The Paramount Theatre was on the south side of St. Clair Avenue West, between Lauder and Glenholme avenues. (Photo City of Toronto Archives, Series 488, It.1100). I remember the Paramount Theatre quite clearly, although the above photo does not quite match with my memories, which are from the late-1940s and early-1950s, when its attractive facade was decidedly shabby. In the above picture, the two films listed on the marquee were both released in 1935, so the photo likely dates from 1936, the year the Paramount opened. It was named after the famous Paramount Studios in Hollywood, but had no connection to it. However, in the 1930s, its name created a glamorous image of the glories of the silver screen. The year the Paramount opened, it was licensed to J. B. Goldher and Garson Solway. The auditorium had a concrete floor and its ticket booth was in the lobby. It possessed two aisles, with the following seating pattern of — five seats on the left, an aisle, nine seats in the centre section, another aisle, and five more seats on the right-hand side. The air-conditioning was “water-washed cooled.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, with the advent of television, the Paramount operated on an increasingly tight budget. It attempted to lure customers by offering three feature films for a single admission price. It mainly screened B-movies, cowboy and crime films, and adventure films, accompanied by cartoons, newsreels, and serials. The latter were short films that ran consecutively for several weeks and were also referred to as “cliff-hangers.”
In 1951, the front of the theatre was remodelled by Herbert Duerr. Perhaps this was when the tower was added above the marquee.
When the theatre ceased to operate as a theatre, it became an appliance store. I remember this well, as my friends and I often stopped to watch the television sets in the window. The medium was in its infancy, and stores placed sets in their windows for people to view. As well, they mounted speakers outside the stores to provide the sound. It was an excellent form of advertising. The black and white pictures were grainy and of poor quality, but we thought they were marvellous. We dreamed of having such a marvel in our living rooms. When the appliance store was sold, the building was listed by the Toronto Real Estate Board at a price of $100,000.
Architect’s drawing for the Paramount Theatre, dated 1936. Drawing from the Toronto Archives.
The Paramount Theatre in 1936, looking east along St. Clair Avenue toward Oakwood. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 488-11-01-98.
The site of the old Paramount when it became a furniture and appliance store. The tower that was above the marquee of the theatre was recycled by the store. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, from the Toronto Real Estate Board.
The site of the old Paramount Theatre at 1069 St. Clair Avenue in 2013.
The site of the Paramount Theatre in 2013.
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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.
To place an order for this book:
Theatres Included in the Book
Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto
Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)
Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons
Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown
Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s
Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede
Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression
Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro
Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years
University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema
Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres
Savoy (Coronet), Westwood
Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes
Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)