On the site where “The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema” exists today, at 506 Bloor Street West, there has been a theatre since December 23, 1913. This was when the Madison Theatre opened its doors. It was a magnificent addition to the Annex District of Toronto and considered—a “movie picture palace.” During the 1920s, its 636-seat auditorium and 461-seat balcony boasted plush upholstered seats with matching backs, in an era when most seat-backs in theatres were of wood. The theatre offered stage attractions, silent movies, and eventually sound films. The Madison was highly attended throughout the 1920s and 1930s, even though it was unable to feature the latest hits, which were mostly shown at the theatres on Yonge Street.
In 1940, the Madison was purchased by 20th Century Fox and was demolished, except for its two side walls. The famous architectural firm of Kaplan and Sprachman was contracted to design the new theatre, at a cost of $70,000. When it reopened in May of 1941, its name was changed to the Midtown. Usherettes were introduced a month after the opening. It was quite a sensation, as the head usherette had been Miss Hamilton of 1939. She was an added attractions that drew patrons to the theatre. Throughout the latter years of the 1940s, the Midtown specialized in horror films.
In 1967 its name was changed to the Capri, and in 1973, it was became the Eden. It then featured porno films, which by modern standards, were quite tame. Its run as a porno house ended in 1979, and the theatre reverted to showing regular films. It did not attract sufficient crowds, and was closed on 14 November 1980. It was taken over by Carm Bordonaro, in partnership with Jerry Szcur and Tom Litvinkas of the The Festival Cinema Chain, which owned the Fox, Kingsway, Music Hall, Revue, and the Royal Theatres. They reopened the theatre at 506 Bloor Street in 1981 as the Bloor Cinema, and similar to other theatres in the chain, it specialized in B-movies and second-run features. It also offered cheaper prices at its snack bar. Carm Bordonero departed the theatre in 1999, and the Festival Cinema Chain became the sole owner. In 2010, Bordonero and his brother Paul purchased the building to ensure that it would survive as a functioning theatre.
In 2011, the operation of the theatre was sold to the Blue Ice Group. After a three-million renovation, they reopened it on 16 March 2012 as the “The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.” Today, the theatre is one of the venues for “The Hot Docs Festival,” one of the city’s largest film festivals. When the Festival in not running, the theatre presents an excellent assortment of documentary films. The city of Toronto is greatly enriched by the survival of this historic movie house.
The 1913 theatre “The Madison” at 506 Bloor Street. It was built in an era when almost all movies houses shared space on the ground floor with retail shops and rented apartments above the theatre to secure extra revenues.
This photo is of the new theatre (the Midtown)that replaced the old Madison in 1940. The featured film “Come on George” was released in 1939, so the photo was likely taken the year the building opened. This is the same structure that now houses the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
This photo was taken about 1951, when the theatre was the Midtown.
This photo was also taken about the year 1951. The film “So Young so Bad” was one of the first movies to depict women in prisons.
This picture was taken after 1981, when the theatre opened as the Bloor Cinema.
Note: All Black and white photos are from the City of Toronto Archives
The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in May of 2013.
Entrance to the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema with its 1940s-style doors.
Lobby of the theatre in 2013
Auditorium of the theatre today
The auditorium has an art deco appearance, even though it was built in the 1940s
View from the back row of the balcony
Snack bar in today’s theatre
The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, a valuable theatre venue in a city that loves its movies.
To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.com/
To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new
The Vaughan Theatre on St. Clair Avenue
Toronto’s first movie screening and its first movie theatre
The ultra-modern Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John Streets
Cineplex Theatre at Yonge and Dundas Streets
The Ed Mirvish Theatre (the Pantages, Imperial and Cannon)
The Downtown Theatre (now demolished) at Yonge and Dundas
The Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst
The Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre
Old movie houses of Toronto
The Odeon Carlton theatre on Carlton St., east of Yonge St.
The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:
The Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen
Attending a matinee in the old movie houses of Toronto during the “golden age of cinema”
The University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.
Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street
The Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street
The now vanished Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West