Toronto’s old movie theatres

18 Dec

Sheas-Hippodrome_thumb2  DSCN0638_thumb6

The wonderful old movie theatres of my youth have mostly been demolished. However, a few have survived destruction by being recycled for other commercial purposes. For example, the old Runnymede Theatre on Bloor Street West was a Chapters/Indigo Book Store, although  it is now slated to become an outlet of a major drug store chain. Other old theatres survived as venues for live theatre, such as the Pantages (Imperial, Ed Mirvish) and the Elgin (Loew’s Downtown). A few others, such as the Eglinton, have been transformed into special event venues. 

As a teenager, I spent many happy hours within the grand old theatres. Sometimes it was to escape the humid heat of a Toronto summer, as the movie theatres were air-conditioned at a time when only the very wealthy were able to afford such a luxury. In the 1950s, other than theatres and bowling alleys, very few air-conditioned places were open to the public, other than the Eaton and Simpson stores at Queen and Bay Streets.

As young boy, I knew that I was growing up when my parents allowed me to travel downtown to the great movie palaces on Yonge Street or those within close proximity of the city’s main drag—the Imperial, Shea’s Hippodrome, Odeon Carlton, Loew’s Downtown, Tivoli, Loew’s Uptown and the University. Sometimes, my friends and I also ventured into the smaller theatres that offered more than one feature film—the Downtown, Biltmore, Rio, and Coronet. The three theatres at St. Clair and Yonge were also within our reach—the Hollywood, Odeon Hyland, and the Kent. The transportation link that joined all these theatres were the square-shaped Peter Witt streetcars that rattled up and down Yonge Street. Of course, every neighbourhood possessed smaller theatres, often referred to as the local “gas house” or “nabes,” which were within walking distance of our homes. The Colony and Grant Theatres fulfilled this role in our neighbourhood. The Grant was where I attended my first Saturday-afternoon matinee. 

Those of us who experienced the Saturday afternoon matinees will never forget them. For the grand sum of 10 cents we saw two feature films, a cartoon, serial (cliff-hanger), trailers (previews), and a news reel. The popcorn was an added attraction, at a cost of 5 cents. Because I enjoy sharing my memories of the old theatres of yesteryear, I started placing posts about them on my blog that primarily deals with Toronto’s heritage architecture ( Most of the research information on the posts was derived from the files of the City of Toronto Archives and the Toronto Research Library. Most photographs are also from these sources, although I possessed a few pictures of my own, taken in the late 1950s.

I welcome comments from those who read the posts and are willing to share their memories. As well, I always appreciate it when corrections are offered. I can be contacted at

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: .

Book also available at Chapters/Indigo, the book shop at the Bell Lightbox or University of Toronto Press at 416-667-7791

ISBN # 978.1.62619.450.2

To view the Home Page for this blog:

Links to posts about the movie houses of Toronto—past and present:

Capitol Theatre on Yonge at Castlefield

Cameo Theatre

Circle Theatre

Hillcrest Theatre on Christie Street

The Hillcrest Theatre on Christie Street, south of Dupont St.

The Teck Theatre on Queen Street East

The La Plaza Theatre (the Opera House) on Queen Street East

Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay near Queen Street

The Golden Mile Theatre on Eglinton East

The Birchcliff Theatre on Kingston Rd.

The KUM-C Theatre in Parkdale

The Bonita (Gerrard) Theatre on Gerrard East

The Apollo (Crystal) Theatre on Dundas West

The Bay (Colonial Theatre) at Queen and Bay

The Photodrome (Ace) Theatre on Queen St. West

The Teck Theatre on Queen St. East

The Odeon Theatre On Queen West in Parkdale

Empire (Rialto, Palton) on Queen East

The Rivoli Theatre on Queen Street West

King Theatre at College and Manning Streets

Eastwood Theatre on Gerrard St. East

The Crown Theatre on Gerrard St. East

The Rivoli on Queen St. West

The Iola (Ace, Regal) on Queen St. East

The Royal Theatre on Dundas Street

The 1950s Island Theatre on Centre Island

The Esquire (Lyndhurst) Theatre on Bloor Street West

The Kenwood Theatre on Bloor St. West

The Lansdowne Theatre on Lansdowne Avenue, north of Bloor St. West

Adelphi Theatre (Kum Bac) on Dovercourt Road

The Blue Bell (Gay) Theatre on Parliament Street

The La Salle Theatre on Dundas, near Spadina

The Beaver Theatre in the Junction area at Keele and Dundas Street West

The York Theatre on Yonge near Bloor St.

The Grover on Danforth Avenue

The Kent Theatre at Yonge and St. Clair

The College Theatre at College and Dovercourt

The Brighton Theatre on Roncesvalles Avenue

Cineplex Eaton Centre

The Oxford Theatre on the Danforth

The Rex Theatre (the Joy)

The Brock Theatre (the Gem)

The Greenwood Theatre (the Guild)

The Duchess Theatre (Circle) on Dundas West

The Mayfair Theatre at Jane and Annette

The Allenby on the Danforth

The Scarboro Theatre

The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

The Bayview Theatre

The Carlton Theatre on Parliament Street

The Metro Theatre at 679 Bloor West

The Mt. Pleasant (Hudson) Theatre

The Palace Theatre on the Danforth

The Paradise (Eve’s Paradise)

The Pickford (Auditorium, Avenue) Theatre

The Bloordale Theatre (the State) on Bloor St. West, near Dundas Street.

The Donlands Theatre

The Royal Theatre (the Pylon) on College St.

The Willow Theatre on north Yonge St. in Willowdale

The Kingsway Theatre in the Kingsway Village on Bloor St. West

The Regent Theatre on Mount Pleasant (the Belsize, the Crest)

The Tivoli Theatre on Richmond St. East

The Glendale Theatre on Avenue Rd.

The Danforth Music Hall (Allen’s Danforth)

The Panasonic Theatre on Yonge Street

The Westwood Theatre on Bloor Street West near Six Points

The Parkdale Theatre on Queen Street, near Roncesvalles

The Town Cinema on Bloor East, near Yonge Street

The Alhambra Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bathurst Street

The Palace Theatre on the Danforth near Pape Avenue

The Odeon Danforth Theatre on the Danforth, near Pape Avenue

The Paramount Theatre on St. Clair West, between Oakwood and Dufferin streets.

The Uptown 5 Multiplex Theatre on Yonge south of Bloor

The Odeon Carlton Theatre

The infamous Casino Burlesque Theatre on Queen Street 

The Garden Theatre at 290 College Street.

The Grant Theatre on Oakwood Avenue near Vaughan Road

The Odeon Hyland Theatre at Yonge and St. Clair

Loew’s Uptown Theatre (the Uptown)

The Hollywood Theatre on the east side of Yonge Street, north of St. Clair Avenue.

The St. Clair Major Theatre on St. Clair Avenue, east of Old Weston Road.

The St. Clair Theatre, west of Dufferin Street

The Odeon Humber theatre at Bloor and Jane Streets (now Humber Cinemas)

The Oakwood Theatre on Oakwood Avenue, near St. Clair Avenue West

The Oakwood Theatre Part II

The Biltmore Theatre on Yonge, north of Dundas St.

The Coronet Theatre on Yonge St. at Gerrard

The Nortown Theatre on Eglinton, west of Bathurst St.

The Radio City Theatre on Bathurst, south of St. Clair.

The Mount Dennis Theatre on Weston Rd, north of Eglinton

The Royal George Theatre on St. Clair W., west of Dufferin Street.

The Colony Theatre at Vaughan Road and Eglinton Avenue

The Runnymede Theatre in the Bloor West Village (now a Chapters/Indigo Book Store)

The Eglinton Theatre

The magnificent Odeon Carlton at Yonge and Carlton Streets

The Revue Theatre at 400 Roncesvalles Avenue

The Cineplex Odeon Varsity Theatre at Bloor and Bay

The “Bloor Hot Docs Cinema” on Bloor Street West

The Vaughan Theatre on St. Clair Avenue

Toronto’s first movie screening and its first movie theatre

The ultra-modern Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John Streets

Cineplex Theatre at Yonge and Dundas Streets

The Ed Mirvish Theatre (the Pantages, Imperial and Cannon)

The Downtown Theatre (now demolished) at Yonge and Dundas

The Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst

The Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre

Old movie houses of Toronto

The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

The University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.

Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street

The now vanished Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West

To view posts about Toronto’s history and its heritage architecture:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: