The Eastwood Theatre in 1948, Ontario Archives AO 2055
The Eastwood Theatre was one of the largest theatres built in the 1920s that was east of Yonge Street. The original plans for the theatre were submitted to the city in November 1926. Located at 1430 Gerrard Street East, it was constructed in the Beau Arts style. Its facade was symmetrical, with an extremely plain cornice, although the trim below the cornice was slightly more elaborate. Faux arches on either end of the facade actually contained balcony railings. The three windows located behind the marquee complemented the faux arches as they were also topped with Roman arches. Beneath the cornice were rectangular inserts that resembled stone blocks, though they were likely cement. Small circles on either side of the faux arches were the only other ornamentations on the facade.
Its auditorium contained almost 900 wooden seats with leather backs, including a small balcony, and a stage to accommodate vaudeville and live theatre. There were box seats on both sides of the stage, an orchestra pit, and ornate chandeliers on the ceiling. Similar to most theatres in that decade, facing the street were shops, on either side of its entrance, which were rented to increase revenues.
Between the years 1944 and 1945, the theatre was managed by the B&F chain. In January 1946, a “Sold Out” sign was placed in the box office window. Because of the full house, it was found that 21 children were seated on the edge of the orchestra pit. This had occurred because while they were in the washroom, other patrons had taken their seats. A complaint was registered, but the manager stated that there were no problems as there were five ushers on duty, as well as a matron. The authorities did not take the matter any further.
The same year (1946), an inspector visited the Eastwood and wrote an unfavourable report. Apparently, the only access to the projection room was via a circular “ship’s ladder”staircase. He reported that when he ascended the stairs, the door to the projection room was locked. This was against fire codes. He also reported, “There was no drinking water available in the theatre, other than the water in the toilet boxes.” I find it odd that the inspector considered the water in the toilet boxes as a possible source of drinking water. Was he kidding?
In February 1945, a court summons was issued to the theatre’s manager as he had allowed too many patrons to stand behind the back rows of the auditorium, and they had blocked the aisles. This was a serious offence as it was against fire regulations. However, when the case was heard before a judge, the manager was fined $20, even though the maximum penalty was $200. The inspector who laid the charges was heard declaring that the penalty was too light. In 1961, another inspector complained that the theatre was in poor condition, attendance was low, and that many repairs were needed.
At one time, the theatre was managed by Bill Summerville, whose brother was Don Summerville, a mayor of Toronto. For a few years, the theatre screened Italian films. Unfortunately, the theatre closed in 1966. Fortunately the building was saved and converted into an East Indian centre.
Auditorium of the Eastwood, Ontario Archives AO2058.
This photo of the marquee and entrance of the Eastwood dates from the 1930s, and is one of the earliest photos of the theatre. In this photo, the windows above the marquee are clearly visible.
Lobby and entrance to the Eastwood Theatre, Ontario Archives, AO 2057
The Eastwood when it screened Italian movies.
The Eastwood after it ceased showing films.
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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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