The Lansdowne Theatre, c. 1955
The Lansdowne Theatre was a neighbourhood movie house located at 683 Lansdowne Avenue, on the east side of the street, a short distance north of Bloor Street. For many years, the Lansdowne streetcar rumbled along in front of the theatre. In the 1920s, this streetcar line was well known because at the north end of its route, it negotiated one of the steepest hills in Toronto. This was on Lansdowne Avenue, a short distance south of St. Clair Avenue. It was a dangerous hill as there was a sharp bend in the road. In early days, the conductor employed handbrakes when descending the hill to prevent the streetcar from crashing down the steep incline. Today, the hill remains, but there are no longer any Lansdowne streetcars, and in an automobile, the hill is far less threatening.
The files in the Toronto Archives indicate that the Lansdowne Theatre opened in the late-1920, although several web sites suggest that it was in the mid-1930s. I admit that the theatre’s architectural style resembles the Depression era more than that of the 1920s. Its original name was the Park Theatre, but it was changed to the Lansdowne in 1937. Perhaps the name change explains the different dates given for the opening.
The theatre possessed a plain facade and an equally unornamented cornice, although there were brick patterns that rose vertically from above the canopy. There were apartments on the second-floor level. The auditorium had a concrete floor, with slightly over a thousand plush seats, and no balcony. On the main floor, there were two aisles. The seating pattern was four seats, an aisle, ten seats, another aisle, and then four more seats. In the photograph of the theatre’s interior, there are few ornamentations, with straight lines and rectangular designs on the walls and ceiling. However, I do not know when this photo was taken, and it might have been after it was renovated. The lobby was comfortably furnished and contained several large ash tray. A refreshment bar was installed in 1948.
The theatre closed on July 13, 1961.
The marquee of the Lansdowne Theatre in 1941. Both films listed were released in 1941, and the boxing match between Max Baer and Joe Louis was fought on September 4, 1941. Joe Louis was the winner.
Auditorium of the Lansdowne Theatre. Ontario Archives, A0 1973
The lobby of theatre, with a carpeted floor and comfortable furniture. Patrons who wished to smoke were provided with several large ash tray, as well as a cigarette machine.
The theatre on September 4, 1952. The streetcar tracks of the old Lansdowne streetcars can be seen. Photo from the OERHA Collection, #19071, City of Toronto Archives.
The former site of the Lansdowne Theatre after the building was renovated for other commercial purposes. An entrance to the Lansdowne Subway Station, on the Bloor Line, is located next to where the theatre was located.
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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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