The above photo is from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library, and was taken in 1969 by Dick Darrell of the Toronto Daily Star. The film on the marquee is “Goodbye Columbus,” a romantic comedy released in 1969, featuring Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw in their Hollywood debuts. The photo indicates that the film was in its 22nd week at the theatre.
Information on the Town Cinema is scarce in the archives, but I remember this theatre quite well. Located at 57 Bloor Street East, it was on the south side of Bloor Street, a short distance east of Yonge. It specialized in art films, although it offered other movies as well. At the Town Cinema, I remember viewing several of Shakespeare’s plays that had been adapted for film. I believe that tickets for these films were available well in advance of the performances, and could be purchased from ticket companies throughout the city. The tickets designated the exact seats, similar to legitimate theatres such as the Royal Alexandra. This added a degree of prestige to attending the Town Cinema Theatre.
The theatre opened on April 25, 1949. It was considered an intimate venue, with only 501 seats in its auditorium and a further 192 in the balcony. The balcony was located above the lobby, which fronted on Bloor Street, so this seating section was recessed back a considerable distance from screen. The theatre’s facade, designed by the famous architects Kaplan and Sprachman, was modern in appearance, a departure from the Art Deco designs that these architects had employed in previous decades. The seats in the theatre were supplied by the Canadian Theatre Chair Company, located on St. Patrick Street in downtown Toronto. The Town Cinema was owned and operated by 20th Century Theatre chain. Its sister theatre was the International Cinema at 2061 Yonge Street.
The theatre was closed in 1985, and the premises converted for other retail purposes. For a few years, it was a fabric and drapery store. The building was eventually demolished and the site is now part of the new condominium (One Bloor) on the southeast corner of Bloor and Yonge.
Interior of the Town Cinema. The photo reveals how far the balcony was from the screen. Photo from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library, donated by Iris McCaig, the well-known portraiture photographer.
Lobby of the theatre, photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Collection 135156.
Photo by Michael Burns, from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library. The Italian film version of the opera, Aida was playing. It was released in 1953, starring Sophia Loren in the lead role as the Egyptian slave girl. Although the part was sung my Renata TabaldiIi, it was Sophia Loren’s first starring role and her acting made her a star.
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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)