The Grover Theatre in the 1920s, gazing east along Danforth Avenue. City of Toronto Archives, Series 488, File 2960-2
The Grover Theatre opened its doors in the early 1920s, its name derived from the local telephone exchange. The above photo was taken shortly after its opening. Located at 2714 Danforth Road, it was on the north side of the street, west of Dawes Road. It was a two-storey structure, with apartments on the second floor that contained large windows looking out on busy Danforth Avenue. The Grover’s symmetrical neoclassical facade was relatively unadorned, including the cornice, but stone trim in a few selected places gave it an impressive appearance. The stone trim below the cornice contained a row of dentils. Shops on either side of the theatre’s entrance were part of the building; they were rented to provide extra income for the theatre’s owner.
The district was economically booming in the 1920s, after the Prince Edward Viaduct was completed across the Don Valley in 1919. When the Grover opened, there was already a row of theatres stung out along the Danforth, and it was the most easterly of them at that time. Being an attractive venue, and appealing mainly to local residents, the Grover was immediately successful. Its marquee was unpretentious, which suited a theatre of its size. However, the sign above the marquee was disproportionately large, visible for a considerable distance at night when the towering structure pierced the night sky.
The theatre became a part of the B&F chain in the 1930s. I did not discover much information about this theatre in the archives. However, there is a report that in 1935 three lads attended a Saturday matinee during their summer holidays to see Gary Cooper in the Paramount Studio’s film, “Lives of the Bengal Lancers.” Apparently the film made a lasting impression, since years later, the boys remembered seeing the film at the Grover. Many of us who attended Toronto’s old movie theatres forever link certain films to specific movie houses. Personally, I will forever associate “Gone With the Wind” with Loew’s Downtown (the Elgin).
In May 1963, the theatre was for sale for $70,000. It did not sell, so in 1965 it was again placed on the market at the reduced selling price of $52,000. In this year, it had already closed and the canopy was devoid of advertisements for movies. The theatre was purchased as a place of worship for a church congregation. Finally, it was converted into a nightclub. It is difficult to determine how much of the original building remained after it was renovated for this purpose. Likely, only the walls were retained.
The Grover Theatre in 1939, its bright lights splitting the night scene on the Danforth. In this year, the marquee had been enlarged from the days when the theatre opened in the 1920s and the sign above it also altered. City of Toronto Archives, Series 880, File 350.
The theatre when it became an evangelical church.
The theatre when it was for sale for $52,900 in 1965. It was no longer screening films when this real estate photo was taken.
The site of the Grover after it became a nightclub.
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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)