The Crown Theatre in August 1956, City of Toronto Archives, NE6-1458
The Crown Theatre at 587-91 Gerrard Street East was one of Toronto’s earliest movie theatres. Plans for its construction were submitted to the city of Toronto in July 1916. In that year, it was a vaudeville house that supplemented its performances with silent films. The theatre was built for H. P. Redway and R. S. Richardson. The theatre was located a short distance east of Broadview Avenue. It was a small neighbourhood theatre, containing 666 leatherette seats in an auditorium with two aisles and no balcony. The washrooms were located on the second floor.
I was unable discover any photos of the theatre that were pre-1936, when the theatre was renovated by Kaplan and Sprachman. However, the above photo depicts architectural details that are consistent with the First World War period. The facade is symmetrical, with pilasters (faux columns) of brick that rise from above the canopy to the cornice, which is simple and unadorned. Kaplan and Sprachman usually preferred Art Deco styles, and there do not appear to be any traces of this in the photo of the 1956 facade. Therefore, it is likely that plans submitted for the 1936 alterations involved only the entrance of the theatre and the area surrounding it. Perhaps the interior of the theatre was also renovated at the same time.
One of the films on the marquee in the above photo is the “Rains of Ranchipur,” starring Richard Burton and Lana Turner. I saw this film at Sheas Hippodrome in 1955. A friend and I sat in the enormous balcony and thoroughly enjoyed the movie, especially its hot romantic scenes. Being teenagers, we thought they were quite steamy. I am certain that teenagers had similar thoughts when they viewed the film at the Crown in 1956.
The “Rains of Ranchipur” was among the last movies screened at the Crown, as the theatre closed in 1956, the year the film was shown. The theatre was placed on the real estate market, the asking price being $65,000. The building was later renovated and it became a small complex that housed an Asian shops and a market.
Plans for the renovations of the Crown Theatre, submitted by Kaplan and Sprachman and approved by Henry Dobson. They were submitted in March 1936, and were to be completed by July of the same year. In the 1956 photo, the entrance of the theatre reflects this plan.
The site of the former Crown Theatre on Gerrard Street East. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 55
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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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