The Colony Theatre at 1801 Eglinton Avenue West, at Vaughan Road in 1948. The sign on the building in the background for “Orange Crush” may create memories for those who remember the amber krinkly bottles with the pop that contained real pulp, as it was advertised. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, 125064
When I was a boy, the Colony Theatre was the second move house that I ever attended. Our local theatre was the Grant, at Oakwood and Vaughan, and because the Colony was further away, my parents were reluctant to allow me to travel the extra distance, even though I walked. My friends and I considered the Colony to be a “step-up,” as it was classier than our usual haunt. I attended many afternoon matinees at this theatre, munching on popcorn and being thrilled by the heroes of the silver screen. The film that I remember the most from my days attending the Colony was “The Mark of Zorro,” released in 1940, starring Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.
The Colony Theatre was built in 1939, the year the Second World War commenced. Its architects were Kaplan and Sprachman. Throughout the 1940s, I remember viewing many war films at the theatre, many of them starring John Wayne. Today, I realize that they were designed to raise morale on the home front, when news of casualties and battles were reported daily in the press. The Colony also screened newsreels during these years, as it was an age without television, so was the only way for the public to view scenes of the war front. In these newsreels, true casualty figures were not mentioned. Scenes of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth walking among the bombed ruins of Buckingham Palace caused people to identify with the suffering of those who endured the air raids on London.
In 1952, the theatre was purchased by the Odeon chain and was extensively renovated. This was when the theatre commenced the “Odeon Movie Club,” which were Saturday morning matinees. For these shows, there was an announcer who introduced the films, told jokes, and gave away prizes and special badges that kids pinned to their jackets or shirts. These sessions included more cartoons than regular matinees. It all seems quite corny today, but in the 1950s, the club was an eagerly awaited event. Sadly, as television became more common throughout the homes of the city, attendance declined. The Colony was closed in 1958. The building was gutted, although some parts of the walls were retained. Today, on the site is an office building.
The Colony Theatre in 1939—photo—Mandel Sprachman
The Saturday morning Odeon Movie Club at the Colony
The site of the Colony in 2013, with shops on the first floor level and offices above.
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To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings
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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.
To place an order for this book: