The Hillcrest Theatre in March 1949, the view looking north on Christie Street from south of Dupont Street. The theatre is on the right-hand side of the photo.
The Hillcrest was a small neighbourhood theatre that I never knew existed until I commenced researching the old movie houses of Toronto. The above photo was the only photograph that I was able to locate. It depicts the theatre at 285 Christie Street, on the east side of the street, a short distance south of Dupont Street. It was situated in an area that was residential as well as industrial. The railway tracks that cross over Christie Street are visible in the photo. Theatre appears to have an attractive canopy and marquee, with a sign that undoubtedly was well lit at night.
The original plans for the theatre were submitted to the city in 1922. It was a rectangular, two-storey brick building, with a concrete floor, 440 wooden seats and two aisles. A notation in the Toronto Archives states that it is thought to have been designed by W. C. Hunt and J. L. Pennock. I have been unable to confirm this information or discover anything about these architects. When it opened, it possessed no marquee and its box box office was at the street line.
The Hillcrest was renovated in November 1930 and again in January 1931. The latter renovations were by Jay English, who relocated the box office to inside the lobby, on the right-hand side. The manger’s office and washrooms were also updated at this time. Perhaps this was when the marquee and signage were added to the facade. The year 1931 was also the year when the theatre was robbed for the first time. The theatre was air-conditioned in 1937, and new seats were installed. The number of seats was reduced to 425, arranged in a pattern of six seats in the centre section and four on either side. On the second floor, above the projection booth, space was rented for a dentist’s office.
On November 26, 1947 the theatre was robbed at gun point when Gilbert Roland (the Cisco Kid) was playing in the film, “Beauty and the Bandit.” The thief escaped with $27. It is hoped that the Cisco Kid was more successful in his role in the movie than the bandit was in his robbery of the Hillcrest. The cashier at the theatre said that the thief who stole the $27 was very polite. It is a wonder that he did not cuss loudly when he discovered the amount in the cashier’s drawer in the box office.
The theatre was refurbished in 1952, but like many neighbourhood theatres, it had difficulty competing with television. After the theatre closed, the building was converted to accommodate other purposes.
Christie Street in 1949, gazing north to Dupont Street.
The Hillcrest after it ceased operating as a theatre.
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