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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Toronto’s old Cineplex Eaton Centre Cinema

Series 881, Fl 251DSCN1786

                        City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 Fl. 251

In the 1970s, the downtown section of Yonge Street had deteriorated, especially between College and Dundas Streets. When the Eaton Centre opened in 1979, the area south of Dundas was revived. The new mall was instantly popular with Torontonians and attracted thousands of tourists as well. On the northwest corner of the Eaton Centre was a ten-storey parking garage. In the basement of the garage was a 25,000 square-foot space that attracted the attention of Nathan A.  Taylor (Nat) and Garth Drabinsky. They formed the Cineplex Odeon Corporation in 1979, as they realized the possibilities of the space in the Eaton Centre as a site for a movie-theatre complex. It was in the heart of the city at Yonge and Dundas and easily accessible by public transportation. As well, the area had much foot traffic.

To create the theatre complex, the huge space below the parking garage was converted into a series of small theatres, all under the same roof. They coined the word “Cineplex” for the theatre—a contraction of “cinema complex.” Mandel Sprachman was hired as the architect. He had designed theatres for several decades, having been the architect for many theatres across Canada and also had restored the Elgin/Winter Garden Theatres. He also had considerable experience in converting large theatre auditoriums into smaller venues, as he had redesigned the Hollywood, Imperial, and Loew’s Uptown Theatres into multi-screen complexes.

Multi-screen complexes allowed theatre owners to screen several movies in the same building, catering to the different tastes of viewers. Thus, increased revenues were generated without increasing costs for rent, taxes, and heating. Nathan Taylor also had experience with operating multi-screen complexes, as he had opened one in Ottawa and had previously divided the Uptown Theatres into the Uptown Five.

The Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre was a natural extension of the multi-screen concept. When it opened on Tuesday, April 17, 1979, it contained 18 auditoriums, each containing 50 to 100 seats—about 1500 seats in total—the largest movie-theatre complex in the world at that time. The auditoriums were grouped into four sections, located on two different floors. A rear projection system was employed to screen the films, which caused the edges of the pictures to be slightly blurred. Few patrons seemed to notice, as the auditoriums were attractive and the seats comfortable. The aisles were on both sides of the auditoriums, which meant that no seats were jammed against the walls.

The main lobby was capable of holding 200 people. Designed to resemble a “Common Room,” Canadian art was displayed on the walls. Patrons were able to gather before attending a movie or linger after a film. A cafe and bistro were included, offering a wide variety of foods. Computerized ticket-vending machines were installed and it was possible to purchase tickets in advance, even a day or two ahead. By employing these machines, and by staggering the times the movies started, crowding was reduced. No tickets were sold after a film began, preventing interruptions during viewings. A year or two later, the tickets were colour-coded, with eye-catching directional signs on the theatre walls to guide people to the appropriate auditorium. In 1981, three more auditoriums were added to the complex, bringing the total to 21, and the total number of seats to over 2000.

In the early years, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre offered specialty films and foreign films, many of them with sub-titles. It was not profitable to screen these in larger theatres, as the appeal of a single movie might be quite small. However, in smaller auditoriums, even if only 30 to 35 patrons saw a film in an evening, it remained profitable. To further reduce costs, the theatre dealt directly with foreign producers or distributors to get Canadian rights. Films that were popular were shown in more than one auditorium.   

Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre opened at a time when movie theatres were struggling, since home video players were becoming popular. Another difficulty was that two major movie chains monopolized film distribution rights in Canada. Cineplex Odeon Corporation threatened to sue under the anti-combine laws, and succeeded is loosening their strangle hold. Thus, in the 1980s, Cineplex Odeon Corp. was able to offer major Hollywood releases, similar to the theatres in malls of today. Having gained success, Cineplex Odeon expanded its theatre chain across Canada and into the United States.

In its glory days, the complex in the Eaton Centre allowed patrons a wide range of movies, all in one building. Teenagers took great delight in trying to slip into another auditorium after they had seen the movie they had first paid to view. Movie buffs viewed films not available in larger theatres, as well as the current Hollywood hits. At the confection stand, popcorn and other treats were available.  According to a documentary film about Drabinsky, which was screened several years ago at TIFF, this was the first time that buttered popcorn had been available in theatres—a “Toronto-first.”

During the 1990s, viewing films on small screens became less popular as television sets increased in size and the quality of home videos improved. With the decrease in revenues, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre slowly deteriorated. The seats and carpets became tattered and the auditoriums appeared shabby. To attract customers, films were offered at bargain prices and special deals were advertised. However, these attempts failed and the theatres began to attract the street crowd, such as those who attended the Rio Theatre on Yonge Street. They were seeking a warm place in winter, and in summer, a place that was air-conditioned. In their eyes, the multiplex theatre was a twenty-one room hotel, each room having many seats in which to sleep and a huge TV screen to watch movies. The price of entrance and the location made it ideal for their purposes. 

Attendance continued to dwindle. Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre closed on March 12, 2001 and was demolished shortly after.

 

Series 881-251

Lobby of the Cineplex Eaton Centre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 fl.251

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A ticket for the Cineplex Eaton Centre on opening day, Tuesday April 17, 1979. City of Toronto Archives.

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The Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas in 2014 (originally the AMC), built on the same concept as the Cineplex Eaton Centre. Suburban movie complexes have followed the same concept of design for the past few decades.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

 

 

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The old Toronto Normal School on Gould St.

f0124_fl0001_id0072[1]

Toronto Normal School, c. 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, Fl’.0001 Id.0072

In 1847, the Toronto Normal School was established by Egerton Ryerson, Chief Superintendent of Schools for Canada West. This was in pre-confederation Canada, when Ontario was politically united with Quebec, the combined assemblies named The Canadas. Ontario was Canada West and Quebec was Canada East. The Toronto Normal School was created to train elementary-school teachers, deriving its name “Normal School” from the idea that aspiring student teachers were instructed in methods that conformed to the “norms” expected of their profession. It was the first teacher-training institute in Ontario. Even in that day, many pupils in schools joked that their teachers went to Normal School, but never learned to be normal. 

The building to house the Normal and Model School was built between the year 1851-1852, on Gould Street, a short distance to the east of Yonge Street. It was in the centre of a landscaped square. Its architects were F. W. Cumberland and Thomas Ridout. They designed the building in the Classical Revival style, in which they borrowed freely from the architectural forms of ancient Greece and Rome. The Normal School was two storeys in height, with an ornamented symmetrical facade containing a heavy cornice. It was topped by a plain pediment and a tall cupola with classical details. When it was remodelled in 1896, the pediment was raised to facilitate a rather ponderous third storey addition. The new cupola was narrower, but more detailed, with classical and Gothic ornamentations. This is the cupola seen in the above photo. In the buildings interior, the auditorium for student-teacher assemblies was also Gothic.  

In 1941 the Normal School was relocated to Pape Avenue, a short distance south of Carlaw Avenue. After World War II, the old building on Gould Street served as as a veterans’ training school to assist soldiers who were returning to civilian life. In 1953 the Normal School on Pape Avenue was renamed the Toronto Teachers’ College. The old Normal School on Gould Street was demolished in 1963, only the south facade of the centre section of the building retained. Today, it creates a grand entrance to Ryerson University, which was established in 1948, and originally named the Ryerson Institute of Technology.

c. 1910 --f1244_it1702[1]

The Toronto Normal School, c. 1910. City of Tor4onto Archives, Fl. 1244, It. 1702 (1)

c. 1910--f1244_it1703[1]

Toronto Normal School, c. 1910. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1244 It. 1703 (1)

                   f1548_s0393_it19686a[1]

Normal School c. 1920. City of Toronto Archives, Fl 1548, S. 0393 It. 196 86a

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The facade of the old Normal School on Gould Avenue as seen in 2014. It is the centre section of the building, the structures on either side of it having been demolished and the cupola and pediment removed. Today, this small section of the original building serves as a gateway to the campus of Ryerson University.

                   DSCN9650

The impressive doorway that served as the entrance to the Normal School for over a century.

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                Steps leading to the entrance to the Normal School (photo taken in 2014).

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                    Classical detailing near the entranceway.

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           Classical details under the cornice on the south facade.

                         f0124_fl0001_id0073[1]

The Normal School in the 1950s, before the building was demolished, preserving only a portion of the central facade. In front of the building is the statue of Egerton Ryerson, who founded the Normal School. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, Fl. 0001, id.0073.

                       DSCN9642

            The statue and surviving portion of the facade in 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

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Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Oxford

Oxford SC 488-1136

The Oxford Theatre c. 1937, shortly after it was renovated. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1178 fl.436

Located at 1510-1512 Danforth Avenue, the Oxford Theatre opened in 1928. It was one of a string of movie theatres that lined Toronto’s busy east-west arterial road. The Danforth was a magnet for movie houses due to the extensive residential areas located both north and south of it. The Oxford, located between Monarch Park and Coxwell Avenue, was one of the theatres that drew patrons from these communities.

The Oxford was an independent theatre, built by J.E. Wainwright. The building consisted of three storeys, with residential apartments on the second and third floors. When it was built, there were retail shops on either side of the entrance. I was unable to discover when these shops were removed.

The symmetrical brick facade contained no ornamentations, other than several rows of bricks inserted into the facade vertically to create a pattern. These were located between the second and third floors. The cornice was plain, with chimney-like projections at regular intervals. It possessed slightly more than 800 seats, on a concrete floor, the box office located to the right of the lobby. The air-conditioning was installed by Canadian Air Conditioning Company.

The Oxford was renovated in May 1937 by the well-known architects Kaplan and Sprachman. The marquee was altered and became rectangular in shape, with a clock positioned above it. An illuminated sign was also added to the roof of the theatre that advertised the name “Oxford.”

In 1942, the theatre changed hands and was operated by B&F Theatres.

Oxford

The Oxford Theatre in 1936 before the renovations of 1937. The old marquee is evident.

Oxford, Seot.25, 1936, Photo Alfred Pearson, TTC 11595

Streetcar tracks being repaired along the Danforth in the 1936. The Oxford Theatre is visible on the left.

Oxford, Feb. 1937, TTC 1833

The Oxford Theatre in 1937, with the new rectangular marquee. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, TTC Collection, 1833.

site of Oxford (2)

The building after the Oxford Theatre closed and it was renovated to contain shops. The windows on the second floor have been altered, the patterned row of bricks is no longer evident and the chimney-like projections above the cornice have been removed. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives. 

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

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Toronto’s old Rex (Joy) Theatre on Queen St. East

Joy Theatre, 1130 Queen East

          City of Toronto Archives,  Series SC 257-Fl.464.  Photo was taken in 1946.

In the City of Toronto Archives, the floor plans of the Rex Theatre, at 1130 Queen Street East, are dated December 1914, the year the First World War commenced. The Rex was located on the northeast corner of Bertmount and Queen Street East.  It contained 381 seats, in an auditorium with a central aisle only, and no balcony. The lobby was only 19 feet wide. The box office was on the right-hand side of the entrance, adjacent to the street. The facade was plain with a simple unadorned cornice, although above the windows on the second floor there was a faux-cornice with large dentils, the only architecture detailing on its otherwise plain facade. A synchronous sound system was added to the theatre in 1931.

In February 1938, the manager and owner of the license of the Rex Theatre was Sidney Goldstone. In September 1941, air-conditioning was installed. The following year, Kaplan and Sprachman were hired to renovate the theatre. The seating capacity was increased to 427 seats, which were covered with leatherette. It is likely that this was when the name of the theatre was changed to the Joy.

DSCN0095

The Joy (Rex) Theatre after it ceased to be a movie house. A string of lights are mounted on the faux-cornice to illuminate the sign of the establishment. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

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Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Brock (the Gem)

Brock

Brock Theatre on Dundas West in 1937. The film “Ebb Tide,” starring Ray Milland is advertised on the marquee. The movie was set in the South Seas and was based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278- Fl. 60.

The Brock Theatre at 1587 Dundas Street West, opened in 1936. It was between Lansdowne and Dufferin Avenue, east of Brock Avenue. The two-storey building was originally the Dundas Playhouse, but was redesigned by Sprachman and Mandel and reopened in 1936 as the Brock Theatre, owned by Samuel Lent. It contained 706 seats, all on one level, as there was no balcony. The facade was exceedingly plain, typical of many buildings erected during the Great Depression. However, the canopy over the entrance was extravagantly large and attracted attention at the street level, especially when its lights flashed on Dundas Street in the darkness of a moonless evening.

In February of 1949, a man with a nylon stocking over his head, pushed his arm through the window of the box office and punched in the stomach the young girl who was selling tickets. The robber waved a revolver in her face, but instead of handing over the cash, she pushed the alarm buzzer. The manager immediately rushed to the scene, and the man fled.

The same year as the attempted robbery, the theatre was again renovated by Sprachman and Mandel, and its name changed to the Gem. During the these renovations, the old marquee was removed. The new marquee was smaller and v-shaped, with the word Gem on either side of it. The word Gem also appeared on the top of the marquee in large letters that flashed in the dark like an enormous beacon. A candy bar was also added during these renovations.

Dundas Playhouse 1919

         A Playbill for the Dundas Playhouse (Brock) Theatre in 1919

Series 1278 64

The theatre after it was renovated and its name changed to the Gem. In this photo, the theatre is screening Italian films. It was likely taken in the early 1960s.

DSCN3337

City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, fl. 60.

The theatre was updated in 1955 and for a brief period screened Italian films, and then, Polish. However, attendance declined and in 1958, its owners placed the theatre on the real estate market, asking price $65,000. It was on the market again in January 1961, but the price was reduced to $55,000. In May 1961, it was reduced further to $33,500. The theatre was eventually closed and the premises renovated to create a banquet hall. In January 1965, the site of the old Brock Theatre was again on the market, at the asking price of $120,000.

site of Brock

                 The theatre site when it was a banquet hall.

DSCN3341

The site of the Gem Theatre when it was the location of a catering business.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

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The Greenwood (Guild) Theatre

Guild 1937  488-1123

The Guild Theatre, formerly the Greenwood, in 1937. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 488-1123.

Plans for the Greenwood Theatre were submitted to the City of Toronto in December of 1914, three months after the First World war broke out.  The Greenwood was at 1275 Gerrard Street East, on the south side, a short distance west of Greenwood Avenue. The theatre applied to the city again in 1926 to enlarge the premises and carry out extensive renovations. It is possible that this is when the two-storey building in the above photograph was erected. It was an intimate theatre, containing slightly over 400 seats. The projection booth possessed a steel floor to make it fire resistant. There was no balcony.

In December 1936, the Greenwood Theatre was again renovated, this time by Kaminker and Richmond. The alterations were completed in May 1937. It is likely that this is when its named was changed to the Guild. The seating capacity was increased and all the chairs in the theatre were changed to self-raising chairs, allowing patrons to enter and depart the aisles easier. As well, two rooms at the front of the theatre were removed to increase the size of the foyer. A concrete floor was installed and the ticket office was encased in vitrolite (opaque glass). There was only one aisle, positioned in the centre of the auditorium.  

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The Greenwood in 1937, after its name was changed to the Guild. The box office, covered with vitrolite (opaque glass) is visible.

for sale- $3500

                                                 The Guild c.1953  

Dec. 1953, $15,500

             The Guild in 1953, when it was for sale for $15,500.

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                     Interior of the Guild. City of Toronto Archives.

Sept. 1973 - $100,000

The site of the Guild Theatre in 1973, after it ceased screening films. The property was for sale in this year for $100,000. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 59 (3)

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

 

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Mackenzie House—Toronto

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                           Mackenzie House at 82 Bond St., Toronto      

William Lyon Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1795. He arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1820, and settled in the town of Dundas. He relocated to Queenston, located  beside the Niagara River in May 1824, and commenced publishing a newspaper, the Colonial Advocate. He agitated through his editorials for political reform. His main purpose was to establish Responsible Government in Upper Canada. This meant that the Governor and his advisors would be required to obey the wishes of the elected representatives of the people. At this time, the royal governor and his unelected advisors (the executive council) passed whatever laws they deemed necessary, disregarding the member of the assembly, which was elected. The member of the governor’s executive council were chosen from among a group of influential and wealthy families, known as the Family Compact.  

In the autumn of 1824, Mackenzie moved to the town of York, the provincial capital, to be closer to the heart of the political scene. He possessed a strong personality and was a colourful character. In York, continuing to publish the Colonial Advocate, through his fiery editorials he gathered a large following, particularly among those who were discontented with the present system of government.  In this same year, he advocated a union of the British American colonies, an idea that was eventually followed and became known as confederation. In 1832 he travelled to Britain to present to the imperial government the grievances of the citizens of Upper Canada against the political system. Back in York, when the reformers won a majority on the city council in 1834, he  was elected mayor, the city’s first. 

In 1836, Mackenzie was defeated in the elections. Governor Bond Head had actively participated in the process and through bribery and threats managed to prevail. Mackenzie became increasingly frustrated with the situation and the lack of democracy in the colonial government. He began to ferment rebellious ideas, and it the autumn of 1837, with a group of followers took up arms against the government. It became known as the Rebellion of 1837. Although most of Upper Canada agreed with Mackenzie, they failed to support him in open rebellion. The rebellion was crushed.

Mackenzie fled to the United States, where he lived in exile for twelve years. During his absence, the ideas he fought for were implemented and Upper Canada achieved Responsible Government. In 1849 the Government granted an amnesty to those who had participated in the rebellion, and in 1850, Mackenzie returned to Toronto. In 1851, he was re-elected to Assembly, retiring from politics in 1858. However, he continued to publish his newspaper.

In 1859, the house on Bond Street was given to him by the grateful citizens of Toronto in recognition of the role he had played in reforming the Canadian political system. The house can be visited today. It is a two-storey, yellow-brick townhouse in the Greek Revival style. Originally, there were other houses attached to it on either side. Under the eaves is a pattern referred to as the Greek key. There is a gable window in the roof that provides light for the attic of the home. Tall chimneys are positioned on the north and south ends of the roof. The kitchen is in the basement, so the basement windows are partially above ground. Ceiling-fixtures with gas provide lighting in the rooms.

Mackenzie and his wife, Isabella Baxter, had thirteen children, seven of whom survived childhood. After Mackenzie died in 1861, his family continued to live in the house on Bond Street and remained there until 1871, when they leased the house. They sold it in 1877. The home had various owners in the years ahead, one of whom discovered a musket buried in the back garden. He contacted Mackenzie’s grandson, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, thinking that the weapon might have been owned by the rebel leader of the 1837 Rebellion.

The house was opened as an historic site in 1950, and in 1967 an addition was built on it that contains an 1860s print shop and gift shop. Today, the house has been furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the Mackenzie family. Viewing its cozy rooms provides an intimate look into the lives of the family. It is reported to be one of the few documented haunted houses in Toronto. An historic site, it is fascinating to visit, its location only a few blocks from the Eaton’s Centre.

Fonds 1244, Item 9077

Ruins of Mackenzie’s printing shop in Queenston, photographed in 1911. City of Toronto Archives Series 1244, It. 9077

Mack.'s desk, of 1837, photo 1915, York Pineers --f1548_s0393_it12463[1]

Mackenzie’s desk of 1837, photographed in 1911. Photo from the York Pioneers, City of Toronto Archives Series 393, S0393, S.0393, Id. 12463.

f1231_it1696[1]

Bond Street, gazing south from Dundas Street, May 9, 1919. Mackenzie House is among the row of houses on the right-hand side of the photo, four or five houses from the corner. It is to the south of the home with the large porch that has support pillars. The church spire farther down the street is that of St. Michael’s Cathedral. 

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Mackenzie House before 1938, when the houses on either side of it had not been demolished. Photo from the collection of Heritage Toronto.

1950s --f1257_s1057_it0741[1]

Mackenzie House in the 1950s, before the print shop and gift shop were added. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, F. 1257, Id.0741. 

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                Greek key pattern under the eaves of Mackenzie House

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                  Parlour windows on the first floor, facing Bond Street.

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Doorway of Mackenzie House, with transom windows above the doors.

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        Gazing into the dining room of Mackenzie House from the parlour.

 

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                           Dining room of the the house on Bond Street.

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                                  Treats on the table at Mackenzie House

                  DSCN9124

Gateway on the north side of the house that today leads to the visitors’ entrance and the addition that contains the print shop and gift shop. 

                      DSCN0377

                         Mackenzie House in the spring of 2013.

Visiting Mackenzie House is an opportunity to learn about the lifestyle of Canadians in the 19th-century Toronto. The guided tours are excellent, the staff friendly and knowledgeable.

For information on visiting this historic home : http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=33e5909d6fd70410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

For a link to Colborne Lodge, another historic property under the auspices of Heritage Toronto:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/torontos-architectural-gemscolborne-lodge-in-high-park/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

 

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