The Odeon Theatre in 1919. The featured movie is Cecil B. DeMille’s film, “Don’t Change Your Husband,” a silent comedy released in 1919. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 1231, Fl. 231, It. 0758
The Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West was an architectural gem in the former village of Parkdale, which was annexed to the city in 1889. The theatre opened in 1919, shortly after the end of the First World War. It undoubtedly provided a welcome relief to the war-weary people of the community, providing an evening’s entertainment and an opportunity to forget the horrors of battle from the previous years. The Odeon was likely the first theatre in the neighbourhood, as its competitor, the Parkdale Theatre, did not open until the spring of the following year. The Odeon Theatre had no connection to the British Odeon theatre chain that began building theatres in the city in the 1940s. The word “Odeon” was derived from the name of an ancient Greek theatre, the Odeon Herodes Atticus, in Athens, built in 161 CE (AD). It was located on the south side of the Acropolis, and still exists today.
The Odeon Theatre in Parkdale was a two-storey red brick building, with a residential apartment on the second floor. Its symmetrical facade was formal and dignified, the stone trim adding architectural detailing to the facade. The cornice was plain, with a narrow parapet to increase the size of the south facade when viewed from Queen Street.
The theatre’s auditorium possessed two aisles, with a centre section and aisles on either side of it. There were no side aisles, so seats were crammed against the side walls. It had a sloped floor that extended from where the screen was located to the rear wall, the back rows accessed by stairs. The auditorium walls were plain with very few decorative details, although there were attractive designs surrounding the screen. When the theatre opened in 1919, there would have been a stage and an area for a piano or a few musicians, as it offered vaudeville, live theatre, and silent movies.
A letter in the files at the Toronto Archives confirms that the theatre closed in October 1968. However, the building remains on Queen Street today, and contains a fruit market.
Interior of the Odeon Theatre, Ontario Archives, AO 2303
View of the stage area of the Odeon Theatre. Ontario Archives, AO 2304
The site of the Odeon Theatre as it appeared in 2013.
Architectural detailing on the facade of the theatre
View of the site of the former theatre, gazing east along Queen West, in the spring of 2013.
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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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