “Don’t Change Your Wife,” starring a 20 year-old Gloria Swanson as a foolish wife.

Map of 1558 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A6

            Location of the Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West.

The year it opened, the Odeon undoubtedly provided much needed relief to the war-weary people of the community, creating an opportunity for them to forget the horrors of the news from the battle front of the previous year. The Odeon was likely the first theatre in the neighbourhood, as its competitor, the Parkdale Theatre, did not open until the spring of the following year. The Odeon Theatre had no connection to the British Odeon chain that began building theatres in the city in the 1940s. The word “Odeon” was derived from the name of an ancient Greek theatre, the Odeon Herodes Atticus, built in 435 BC in Athens. The theatre was located on the south side of the Acropolis, and still exists today. Its name became synonymous with entertainment.

The Odeon Theatre in Parkdale was a two-storey red brick building, with a residential apartment on the second floor. Its symmetrical facade was formal and dignified, reflecting more of the Edwardian period, as opposed to the newer trends that were to develop in the 1920s. Stone blocks that rose from the the ground-floor level to the lower cornice, created pilasters (faux-columns). They were an impressive addition to the facade. The upper cornice was plain, with a narrow parapet (wall) to increase the size of the south facade, when viewed from Queen Street.

The theatre’s auditorium possessed two aisles, with a centre section and aisles on either side. There were no side aisles, meaning that seats extended within inches of the east and west walls. It had a sloped floor, extending from where the screen was located to the rear wall. The back rows were elevated and accessed by stairs. The auditorium walls were plain with very few decorative details, although there were attractive designs surrounding the screen. When the theatre opened in 1919, it possessed a stage and space to accommodate a piano and a few musicians, as it offered vaudeville and live theatre, as well as silent movies.

A letter in the files at the Toronto Archives confirms that the theatre closed in October 1968. However, the building remains on Queen Street today, and contains a fruit market.

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                The site of the former Odeon Theatre during the summer of 2014.

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         The upper section of the facade of the Odeon on Queen West. 

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                The fruit market on the site of the Odeon Theatre.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s old St. Clair Theatre—Part II

Series 2182, A-35099-1   DSCN0127

          The St. Clair Theatre c. 1950. City of Toronto Archives, Series 2182 

The St. Clair Theatre, at 1154-1156 St. Clair Avenue West, was a few doors east of the intersection of Dufferin Street and St. Clair Avenue West. I first caught a glimpse of this movie house in the early-1940s, when I was a child and accompanied my mother when she went shopping on St. Clair. The shops along the avenue were a great attraction for her as the alternative was to travel downtown on a Bay streetcar. For me, the big attraction was the huge German Shepherd in the Bell’s Shoe Store. The dog was featured on the cover of the scribblers given to children who visited the store. On the back cover were copies of the multiplication tables. It was a promotional technique that was highly effective. Today, such advertising gimmicks appear as if they belong in the Mediaeval ages.

Map of 1154 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6E 1B3

                               Location of the St. Clair Theatre

I also remember my father talking about the St. Clair Theatre. After he immigrated to Toronto in 1921, it was a favourite hangout for him and his six brothers since they were living nearby, on Earlscourt Avenue. On hot summer evenings, they often cruised along St. Clair Avenue, trying to catch the eye of a pretty young woman. If my dad were successful, he invited the gal to attend the St. Clair Theatre. During the show, somehow his arm found its way around her shoulder. Perhaps my grandmother overheard my father’s stories about the theatre and this was one of the reasons she objected to movie theatres, fearing that they promoted promiscuous behaviour.

In 1948, my family began attending a church located near Dufferin and St. Clair and I strolled past the theatre on my way to Sunday school. On these occasions, I remembered my dad’s stories about his youthful indiscretions and longed to be of sufficient age to perform a few of my own. Alas, I was forced to be content with the Sunday school teacher’s version of Sampson and Delilah. I was certain that a film version of this tale would be much more risqué. Unfortunately, when “Sampson and Delilah”was released in January 1950, it was an “adult” film and I was too young to purchase a ticket. In 1953, I saw the film “Salome,” starring Rita Hayworth, and my suspicions about bible stories were confirmed.

The St. Clair Theatre was built by the Allen brothers in 1921. They already owned Allen’s Danforth, Allen’s (Tivoli) at Adelaide and Victoria, Allen’s Bloor (Lee’s Palace) and Allen’s Parkdale (The Parkdale). The architect of the St. Clair was C. Howard Crane, at the time employed by the firm of Hynes, Feldman and Watson. The St. Clair’s yellow-brick facades on the south and east were unadorned, except for decorative stone detailing below the cornices. However, similar to other Allen theatres, the interior was tastefully extravagant, especially the high ceiling with its ornamental plaster trim and classical detailing. The theatre successfully displayed the luxury that Allen patrons expected.

However, in the 1920s the theatre possessed no air conditioning, which was uncomfortable during Toronto’s hot summer days and evenings. When my father said that he had “hot times” in the back rows of the St. Clair Theatre, perhaps I misunderstood what he meant. The St. Clair has the distinction of being the only theatre in the world visited by my grandmother. She saw the movie “Captains Courageous” in it in 1937. She lived to be 96 years old and never again darkened the doors of a theatre. Perhaps my grandfather should have sat with her in the back row and cuddled her during the suspenseful parts of the film. On the other hand, she might have considered this to be “Promiscuous behaviour.”

The theatre was extensively renovated in 1950, when new seats were installed. The popularity of the St. Clair Theatre remained throughout the 1950s, but when television caused attendance to dwindle in the 1960s, the theatre was no longer profitable. The wonderful auditorium the Allen brothers had created was divided into two screening spaces. For a few year, Italian films were shown, but this venture also eventually came to an end. The property along St. Clair had greatly increased in value and developers were anxious to purchase the building. It was sold and the space divided into shops. Fortunately, the building survives to this day, though few would ever guess that it was once a highly popular movie house.

St. Clair-Dufferin, March 1920  f1231_it0226[1]

March 15, 1920, streetcar on St. Clair, with Allen’s St. Clair Theatre visible in the background. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1251, file 231, It. 0226

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         Auditorium of the St. Clair, Ontario Archives AO 2178

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Canopy and marquee of the St. Clair, with the entrance and box office visible. Ontario Archives AO 2181

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View of the auditorium from the stage area, revealing the magnificent ceiling and the large balcony. Ontario Archives, AO 2179

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      The site of the former St. Clair Theatre during the summer of 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s old Nortown Theatre-Part II

Series 1278, File 108

Nortown Theatre in 1971, the film on the marquee “Straw Dogs,” starring Dustin Hoffman. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278  It. 108

When I was in high school in the 1950s, I worked as a delivery boy for Crosstown Pharmacy, near the corner of Bathurst Street and Eglinton Avenue West. The owner of the store was Ed Green, the brother of Lorne Greene, the actor who starred at the Stratford Theatre in its early years. The actor later became famous on an American TV show about a father and three sons who lived on a ranch named the Ponderosa. The TV program was “Bonanza.”

A short distance west of the pharmacy was the Nortown Theatre, at 875 Eglinton Avenue West, on the south side of the street, between Bathurst and Peveril Street. After high school classes ended for the day, I travelled to work on my bicycle and regularly passed this theatre. Because the theatres in my own neighbourhood were older and less modern, I considered the Nortown luxurious and longed to attend it. When the “African Queen,” starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart played at the theatre in 1951, I finally attended the theatre. Needless to say, I was duly impressed.

Map of 875 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C 3Z9

                               Location of the Nortown Theatre

The Nortown opened on March 17, 1948, located in the southeast section of a rural district to the north of the city, named Bedford Park-Nortown. It received this name when it was forest and farmland. It extended from Eglinton Avenue, north to today’s Hwy. 401. Bathurst was its western boundary and Yonge Street its eastern. It is likely that the Nortown Theatre derived its name from this district. The Bedford Theatre on Yonge Street received its name from the same district.

On the ground-floor level of the facade of the Nortown Theatre, there were extensive stainless-steel framed windows that allowed its lobby to be visible from the street. The round-shaped box office was to the right of the entrance, which possessed large glass doors. The furniture in the lobby and foyer was contemporary, meant to appeal to the residents of the expensive homes in the area. Its auditorium contained almost a thousand seats, which were plush and well padded to create a feeling of luxury. The floor of the theatre was a maroon red, as dye had been added to the concrete before it was poured, the colouring removing the necessity of painting the floor every three or four years. On the second floor of the Nortown there were offices.

The theatre screened several hard-ticket reserved seat films. In 1966, “My Fair Lady” played at the theatre for seven weeks after departing the University. In 1966-1967 “Dr. Zhivago” screened there for 61 weeks, after leaving the University. “Paint Your Wagon” was another long-run film at the Nortown.

In the 1970s, as theatre attendance lessened, and because the price of land near Bathurst and Eglinton had greatly increased, the theatre was listed on the real estate market for $890,000. It eventually sold and was demolished in 1974. A small low-rise strip mall is now on the site.

AO 2133  1948

                 The Nortown’s auditorium, Ontario Archives AO 2133

Series 1278, File 108  Nortown   2

Facade of the Nortown c. 1951 ,City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278 It. 108

Series 1278, File 108, AO 2131   in 1948

                A section of the lobby, Ontario Archives, AO 2131

Series 1278, File 108,  AO 2131,  in 1948

                   Lounge area, photo Ontario Archives, AO 2131

Series 1278, File 108

The site of the Nortown after it had been demolished and a low-rise mall erected.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s old Eglinton Theatre—Part II

                    881-350  2

The Eglinton Theatre on opening night, April 2, 1936. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 350

In my mind, the Eglinton Theatre is forever associated with mega-hit films, which played for extended periods of time and sometimes several years. Most of them were “hard ticket reserved-seat” shows, requiring patrons to purchase tickets in advance of the date. In the industry, theatres that screened these types of films were referred to as “Roadshow Houses.” The Eglinton was one of them, and by agreement, when such films were screened, no other theatre featured the same film unless it was located 90 miles or more from the Eglinton. This assured the theatre of exclusivity. Films screened between mega-hits were referred to as “Fillers.”

Map of 400 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N 1A2

     Location of the Eglinton Theatre at 400 Eglinton Avenue West.

One of the best examples of a “hard-ticket” film at the Eglinton was “The Sound of Music,” screened from March 10, 1965 to December 21, 1967. Twentieth Century Fox Studios, the producers of the film, insisted on handling the open night in Toronto. Though they did not own the theatre, they shipped from the United States new projectors, which were encased in bubble-wrap. As well, a new screen was installed to permit the film to be viewed in Todd-AO. Further improvements included new seating and carpeting. The studio also brought in their own staff for opening night, insisting that the Eglinton’s regular staff step aside. Snacks, popcorn and drinks were prepared in advance for the intermission. I remember seeing the “Sound of Music” at the Eglinton in 1965 and was impressed with the theatre and film.

In the months ahead, daily performances were at 8:15 pm, ending at 11:30 pm, with Wednesday afternoon matinees at 2 pm. The matinees were well attended by seniors who tended to avoid the evening shows as they ended too late. The matinees were also popular with school groups. One of the employees of the theatre caught the chicken pox due to being in contact with so many children.

Other long-running films that played at the Eglinton were “Windjammer Holiday” in Cinemascope in 1958, “How the West Was Won” (1962), “Dr. Doolittle” (1967), Finian’s Rainbow in 1968, and “Hello Dolly!” in 1969. To promote the film “Dr. Doolittle,” a press luncheon was held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the CNE. In 1983 the James Bond movie “Octapussy” was shown, but it was not a hard-ticket screening.

For the opening of Hello Dolly!, a life-size photo of Barbara Streisand, attired in white gown, was placed in a prominent position in the lobby. A Toronto graphic design studio and the manager of the theatre created the picture from a cut-out. It depicted Streisand descending a red-carpeted staircase, as if she were in New York’s Harmonia Gardens. Unable to obtain palm trees, a local florist found tall fluffy corn tails, which were placed in two urns on either side of the picture. Fox Studios liked it. 

                                                             * * *

The Eglinton Theatre has a distinguished record in the history of Toronto’s movie theatres. Its story commenced during the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, Eglinton Avenue was an unpaved dusty street with few shops, though the area was rapidly developing as a prosperous residential district. An immigrant from Sicily, Agostino Arrigo Senior, realized its potential and purchased property on the north side of Eglinton Avenue, a short distance west of Avenue Road, in the district of Forest Hill. In this decade, financing for projects was extremely difficult. However, Agostino Arrigo dreamed of creating the finest theatre in the city. He reasoned that despite the Depression, movies remained highly popular, since they were inexpensive compared to other forms of entertainment. His faith was rewarded when he finally arranged financing with Famous Players theatre chain. The Eglinton Theatre emerged from the dream world into reality.

The theatre’s architects were Kaplan and Sprachman, who designed the theatre in the Art Deco style, with rounded corners and geometric shapes, accompanied by whimsical ornamental designs inspired by the “Century of Progress Exposition of 1933” in Chicago. When the Eglinton opened in 1936, it was hailed as being futuristic—Toronto’s best modern theatre. It won the Governor General’s Award for architectural excellence in 1937.

The theatre cost $200,000 to construct, an enormous amount of money during the Great Depression. Its 800-seat auditorium was recessed back from the street, parallel to Eglinton Avenue. Shops flanked the north side of the theatre that fronted on the sidewalk. The rent from these stores helped to offset the expenses of operating the theatre. The huge curved marquee covered the entire entrance area, the sign above it boldly displaying the name of the theatre. The sign was one of the tallest in the city, rivalling the great sign on the Imperial Theatre on Yonge Street.

The film screened at its opening on April 2, 1936 was “King of Burlesque.” The decorative features of the interior amazed the audience. There were chandeliers, hand-carved statues and glass-etched panels surrounded by attractive colours. The lobby even contained a fireplace.

Though theatre attendance declined in the decades ahead, the Eglinton remained profitable as it was a premier venue. However, similar to most theatres, it struggled as the 21st century dawned. When the city demanded that wheelchair access be installed, its owners decided that the cost of this renovation was not practical, and it was finally shuttered in April 2002. Fortunately, it was not demolished and survives today as a special events venue, “The Eglinton Grand.”

Note: the author is grateful to Michael Allen Bronstorph for information on the Eglinton Theatre. Among other positions in the theatre industry, he was the manager of the Eglinton for several years.

881-350   3

Entrance of the Eglinton Theatre in 1936, the year it opened. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 350

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A small portion of the lobby of the Eglinton in 1936. Photo City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 345

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View of the art work seen on the wall in the previous photo. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 345 

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               View of the lobby. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 345

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The lobby of the Eglinton in 1936, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 350

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   Woman’s washroom, c. 1936, City of Toronto Archives, Series  881 File 350

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View of the auditorium from the stage area. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 346

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Entrance of the Eglinton Grand, the former Eglinton Theatre, in 2013

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                  Box office and marquee of the Eglinton Grand in 2013.

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                    The facade of the Eglinton Grand in the summer of 2013.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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)

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old Pickford Theatre—Part 11

Pickford, Spadina and Queen 1916, dmol. 1972

                            The Pickford Theatre in 1916

The intersection of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West is today one of the busiest intersections in downtown Toronto. I sometimes refer to it as “hamburger corner,” as  there are four fast-food hamburger outlets located at this intersection. However, until I commenced researching Toronto’s old movie houses, I had never realized that it was also the site of one of the city’s earliest theatres—the Auditorium Theatre.

It was located at 382 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. It opened in 1908, on the ground-floor level of the Moler College Barber Building, which was three storeys in height and topped by a Mansard roof. The 1916 photo depicts the theatre and shows two of the three storeys above it.

When the theatre opened in the first decade of the 20th century, the movie theatre business was in its infancy and was considered a risky business enterprise. Thus, renting space within an existing building was  the least expensive way to present “film plays.” However, within a few years this attitude changed due to the increasing popularity of the movies. Buildings were then constructed for the express purpose of showing films. The situation now was reversed, as theatre owners rented excess space for other business enterprises. The funds assisted in reducing the expenses of operating a theatre.

When the Auditorium opened, it imitated the format established by the Theatorium Theatre at Yonge and Queen, which featured films and a series of vaudeville acts. The Theatorium  was a nickelodeon, as it charged five cents for tickets. The Auditorium Theatre followed this pattern too. It boasted that it showed films that required three reels to complete, considered quite a technological feat in 1908.

The interior space of the theatre was long and narrow, extending back from Queen Street. There was a stage at the north end of the auditorium, but its ceiling was not of sufficient height to accommodate a large screen. This restriction also prevented the building of a balcony. Thus, it was a small theatre, containing less than 400 leatherette seats, all with plush-backs. It possessed three narrow sections of seats, separated by two aisles. From its opening day, it was well attended as there were no other theatres in close proximity to it.

In 1913 the theatre was renovated, its north wall extended further back to increase the seating capacity by almost 50 seats. Following the alterations, the theatre was renamed the Avenue, the name likely chosen because it was on Spadina Avenue.

In 1915, it again changed its name and became the Mary Pickford Theatre. This allowed the theatre to take advantage of the fame associated with the first true international film star of the silver screen. She had been born in Toronto and her name added to the popularity of the theatre. The theatre’s name was later shortened and it was simply referred to as the Pickford. This name was to remain until 1945, when it was renamed the Variety.

The old theatre finally closed in 1947. The Moler Barber Building, where the Pickford had been located, during the 1950s was occupied by Bargain Benny’s. It operated on business practices similar to Honest Ed’s. The bargain emporium went bankrupt in 1961. After the building was demolished in 1972, a small cafe was erected on the site. Today, a hamburger outlet occupies the cafe.

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    The entrance to the Standard  Theatre, later renamed the Pickford.

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View gazes north on Spadina toward Queen Street West. The Pickford was on the ground floor of the Moler Barber building, which has a turret on its southeast corner.

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The Moler Barber Building at Spadina and Queen in 1958, where the Pickford Theatre was located.

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The small cafe that was erected on the site after the Moler Barber Building was demolished.

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The northwest corner of Queen and Spadina after the cafe became a McDonald’s outlet (photo 2012) .

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s old Parkdale Theatre—Part 11

Series 1278, Fl. 10130

The Parkdale Theatre in 1937. Photo City of Toronto Archives Series 1278, File 10130

The Parkdale Theatre at 1605 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Queen and Triller Avenue is another of Toronto’s theatres that I can readily recall, though I never was inside its doors. As a child, in the 1940s, I often gazed at its showy marquee from the windows of the Queen streetcars. On these occasions, we were on our way to Sunnyside Beach for a day beside the lake. The theatre was only one city block away from the “three-way corner” of Queen, Roncesvalles and King Street. We alighted from the streetcar at this intersection, crossed a narrow bridge spanning the railway tracks and descended the stairs to the amusement park and beach, located on Lakeshore Boulevard.

I also remember that at the three-way corner, on the northwest corner there was a Gray Coach Bus Terminal and next to it was the Edgewater Hotel. The Parkdale Theatre was only a short walk from these well-known city landmarks. All these building remain in existence today (2015), but have been converted for other commercial purposes.

Map of 1605 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A9

The three-way corner (Queen, King and Roncesvalles) is to the left of the green arrow that indicates the location of the Parkdale Theatre.

In the late 19th century, Parkdale remained a relatively remote community to the west of the city, despite having been amalgamated with Toronto in 1889. On hot summer days, it was a favourite destination for Torontonians who wanted to swim in the cool waters of the lake. They visited the south end of Parkdale, where the beach area was known as Sunnyside.

However, in the first decade of the 20th century, as Toronto’s population crept westward, Parkdale’s population expanded. Prior to the First World War, construction commenced at Sunnyside to extend the beach and create an amusement park. The work ceased during the war and continued after it ended. As it neared completion, it was obvious that the area would be ideal for movie theatres. The opportunity was seized by the Allen brothers, Jule and Jay, who already owned the Allen Theatre (Tivoli) at Adelaide and Victoria Streets and the Allen’s Danforth.

The Parkdale opened on April 5, 1920, in time for the summer season. It was designed by Howard Crane of Detroit. The theatre was a large rectangular yellow-brick building, its auditorium built parallel to Queen Street. Its façade was relatively plain, except for stone detailing below the cornice. However, the interior of the Parkdale was luxurious, typical of most Allen theatres. Patrons were astonished at the gilded patterns and fancy plaster trim throughout the theatre. The ceiling was the equivalent of three storeys in height, containing well-crafted designs with enormous concentric rings with a large medallion in the centre. Striking decorative lines radiated from the central medallion. Chandeliers were suspended from this ornate ceiling, below it over 1500 seats with leather seats and backs. Four wide aisles allowed easy access and departures from the rows. The entrance lobby was equally as impressive, with Wedgewood-style designs above the entrance doors and those leading into the auditorium.

In January 1938, water-washed air conditioning was installed. It was not until 1950 that a candy bar was added. Today, this seems quite strange, as modern theatres derive a high percentage of their revenues from popcorn, drinks and other treats. Even stranger, after the candy bar was installed, the sale of popcorn was not allowed as it was considered too messy.

Despite its opulence, the Parkdale slowly lost in its competition with television. The theatre closed on July 6, 1970. The building on Queen Street in Parkdale remains today, but it has been converted into shops that specialize in second-hand and antique furniture.

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                                          Lobby of the Parkdale Theatre.

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                                      Auditorium of the Parkdale.

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     Parkdale Theatre after the building was converted to furniture shops.

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              The site of the Parkdale Theatre during the summer of 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s Playhouse (Melody) Theatre Part II

Playhouse 1099-N-96

The Playhouse Theatre c. 1938. Movies showing are Mae West in “Klondike Annie” and Margaret Lindsey in “The Law in Her Hands,”both films released in 1936. Photo is from the Toronto Archives SC 488-1099.

When I was a teenager, I was familiar with the College Street area north of the Kensington Market, but I do not remember the Playhouse Theatre. Located at 344 College Street, it was on the north side of the street, a few doors east of Brunswick Avenue. The theatre was on the ground-floor level of a three-storey building block, erected in the 1880s or 1890s. During the latter decades of the 19th century, grouping two or more structures into a single building was an excellent business enterprise in, since it was more economical to construct and maintain than detached structures. It also reduced the amount of land required to erect the structure. Landlords rented the first-floor levels for shops and the floors above them for offices or residential apartments. The Playhouse rented space within such a building, occupying the equivalent of two stores. The theatre likely opened in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

The theatre’s marquee stretched across the entire front of it, the large sign above the marquee attached to the façade between the second and third floors. At night, anyone living in the apartments on these floors was exposed to the bright lights of the sign. The box office was at the edge of the sidewalk, the entrance doors positioned on either side.

I was unable to discover any information about the theatre in the archives. However, because of it was on the ground-floor level, I am certain there would have been no balcony as the ceiling was not of sufficient height. The building extended back from College Street, so the theatre’s auditorium would have been long and narrow, likely with a single aisle. In the decade when it opened, it would have most certainly possessed a small stage for vaudeville acts. In the years ahead, the Playhouse was renamed the Melody Theatre.

There is a poster in the collection of the Toronto Public Library, dated 1950, which advertises a live musical program at the Portuguese Melody Theatre at 344 College Street. The theatre was responding to the demographic changes in the neighbourhood and was screening Portuguese films as well. I was unable to discover the year that the theatre closed.

Map of 344 College St, Toronto, ON M5T

                 Site of the Playhouse (Melody Theatre)

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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)

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s old University Theatre Part II

                1969, Photo by J. Goode, Tor. Ref. Lib.

The University Theatre in 1969. Photo by J. Goode, Toronto Reference Library

Located at 100 Bloor Street West, the University Theatre was a short distance west of Bay Street. One of Toronto’s most popular theatres for almost four decades, it attracted patrons from across the entire city. Similar to the Odeon Carlton, it was a modern “movie palace,” even though the experts declared it too intimate to be classified as such. I do not understand this reasoning. Between the auditorium and the balcony, it contained 1350 seats, manufactured by Cana Theatre Chair Company. Its luxurious lobby was the equivalent of two storeys in height, with a grand staircase connecting the lower and mezzanine levels. Its wide screen was one of the largest ever installed in the city, ideal for wide-screen mega-hits.

Map of 100 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 3L7 

Admittedly, Loew’s Downtown (the Elgin) was larger with 1900 seats, but I believe that the University was truly a movie palace in both size and design. Its sleek modern façade had a dazzling art moderne-style marquee and towering signage, at its pinnacle the words “Famous Players.” The auditorium possessed modernistic vertical lines, emphasizing its vast height. It was one of the greatest postwar theatres ever built in Canada and was Famous Player’s attempt to compete with the Odeon Carlton. The University opened on March 25, 1949 with the film “Joan of Arc,” starring Ingrid Bergman.

My memories of the University Theatre are associated with some of the greatest mega-hits of the latter half of the 20th century. These films usually required that a ticket be purchased in advance. Tickets displayed the seat and row number, similar to live performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. There were intermissions halfway through the films. This feature, along with the ticketing system, added to the sense of occasion when attending screenings.

One of the first films that I recall seeing at the University was “The Ten Commandments,” in 1956. Then, in 1957, the theatre screened its first film in Cinerama. This wide-screen format was an instant hit. Other ticketed films that I remember are “Ben Hur” (1959), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Cleopatra (1962), “My Fair Lady (1964), “Doctor Zhivago (1965) and “The Agony and the Esctasy” (1965).

The last mega-hit that I associate with the University is “Apocalyse Now” (1979). This Vietnam was film was not reserved-ticket seating. However, I can still recall how the entire theatre vibrated in the scene where the military helicopters roared across the beach, guns blazing, while majestic music thundered from the theatre’s Dolby sound system. Small wonder that the film played for 52 weeks at the theatre.

Due its enormous size, the theatre eventually developed financial problems when attendance declined. In the mid-1980s, the theatre’s manager was quoted as saying that even if the theatre were able to screen another hit with the same potential ticket sales as “Apocalypse Now,” the venue would not be profitable.

The University shut its doors in 1986. The building was demolished, except for its façade, which today is part of a high-rise condominium. However, the theatre’s box office remains, facing Bloor Street. Every time I pass it, I remember the great films that I saw at this venerable theatre.

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A section of the lobby and the stairs leading to the balcony. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881- File 336

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The University in 1980, after the enormous sign above the marquee had been removed. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 337

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The University Theatre in 1983, Photo City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, Fl 0124, Id. 0101

Series 881, Fl.336 It. !9A

The auditorium of the University, view from the stage area. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 336

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View from the rear of the theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl. 336

5 Oct. 2013

View of the former University Theatre. When this photo was taken on October 5, 2013, the theatre has been demolished and converted for other commercial purposes. Its facade is attached to a modern condo, which can be seen behind it.

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The former box office of the theatre, now employed as a display area for a shop that sells dinnerware etc. Photo taken in 2013.

                       DSCN8235

The two-storey window of the lobby that faced Bloor Street. Photo, 2013.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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)

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old Allen’s Bloor Theatre (the Bloor, Lee’s Palace)

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Site of the Allen Bloor Theatre, with its colourful graffiti art, at 529 Bloor Street West. Photo taken in 2014.

On a hot summer afternoon in 2014, I journeyed to the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst Streets in search of one of Toronto’s old movie houses. I had never attended the theatre and did not remember it from when I worked in the area in the 1950s. However, I had read about the Allen brothers, Jule and Jay, who had built the theatre.

The Allens opened their first “moving picture theatre” in their home town of Brantford in 1907. They arrived in Toronto in 1915 and in the years ahead, built a chain of theatres that were among the finest in Toronto. They eventually included  the Allen Theatre (later renamed the Tivoli), Allen’s Danforth, Allen’s Parkdale, the Beaver, St. Clair, College and the Beach. The exterior of their theatres were often relatively plain, but the interiors were richly ornamented, the exuberant plaster ornamentations and gold-painted trim portraying hints of the cathedrals and palaces of Europe. 

In the first decade of the 20th century, the Bloor/Bathurst district was under intense development, a much sought-after residential area. It was not far from downtown Toronto and was serviced by the Bloor and Bathurst streetcar lines. Because it was densely populated, with much pedestrian traffic, it was an ideal location for a movie theatre. The first theatre opened in the area in 1913.

Map of 529 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y4

                     The site of Allen’s Bloor Theatre

In July 2014, I finally arrived at location of the former Allen’s Bloor Theatre. It was at 529 Bloor Street West, on the south side of the street, not far to the east of the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst. However, few traces remained of the luxurious theatre that had been on the site. Now named Lee’s Palace, it was a nightclub and dance hall, offering live performances. Its facade was covered with colourful graffiti art. 

The Allen’s Bloor Theatre opened on March 10, 1919 with the silent film “Don’t Change Your Wife,” starring Gloria Swanson. It was one of a series of three films with a similar theme, all starring Gloria Swanson. The theatre was in direct competition with the Madison that had opened in 1913, further west along the street. Allen’s Bloor was the smallest of the Allen theatres, with about 700 seats, as opposed to other Allen venues that were 1200-1500 seats.

Its marquee was small, with three windows above it, topped with Roman arches. Windows of similar design were on opposite sides of them. These small touches, along with the dentils in the cornice, provided classical touches to the facade. The architect of Allen’s Bloor was C. Howard Crane of Detroit, who designed all the Allen venues. Its auditorium contained a stage for vaudeville and an orchestra pit for the musicians. Over the stage area was an enormous archway, with decorative plaster ornamentations surrounding it. The vaulted ceiling resembled a great cathedral.

The theatre was highly successful, but unfortunately the Allen brothers over-extended their finances. In 1923, the chain was purchased by Famous Players, who renamed it the Bloor Theatre.

The Bloor  remained an active theatre until the 1950s. After it closed, the premises were renovated for other purposes. It was the Blue Orchid Restaurant for a few years and also a bank. In 1985 it became Lee’s Palace and today is one of the city’s popular live theatre and dance venues.   

Note: I am indebted to cinematreasures.org and torontodreamsproject.blogspot.com for the historic photos in this post and to silenttoronto.org by Eric Viellete for some of the information. The colour photographs are my own. 

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                                      Allen’s Bloor Theatre c. 1920.

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                         Stage and screen of Allen’s Bloor in 1920.

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                  Upper portion of the facade of the old theatre in 2014.

                      DSCN8200

                                                  Lee’s Palace in 2014.

                           DSCN8203

                       Site of Allen’s Bloor Theatre in the summer of 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Toronto’s old (Odeon) Carlton—Part 11

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Cover of the pamphlet designed for the opening of the Toronto Odeon Theatre, later renamed the Odeon Carlton. Graphic courtesy of Walter Godfrey of Toronto.

Even though I lived in the west end of Toronto, I considered the Odeon Theatre on Carlton Street one of my local theatres. This was because when I was a teenager in the 1950s, I frequently travelled downtown to attend it. Whenever I entered its enormous lobby, I was in awe of its elegant grandeur and viewed it as a true movie palace. However, unlike the movie palaces of yesteryear, such as the Imperial and Shea’s Hippodrome, the Odeon was sleek and modern. Its architecture and interior trim reflected the finest trends of the second half of the 20th century. As a young adult, I saw several of the James Bond films at the Odeon Carlton—Goldfinger in 1964 and Thunderball in 1966.

When the theatre opened on September 9, 1948, the posters and newspaper ads boasting that it was, “The Showplace of the Dominion.” It contained a restaurant on the mezzanine level, the first theatre-restaurant in Canada. On frigid winter evenings, friends and I enjoyed fish and chips or a Ritz Carltons (hot dogs) in this eatery, managed by the Honey Dew Restaurant chain, famous for its orange drink that included real pulp. It was one of the most popular beverages at the CNE during this decade. The theatre had originally intended to operate a first-class restaurant on the premises, but was unable to obtain a liquor license.

As a teenager, I remember seeing the film star Dorothy Lamour on its stage in a live show that also featured the famous quartet, The Four Lads. They were graduates of the St. Michael’s Choir School on Bond Street in Toronto. The magnificent sound of the theatre’s enormous organ, situated on the right-hand side of the stage is another memory that remains with me. The instrument was capable of surrounding the audience in full lush sounds, despite the cavernous size of the venue. Today, the organ resides at Queen’s University in Kingston.

The theatre required two years and 2 1/2 million dollars to build. It opened as the Odeon Toronto, the premier movie house in Toronto of the British Odeon chain. The theatre contained 2300 plush seats of green and gold, the drapery and curtains surrounding the stage weighing 2 ½ tons, contoured to wrap around the front of the auditorium. Long horizontal decorative lines swept the full length of the north and south walls, the lines becoming curved near the stage area. All floors were covered with thick broadloom that possessed brightly coloured floral designs. The carpeting and colour scheme had been chosen by Eaton’s College Street store, on the southwest corner of Yonge and College Streets. The trim throughout the theatre was blond-stained wood and stainless steel. The curved balcony swept across the width of the auditorium. At the rear of the theatre, there was free parking for patrons from 6 pm onward. This information was obtained from the brochure provided to patrons on opening night.

For its inauguration, the theatre featured the North American premier of the J. Arthur Rank production of Dickens’ classic tale of Oliver Twist, with Alec Guinness as Fagan. Trevor Howard and Patricia Roc, who starred in the film, were present for the opening. The seating was all reserved ticketing.

Later in the month, the naughty stars of the CNE Grandstand—Olsen and Johnson—attended the theatre. These stars had been warned by the Toronto morality squad to censor the jokes they told in their grandstand performances. This rebuke created great publicity for the comedians and ticket sales soared. A luncheon was held in their honour at the Carlton, but I doubt if they were served either fish and chips or hotdogs in the restaurant.

In January 1949, the film Scott of the Antarctica was screened, starring John Mills showed at the Carlton. No luncheon was held for this show, although frozen fish sticks would have been appropriate.

By the early 1970s, it became obvious that the Carlton was too large to screen movies profitably, and operating it at reduced capacity was not economical. For a brief period, the city considered purchasing it as a home for the Canadian Opera Company. However, this was deemed financially ruinous for the city, since it was already subsidizing the O’Keefe Centre, now named the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

The theatre shut its doors in September 1975 and was later demolished. A modern office building is on the site today, and on its ground floor is a multiplex theatre named the Carlton Cinemas.

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Construction of the Odeon Toronto (Carlton in 1947-1948). Photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

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Invitation to the opening of the Odeon Toronto (Carlton) Theatre. Photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

               Odeon Carlton

View of the facade of the Odeon Carlton Theatre in 1972. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

                       DSCN0193

Opening night program, courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

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Auditorium of the Odeon Carlton, photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto

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The lobby and candy bar of the theatre in the 1950s, photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

from Tor. Ref. Lib. DSCN3033

Gazing north on Yonge Street in 1956 toward College/Carlton Street, the Westbury Hotel under construction. This intersection was one block west of the Odeon Carlton. Photo, Toronto Reference Library.

                      Odeon Carlton 1958

Photo of the Odeon Carlton in 1956, from the author’s 35mm slide collection.

                          site of Odeon Carlton

                         Site of the Odeon Carlton in 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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