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Toronto’s Biltmore Theatre on Yonge St.

01 Mar

Biltmore, 1948, SC 303-A-4

The Biltmore Theatre in 1948, the year it opened. City of Toronto Archives, SC 303-A

The Biltmore Theatre, built in 1948, seated almost 1000 patrons, twice the capacity of the Rio Theatre, located further north on Yonge Street, closer to Gerrard Street. When it opened, the Biltmore’s main competition were the Imperial and Loew’s Downtown. Both these theatres had larger seating capacities, and thus were able to afford to rent recent Hollywood releases. As a result, the Biltmore offered two features for a single admission price.

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, my friends and I rarely attended the Biltmore, since our neighbourhood movie houses satisfied our need to view older films. When we journeyed downtown we wanted to see the latest movie hits, so attended the larger theatres in the area.

The above photo gazes north on Yonge Street from near Dundas Street. The Biltmore, with its impressive sign and marquee, is on the right-hand side (east side) of Yonge Street. To the north of the theatre can be seen the turret on the Edison Hotel. It had previously been named the Princess Hotel, and it burned on 3 January 2011. Only the walls of the building survived. However, the empty shell of the building was boarded-up and unattended for a several years. The north wall of the structure eventually collapsed into the street. Then, the entire structure was demolished.

With the onslaught of television, attendance at the Biltmore dwindled. In an attempt to attract patrons, the Biltmore offered double and sometimes triple features, at a very low price, sometimes as cheap as one dollar, if you entered before 6 pm. I am told that at one time the theatre also offered five movies for the price of three dollars. In its latter years, the Biltmore screened martial arts films, action flicks and sometimes soft-core porn. However, all attempts to increase revenues failed.

The Biltmore closed in 1986, according to John Farquharson, who worked as a projectionist at the theatre. With the demise of the Biltmore, another of Toronto’s old movie houses was lost. The site was used for various commercial enterprises until it was demolished in 1991 to construct the 25,000 square-foot HMV Superstore that is a part of the building complex on the northeast corner of Dundas and Yonge. Its postal address 10 Dundas St. East.

large[1]  Biltmore  Tor. Archives

   Gazing north on Yonge Street from near Dundas Street on 3 January 1950. The Biltmore Theatre is on the right-hand side of the photo. Photo is from the City of Toronto Archives.

Biltmore Theatre

The Biltmore in the late-1980s, shortly after it closed as an operating movie theatre. This photo gazes north on Yonge Street. The northeast corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets is in the foreground on the right-hand side. The modern neon sign to the south of the Biltmore, for the Pin Ball Arcade, at night over-shadowed the once impressive marquee of the Biltmore. The turret on the Edison Hotel is visible further north on the street. The northeast corner of Dundas and Yonge, where Mr. Submarine is located, was once the site of the famous Brown Derby Tavern. Photo is from the City of Toronto Archives.

BiltmoreTheatre[1]

The Biltmore at night. Photo from the blog, Torontothenandnow.blogspot.com

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

To view previous posts about other old movie houses of Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To View links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Toronto

 

3 responses to “Toronto’s Biltmore Theatre on Yonge St.

  1. bob

    September 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

    A few errors above.

    1) the Biltmore is on the right side of Yonge, not left, when viewing the pictures.

    2) the Rio was south of Gerrard.

    3) doubtful it was torn down to build the HMV as HMV is located right next to where the Edison Hotel was. I would guess the Biltmore auditorium was located where the Ryerson parking garage was built, so that may have doomed the Biltmore.

     
  2. Erik

    February 2, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Your facts on the Biltmore are off by a bit. It survived and operated well into the 1980’s. Also, it was not torn down to make space for the HMV. After closing, the building was renovated into a jewelry mall, and operated as such until the entire north east corner of Yonge and Dundas was torn down and redeveloped into what became the Toronto Life Square.

     
  3. John Farquharson

    May 26, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Erik is correct in the fact that the Biltmore theater operated well into the 1980″s. I know for a fact that it closed in 1986 because I was one of the projectionists that worked there until it closed.

     

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