The La Reta (Pape) Theatre after it ceased to screen movies and became a bingo hall (c. 1958).
There is not much information on the La Reta Theatre in the files at the Toronto Archives. Until I commenced researching Toronto’s old movie houses, the La Reta was unknown to me. I never personally saw the theatre. If anyone has information on this theatre that they are willing to share, I would truly appreciate it if they would contact me at [email protected]. Because of the lack of information, I have examined the photos and the few facts that are available and developed some theories about how the Le Reta appeared when it was a functioning movie house.
It was a small neighbourhood theatre, located in East Toronto, at 336 Pape Avenue, a few doors south of Gerrard Street East. I was unable to discover the year that it opened, but it is shown in the background of a TTC photo that was taken in 1928. Judging from its architectural style, it was likely built in the early 1920s or perhaps a few years earlier. Though the theatre was originally named the La Reta, it was renamed the Pape. I was unable to discover when this change occurred.
The building was basically a box shape, with a plain cornice and a small parapet above the unadorned front facade. There were residential apartments on the second floor. To the south of the theatre was a laneway. The box office was close to the sidewalk, to the left (north) of the entrance. It’s possible that there were originally a few architectural details on the west facade on Pape Street, which were obscured when the large marquee was added to the theatre. I am basing this assumption on the fact that its south facade, facing the laneway, has a few brick pilasters on the ground-floor level. Also, the canopy and marquee in the 1950s photo is not original to the theatre, as its style is similar to those of the 1930s and 1940s. The 1928 photo shown below seems to verify this theory.
In the era that the La Reta opened, it would have shown silent films, alongside vaudeville shows. To accommodate this format, it would have required a small stage and space for a piano, with a live piano player to provide music to accompany the silent films. In many theatres, the stages were later removed. Due to the height of the building and the fact that there were apartments on the second floor, I doubt that there was a balcony. The size of the theatre suggests that it likely had only a centre aisle. I am guessing, but its seating capacity was probably around 300.
Information posted on “Long Gone Movie Theatres From Toronto’s East End” states that the theatre closed in 1955. The Toronto Archives reveal that is 1958, all the seats in the Pape Theatre were removed to allow tables and chairs to be placed in the old theatre’s auditorium. When these alterations were completed, it reopened as a bingo hall that was capable of holding 250 people. This is why I believe that the original seating capacity of the theatre was about 300. The price of admission to the bingo hall was listed as 50 cents.
In 1982, the building was purchased and renovated for the Turkish Islamic Heritage Association.
This TTC photo was taken on July 18, 1928. The La Reta Theatre is visible in the background. The view is looking south on Pape Avenue from a short distance north of Gerrard Street East. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 98
The La Reta Theatre in 1928.
The former site of the Pape (La Reta) Theatre, as the Turkish Islamic Heritage Centre. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.
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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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