The above photo of the Bedford Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 23, SC 612), was taken in 1926, likely the year it opened. Later renamed the Park, the theatre was located at 3291 Yonge Street, on the east side of the street, near Glenforest Road.
In the 19th century, the area had been a farming community to the north of the city, and a favourite stop-over for farmers hauling their produce to Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. In the early decades of the 20th century, the area developed as a middle-class residential community, with mostly semi-detached houses. Eventually it possessed sufficient population to support a movie theatre. The Bedford Theatre was designed by Murray Brown, who was also the architect for the Belsize Theatre on Mount Pleasant Road, which survives to this day, although it has been renamed the Regent. The Bedford Theatre possessed Mediterranean style architecture, with a white stucco facade and terracotta tiles on the steeply-sloped roof.
In the early 1940s, the name of the theatre was changed to the Park, and operated by Famous Players Corporation. In 1948 the management of the Bedford was chastised by the authorities for holding a Thursday afternoon matinee without proper authorization. The following year, the theatre was again in trouble. It opened on a Sunday afternoon to allow actors to audition for an amateur production, which was against the law since Sunday openings were forbidden. The theatre argued that only 20 people were in the theatre at the time and no admission charge had been paid by those who attended. The matter was dropped.
On January 23, 1948 the theatre was robbed at gun point, but the thief was apprehended with fifteen minutes. The police arrest him in another theatre, where he had attempted to hide in the darkness amid the patrons. The same year, the theatre was extensively renovated, and in June of the following year, air-conditioning was installed.
In 1951, the theatre was again in trouble with the law as it allowed its Saturday evening screenings to extend past midnight. On one occasion, it was discovered that a film had ended at 12:45 a.m., a major offence. It seems that the theatre possessed a propensity for offending the provincial regulations.
After the theatre ceased screening films, it was employed for other commercial enterprises, but the walls and facade of the theatre remain.
Interior of the Bedford Theatre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, file 23
The lobby of the Bedford, with its high ceiling and Mediterranean-style detailing. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 23, SC 612
The Bedford Theatre in 1942, before its name was changed to the Park. Its facade is hidden by the enormous marquee.
The theatre c. 1950 when it was named the Park. Ontario Archives AO 2163
The theatre site after it ceased to screen movies. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 23.
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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)