Toronto’s old Hollywood Theatre

Hollywood, Series 1278, File 83, OA 2120

            Photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, File 83).

The above picture was likely taken around 1945, as the film on the marquee is, “Ladies of Washington,” starring Trudy Marshall. The film was released 1944. The Hollywood Theatre was at 1519 Yonge Street, on the east side of Yonge Street, a short distance north of St. Clair Avenue. It was located in Deer Park, which opened as a residential area in the 1890s, after the Yonge Streetcar line was extended beyond Summerhill, up over the steep Yonge Street hill north of Davenport Road. Prior to that time, the area had been isolated from the city below. By the time the plans for the Hollywood Theatre commenced, Deer Park was a well-established area with high real estate prices and an excellent shopping district.

The Hollywood Theatre opened on October 27, 1930 as a part of the Allen chain. Its architect was Herbert George Duerr. The Allen brothers considered it among their “Premier Group of Theatres.” Although “the talkies” (films with a sound tracks) had first appeared in Toronto in 1928, they were shown in converted silent movie houses. The Hollywood was the first theatre constructed as a “Talking Picture Playhouse,” explicitly for sound films. It was equipped with a new Western Electric Sound System. Thus, it was an advancement in the city’s movie-theatre scene. The first “talkie” at the Hollywood was “Love Among the Millionaires.” This information was derived from and article by Mike Filey, published in the Toronto Sun on March 7, 1999 (files of the City of Toronto Archives.)  

The Allen chain eventually sold the theatre to Famous Players Corporation. In the 1950s, the famous architect Mandel Sprachman redesigned the theatre to create twined auditoriums, a north theatre and one to the south. The north theatre was built in the space that had previously been the theatre’s parking lot. At the same time, the canopy and facade of the structure were also changed and all the windows facing the street were covered over. The total cost of renovation was between $55,000 and $60,000.

In the 1950s, Ontario laws required that matrons patrol the aisles of the theatres to ensure that there was no seat-hopping or other improprieties. I assume that the back rows of the theatres were the main targets of these enforcers, as they offered more opportunities to indulge in questionable behaviour. In 1957, a woman complained in writing to the censor board, stating that she had observed the matron sitting in the manager’s office rather than patrolling the aisles. Later, the woman observed the matron reading a newspaper and noticed that her uniform was “mussy.” The woman decided to explain to the matron how her duties should be performed. When tempers flared, the manager appeared. The woman said in her letter that the manager’s language was “quite abusive.”

The censor board investigated the complaint and wrote to the theatre manager. He replied that the woman was crazy if she expected his matron to parade up and down the aisles while the films were being shown. He asserted that he would cooperate with the censor board, but having his matron walking the aisles during films was too visually distracting. However, the manager insisted that the matron was in control of the audiences at all times. I suppose this included the back rows. The matter ended.

In 1960, the censor board received another complaint concerning the Hollywood Theatre. A patron noticed that a young child of ten or eleven years of age was in the theatre, viewing an adult film, “Suddenly Last Summer.” The censors informed the complainant that children were allowed to see adult films on public and school holidays, providing they attended before 6 p.m. The person who complained replied that parents should be warned of this rule, as it was felt that most parents were not aware of it.

Similar to many of Toronto’s great movie houses, when attendance dwindled at the Hollywood, it became unprofitable. It closed in 1999 and the building was demolished. 

Hollywood SC 303-A-75

This scene gazes north on Yonge Street from St. Clair Avenue. The featured film on the marquee of the Hollywood is “South Riding,” starring Ann Todd. The film was released in 1938. A small Dominion store is evident to the south of the theatre. This grocery chain was eventually renamed “Metro.” Photo is from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83, SC 303-A-75.


This photo was taken in the early 1960s, as the film “Rome Adventure,” starring Troy Donahue was released in 1962. The larger and more luxurious Odeon Hyland Theatre is visible in this photo, a short distance to the south of the Hollywood. The facade of the Hollywood contains windows with Moorish-style arches, ornate designs above the marquee, and detailed ornamentation in the cornice. I remember this theatre quite well and attended it many times in the 1950s. In this photo, the Dominion Store has disappeared from the street. Photo is from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, File 83).

Hollywood OA 2119

The interior of the Hollywood Theatre, with the classical pillars on both sides of the auditorium and painted scenes behind them. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83, AO 2119.

Hollywood OA 2118

The lobby of the Hollywood in the 1930s. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83, AO 2118

Hollywood    2 

The Hollywood Theatre after it was redesigned in the late 1950s to create two theatres, one on the north and and the other on the south. The marquee has been removed and the windows facing the street covered over. Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83.

Hollywood     6

Interior of the one of the renovated Hollywood Theatres. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83.

Series 1278, File 83

Lobby and candy bar of the Hollywood. This was after the theatre had been divided into two auditoriums, as the entrance to the north theatre can be seen. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 83

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2 thoughts on “Toronto’s old Hollywood Theatre

  1. The Hollywood had two theatres, long before the 60’s. If you look at newspaper ads from the fifties, it shows that both the north and south auditoriums had showtimes. The north one usually only showed evening showings except on weekends.

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