The magnificent Palace Theatre at 664 Danforth Avenue was a few doors west of the northeast corner of Danforth and Pape. The above photo from the Ontario Archives (AO 2161-6) was taken in 1948, when the film “Cheyenne” was advertised on the marquee. The movie starred Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyman.
A copy of the opening night program for the theatre survives in the City of Toronto Archives. It reveals that the theatre opened on February 21, 1924. One of the opening night features was the silent film, “Midsummer Madness,” released in 1921, directed by William Churchill de Mille, the older brother of the famous Cecil B. de Mille. It was a drama starring Jack Holt, Conrad Nagel and Lois Wilson. The film received rave revues for its excellent cinematography. On the same program was the comedy film “My Goodness,” released in 1921, starring a popular slapstick comedian of the 1920s, Louise Fazenda. The music for the silent films was provided by “Ladies Orchestra,” conducted by Miss Marjorie Stevens. The opening night was a grand success.
The 1575-seat theatre had no balcony. The floor was sloped from the stage area to the back wall, providing excellent sightlines for all the rows. The Tivoli Theatre on Richmond Street had been the first theatre in Toronto to offer this type of seating. It resembled the “stadium seating” of modern theatres, though the slope was more gentle. The loges section at the rear was the designated smoking area, and tickets for this section cost more. However, the seats were plusher than in the other parts of the theatre.
The theatre’s lobby created a grand entranceway to the auditorium as it contained extravagant gold ornamentations. Furniture in the lobby was silver-grey. Marble staircases on the east and west sides gave access to the washrooms on the second floor. The east-west aligned auditorium was parallel to Danforth Avenue, which allowed shops to be built into the south facade of the theatre, without the loss of any interior space. The shops were rented to provide extra income to offset the expenses of the theatre. This was a common practice during the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1937, all matinees at the Palace were 25 cents. In the evenings, from 6:30 pm until 7:30 pm, tickets were 25 cents, but from 7:30 pm until closing they were 32 cents. It cost 40 cents to sit in the lodges. The reduced prices at the early evening hours were an attempt to fill seats at a time that was generally sparsely attended. All these prices included the Ontario Amusement Tax.
I was never inside the Palace Theatre, but I remember its impressive marquee and facade. I often passed it on the Bloor streetcars when travelling along the Danforth. Unfortunately, the theatre closed in 1987, having held on longer than most neighbourhood theatres. It was sadly missed by the residents of the Danforth.
This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 71, S 0071, It.5484) was taken by the TTC on November 3, 1927. It shows a partial view of the south facade of the Palace Theatre. The marquee was later changed. On the corner is a United Cigar Store. In the 1920s, this chain of shops possessed many locations throughout the city. Next to the theatre is a Jenny Lind candy shop, which was famous for its chocolates. The chain was named after the famous Swedish singer who had once performed at the St. Lawrence Hall. The streetcar in the photo is a Peter Witt car. They first arrived in Toronto in 1921. The most famous Peter Witt cars were those that travelled on Yonge Street. They remained in service on the city’s main street until the subway was completed in 1954.
The Palace Theatre in 1948, with its new marquee. Photo from the Ontario Archives, AO 2161. This photo reveals the Art Deco style ornamentation on the theatre’s facade.
Interior view of the entrance of the Palace Theatre. Ontario Archives, AO 2160.
The auditorium of the Palace, with its sloping floor that extended from near the stage to the rear wall. The ceiling has Wedgewood-style designs and concentric circles, with a chandelier in the centre. The ceiling was similar to that of the Parkside Theatre at Queen and Roncesvalles. Photo, Ontario Archives, AO 30611-4
This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (G&M 114209) was taken in April of 1947. The movie on the marquee is “Big Sleep,” starring the famous duo, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacal. This movie had been released in 1946. The view looks east along the Danforth, from the southwest corner at Pape. The streetcar is a PCC car, first introduced to the city in 1938. Only two of these streetcar remain in existence today. The remainder of them was sold to Cairo, Egypt.
The site of the Palace Theatre on the Danforth during the summer of 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.
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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)