The KUM-C Theatre c. 1935. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, It. 350
I was unable to discover the exact year that the KUM-C Theatre opened, but according to John Sebert’s book, “The Nabes,” it originally screened silent movies and featured vaudeville. This means that it was in operation prior to the introduction of the“talkies.” One source states that the KUM-C Theatre opened in 1919, the year before the Parkdale Theatre. The Parkdale, which was the KUM-C’s rival, was located further west along Queen Street and was a much larger and classier theatre. It originally screened recently released films, while the KUM-C showed movies that were a year or two old.
The KUM-C was located at 1288 Queen Street West, on the eastern edge of the community of Parkdale. It was on the north side of Queen, one block west of Dufferin Street. I did not find any reference to the source of its name, but I assume that it was a play on word, “Come See.” Whoever named the theatre had a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. I doubt that anyone today would choose such a name. Pity!
When the theatre opened, it was only half the size of the theatre shown in the 1935 photo. The original solid-brick building that housed the theatre was set back a short distance from the sidewalk. It possessed a rather plain facade of stucco over brick, with an unadorned cornice. There were two large rectangular windows on the second floor that had rounded edges at the top. As was the case with most theatres in the early decades of the 20th century, the second-story contained residential apartments that provided rental income for the owner of the theatre. There was no air-conditioning, but it possessed a vent and a roof fan. The auditorium contained only one aisle, which was in the centre.
In 1930, the theatre was extensively renovated by the architects Kaplan and Sprachman. Their sketch is shown below, and is dated June 1930. It shows the theatre’s alterations as conceived by the architects. It remained only half the size that it was later to become. However, in 1930, the front of the theatre was extended to the edge of the sidewalk, and the box office was in a central position, with French doors on either side of it.
I was unable to discover when the KUM-C Theatre purchased the store to the east of it and extended the theatre into the space that the store had occupied. One note in the archives’ files states that this occurred in 1930, but the sketch by Kaplan and Sprachman seems to contradict this information. However, it is known that after the theatre was enlarged, it contained almost 600 seats, with leatherette bottoms and wooden backs. There were also fourteen extra folding chairs that were employed when the theatre was crowded. The floor of the auditorium was concrete.
On February 24, 1943 the theatre was reprimanded by the Chief Inspector of Theatres for allowing the screening to extend beyond the midnight hour. On November 6, 1943 an inspector sat in an automobile across from the theatre from 7:15 to 7:45 pm. He observed nine children, under sixteen years of age, entering the theatre unaccompanied by an adult. The following day, the same inspector saw the theatre’s matron sitting in the audience watching the film, and she was not in uniform. The inspector forcefully reminded the theatre manager that the matron’s job was to circulate up and down the aisles and be evident at all times. When the inspector returned the next day to see if his warning had been heeded, he discovered that the matron was indeed visible, but her uniform was old and it was the wrong size. The manager assured the inspector that a new uniform had been ordered.
In April 1947, a candy bar was installed at the KUM-C. On December 21, 1957 the theatre was gain in trouble. It was found that three of the fire doors had been bolted shut with 2 by 4s, during a children’s matinee. The theatre was taken to court, found guilty, and fined $50.
In 1961, the theatre was on the real estate market, at the asking price of $68,500. The ad stated that the taxes were $9600, the heating cost were $300 annually, and the insurance was $100. It is assumed that this was when Nat Taylor of 20th Century Theatres purchased it, as the files state that he owned the theatre during the 1960s. The theatre ceased screening films about the year 1970. However, as late as 1973 it remained empty, and was for sale in that year for $175,000. The building was eventually purchased and renovated for other commercial purposes.
The sketch showing the plans for the KUM-C in June, 1930, as conceived by the architects Kaplan and Sprachman.
The KUM-C Theatre c. 1962.
The auditorium of the KUM-C. This photo was likely taken prior to the theatre being enlarged as in this photo the auditorium remains long and narrow, with a central aisle.
The lobby of the KUM-C, possibly after the theatre was enlarged as there are two doors leading to the auditorium, which suggests that there was more than one aisle.
A real estate photo, September 1970, when the theatre was for sale for $150,000. The building to the east of the theatre has since been demolished. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 96
The site of the KUM-C Theatre at 1288 Queen St. West in Parkdale. Today (2014) the building is painted flaming red. The windows on the second floor have been modernized. The building to the east of the theatre’s site has disappeared.
The east facade of the old KUM-C Theatre, with its colourful mural. Photo taken on August 3, 2014.
The east facade, showing a concrete-block addition that has been added to the rear of the building that once housed the old theatre.
Site of the KUM-C Theatre, August 2014.
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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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