The Golden Mile Theatre in 1954
The Golden Mile Theatre was a suburban theatre located in Scarborough at 1816 Eglinton Avenue East. It architecturally resembled the Humber Odeon, which opened in Toronto’s west end in 1948. Both venues were typical of post-war theatre construction, their facades containing large unadorned surfaces of either cement or stone, and numerous windows that allowed much daylight into their lobbies, as well as providing excellent views of the lobbies from their exteriors. However, the Golden Mile, unlike the Odeon Humber, offered spacious parking in an era when the automobile sales were booming.
The theatre was located in the Golden Mile Plaza, on the northeast corner of the intersection of Eglinton Avenue East and Victoria Park. It was licensed to West Pen Theatres Limited, but owned by Principal Investments. The name “Golden Mile” referred to a section of Eglinton East, between Pharmacy and Birchmount, where there was a concentration of million-dollar industries. The Golden Mile Theatre was the first theatre constructed in a shopping mall, which provided spacious parking for cars. This concept spread quickly across Canada. It appealed to those who lived in the suburbs as they were able to park, shop, visit a restaurant and attend a movie all in a single location.
The Golden Mile Theatre specialized in films that were oriented toward families. It opened on October 14, 1954, a year when television viewing first began to erode the popularity of neighbourhood theatres. It contained approximately a thousand seats, which were plush and “self-rising.” There were 720 on the ground floor and another 275 in the balcony. The total cost of construction and furbishing was $310,000. The air-conditioning contained twin compressor units. The interior was ultra-modern, employing marble and glass. On the opening night, one of the films was “Up in Arms,” released in 1944, starring Danny Kaye. The other movie was “Our Very Own,” released in 1950, starring Ann Blythe. It was released in 1950. Neither of the films was a recent release, but both were suitable for family viewing. The theatre was open during evenings only, except on Saturday when there was a children’s matinee.
In 1957, during a matiness, when 350 children were in attendance, there was a fire in the air-conditioning system. The theatre was evacuated within three and a half minutes. The damage was minimal and the theatre opened again in the evening. In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Golden Mile Plaza to highlight the ideas of strip malls, then considered a very modern idea. It is interesting that strip malls eventually fell out of favour, as indoor malls such as Yorkdale were built. Today, strip malls are making a comeback, as witnessed in Don Mills. In May 1963, the theatre’s license was transferred from Principal Investments to Loren Bay Investments, at 133 Richmond St. West. In October of the same year, it was again transferred, and it went to Famous Players Corporation.
In 1978, the theatre was divided into two auditoriums, the architect being Mandel Sprachman, who designed the plans for the conversion of the Uptown and the Imperial Theatres into multiplex theatres.
There are inspectors’ reports on the Golden Mile Theatre in the files of the Toronto Archives, but they cease in 1969. Despite this, the theatre remained active until the mid 1980s. However, although the theatre has now disappeared from the scene, along with the plaza where it was located, they live on in the memory of those who visited the plaza and those who attended this fine suburban theatre.
I am grateful to information posted on the blogs “Remembering Scarborough’s Golden Mile Theatre, “ www.localfilmculture.ca and also cinematreasures.org/theatres/24730 for some of the information contained in this post.
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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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