Construction on the Fox Theatre at 2236 Queen Street East, a few doors east of Beech Avenue, commenced on 20 October 1913, and it opened the following year. The building permit was issued to A. B. Webster, the land having been purchased for $35 per square foot. The permit allowed for a three-storey brick building, with apartments on the second and third floors. The theatre contained 750 seats and a large marquee that dominated the street. The marque no longer exists. On opening night in 1914, a four-piece musical group was hired to accompany the silent film, “Squaw Man.” In the early decades of the 20th century, churches and family organization objected to movies houses as they viewed them as sinful. In an attempt to counter these attitudes, they referred to films as “photo plays.”
The Fox Theatre is likely the only theatre in Toronto that originally opened without a designated name. It was simply called “The Theatre Without a Name.” A few days later, a contest was held to name it, the winner to receive $25 in gold. The winning name was the “Pastime,” and the name was changed on 19 April 1914. The following January, another contest was held that resulted in the theatre receiving the name the “Prince Edward,” in honour of the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VIII. The choice of name reflected the patriotic fervour that dominated Toronto during the First World War, and it was felt that the new name might aid in recruitment. During the war, recruitment meetings where held in the theatre, as well as silent movies.
In February of 1929, the theatre was converted to facilitate the screening of sound films. No matinees were held, and of course, no films on Sundays.
When King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, the theatre became “The Fox.” The name evoked memories of the famous Fox Theatre chain in the United States. The same year, the lobby was redesigned by Jay English. The “Festival Cinema Chain” purchased the property in 1978, two years prior to the company buying the Bloor Theatre (the old Madison/Midtown Theatre). In 1980, the Fox screened the “Rocky Horror Show” at midnight, and the film continued to be shown at the theatre for an extended period. In 1981, the Fox became a reparatory theatre. Sadly, the marquee was removed from the front of the theatre as it was too costly to maintain.
The Fox Theatre is one of the oldest theatre in Toronto to remain in continuous use, from 1914 to the present.
This photo from the City of Toronto Archives shows the marquee that at one time graced the front of the Fox Theatre.
This photo of Queen Street East was taken about the year 1950, when the streetcar tracks were being repaired. A PCC streetcar is evident on the left. It is an excellent picture of the marquee of the Fox.
The Fox Theatre about the year 2008, after the marquee had been removed.
The lobby of the Fox in the mid-1940s.
The lobby of the theatre in May of 2013
The old box office and doors of the theatre in 2013, during Doors Open Toronto.
The auditorium of the Fox Theatre
The auditorium of the Fox, viewed from the front, near the screen.
The pamphlet for the 80th anniversary of the Fox Theatre in 1993. A copy of the pamphlet is in the City of Toronto Archives.
The Fox Theatre during “Door Open Toronto” in May of 2013.
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To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new
The “Bloor Hot Docs Cinema” on Bloor Street West
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