The St. Clair Major was located at 1780 St. Clair Avenue West, which at the time was mainly a working-class district, remote from the downtown. Located a short distance east of Old Weston Road, the theatre originally opened as part of the Allen chain. Because it was easily accessible on the St. Clair and Weston Road streetcar lines, it remained a popular local theatre for several decades.
When the theatre opened in 1924, it contained 599 leatherette seats, separated by two aisles and no balcony. A document in the files at the City of Toronto Archives, dated September 1940, told of a complaint by a woman who stated that she witnessed children and young teenagers in attendance when the film “You Can’t Fool Your Wife” was showing. The woman claimed the movie “exalted the importance of a woman to make herself beautiful at all times, which was less pernicious than the positive teaching that a man cannot get advancement in the business world unless he is loose morally.”
I believe that I understand the gist of the woman’s complaint, but find her choice of words confusing. However, because she contacted the censors, they reviewed the film again and removed more of the dialogue. They also told the woman, “How this picture slipped past the censors is a mystery.” The film was a light comedy, but in the 1940s, what was considered acceptable differed greatly to that of today.
When attendance at the theatre dwindled, the St. Clair Major was renamed “Cinema Italia” and screened Italian movies. Eventually, the building was sold to a church community and remains today as a place of worship.
Interior of the St. Clair Major in November of 1970. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, AO 2272.
View of the rear of the auditorium, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, file 105, AO 2271
Lobby of the theatre, City of Toronto Archives, AO 2270.
The south facade of the old theatre in September of 2013, the building housing a place of worship.
Views of the old St. Clair Major Theatre in August of 2013.
Lobby area of the old theatre in 2013.
View gazing east along St. Clair Avenue, from near Old Weston Road in August of 2013. The former St. Clair Major Theatre is on the north side of the streetcar tracks, which are on their own right-of-way.
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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.
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