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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Toronto’s old Parkdale Theatre—Part 11

Series 1278, Fl. 10130

The Parkdale Theatre in 1937. Photo City of Toronto Archives Series 1278, File 10130

The Parkdale Theatre at 1605 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Queen and Triller Avenue is another of Toronto’s theatres that I can readily recall, though I never was inside its doors. As a child, in the 1940s, I often gazed at its showy marquee from the windows of the Queen streetcars. On these occasions, we were on our way to Sunnyside Beach for a day beside the lake. The theatre was only one city block away from the “three-way corner” of Queen, Roncesvalles and King Street. We alighted from the streetcar at this intersection, crossed a narrow bridge spanning the railway tracks and descended the stairs to the amusement park and beach, located on Lakeshore Boulevard.

I also remember that at the three-way corner, on the northwest corner there was a Gray Coach Bus Terminal and next to it was the Edgewater Hotel. The Parkdale Theatre was only a short walk from these well-known city landmarks. All these building remain in existence today (2015), but have been converted for other commercial purposes.

Map of 1605 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A9

The three-way corner (Queen, King and Roncesvalles) is to the left of the green arrow that indicates the location of the Parkdale Theatre.

In the late 19th century, Parkdale remained a relatively remote community to the west of the city, despite having been amalgamated with Toronto in 1889. On hot summer days, it was a favourite destination for Torontonians who wanted to swim in the cool waters of the lake. They visited the south end of Parkdale, where the beach area was known as Sunnyside.

However, in the first decade of the 20th century, as Toronto’s population crept westward, Parkdale’s population expanded. Prior to the First World War, construction commenced at Sunnyside to extend the beach and create an amusement park. The work ceased during the war and continued after it ended. As it neared completion, it was obvious that the area would be ideal for movie theatres. The opportunity was seized by the Allen brothers, Jule and Jay, who already owned the Allen Theatre (Tivoli) at Adelaide and Victoria Streets and the Allen’s Danforth.

The Parkdale opened on April 5, 1920, in time for the summer season. It was designed by Howard Crane of Detroit. The theatre was a large rectangular yellow-brick building, its auditorium built parallel to Queen Street. Its façade was relatively plain, except for stone detailing below the cornice. However, the interior of the Parkdale was luxurious, typical of most Allen theatres. Patrons were astonished at the gilded patterns and fancy plaster trim throughout the theatre. The ceiling was the equivalent of three storeys in height, containing well-crafted designs with enormous concentric rings with a large medallion in the centre. Striking decorative lines radiated from the central medallion. Chandeliers were suspended from this ornate ceiling, below it over 1500 seats with leather seats and backs. Four wide aisles allowed easy access and departures from the rows. The entrance lobby was equally as impressive, with Wedgewood-style designs above the entrance doors and those leading into the auditorium.

In January 1938, water-washed air conditioning was installed. It was not until 1950 that a candy bar was added. Today, this seems quite strange, as modern theatres derive a high percentage of their revenues from popcorn, drinks and other treats. Even stranger, after the candy bar was installed, the sale of popcorn was not allowed as it was considered too messy.

Despite its opulence, the Parkdale slowly lost in its competition with television. The theatre closed on July 6, 1970. The building on Queen Street in Parkdale remains today, but it has been converted into shops that specialize in second-hand and antique furniture.

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                                          Lobby of the Parkdale Theatre.

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                                      Auditorium of the Parkdale.

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     Parkdale Theatre after the building was converted to furniture shops.

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              The site of the Parkdale Theatre during the summer of 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s Playhouse (Melody) Theatre Part II

Playhouse 1099-N-96

The Playhouse Theatre c. 1938. Movies showing are Mae West in “Klondike Annie” and Margaret Lindsey in “The Law in Her Hands,”both films released in 1936. Photo is from the Toronto Archives SC 488-1099.

When I was a teenager, I was familiar with the College Street area north of the Kensington Market, but I do not remember the Playhouse Theatre. Located at 344 College Street, it was on the north side of the street, a few doors east of Brunswick Avenue. The theatre was on the ground-floor level of a three-storey building block, erected in the 1880s or 1890s. During the latter decades of the 19th century, grouping two or more structures into a single building was an excellent business enterprise in, since it was more economical to construct and maintain than detached structures. It also reduced the amount of land required to erect the structure. Landlords rented the first-floor levels for shops and the floors above them for offices or residential apartments. The Playhouse rented space within such a building, occupying the equivalent of two stores. The theatre likely opened in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

The theatre’s marquee stretched across the entire front of it, the large sign above the marquee attached to the façade between the second and third floors. At night, anyone living in the apartments on these floors was exposed to the bright lights of the sign. The box office was at the edge of the sidewalk, the entrance doors positioned on either side.

I was unable to discover any information about the theatre in the archives. However, because of it was on the ground-floor level, I am certain there would have been no balcony as the ceiling was not of sufficient height. The building extended back from College Street, so the theatre’s auditorium would have been long and narrow, likely with a single aisle. In the decade when it opened, it would have most certainly possessed a small stage for vaudeville acts. In the years ahead, the Playhouse was renamed the Melody Theatre.

There is a poster in the collection of the Toronto Public Library, dated 1950, which advertises a live musical program at the Portuguese Melody Theatre at 344 College Street. The theatre was responding to the demographic changes in the neighbourhood and was screening Portuguese films as well. I was unable to discover the year that the theatre closed.

Map of 344 College St, Toronto, ON M5T

                 Site of the Playhouse (Melody Theatre)

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s old University Theatre Part II

                1969, Photo by J. Goode, Tor. Ref. Lib.

The University Theatre in 1969. Photo by J. Goode, Toronto Reference Library

Located at 100 Bloor Street West, the University Theatre was a short distance west of Bay Street. One of Toronto’s most popular theatres for almost four decades, it attracted patrons from across the entire city. Similar to the Odeon Carlton, it was a modern “movie palace,” even though the experts declared it too intimate to be classified as such. I do not understand this reasoning. Between the auditorium and the balcony, it contained 1350 seats, manufactured by Cana Theatre Chair Company. Its luxurious lobby was the equivalent of two storeys in height, with a grand staircase connecting the lower and mezzanine levels. Its wide screen was one of the largest ever installed in the city, ideal for wide-screen mega-hits.

Map of 100 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 3L7 

Admittedly, Loew’s Downtown (the Elgin) was larger with 1900 seats, but I believe that the University was truly a movie palace in both size and design. Its sleek modern façade had a dazzling art moderne-style marquee and towering signage, at its pinnacle the words “Famous Players.” The auditorium possessed modernistic vertical lines, emphasizing its vast height. It was one of the greatest postwar theatres ever built in Canada and was Famous Player’s attempt to compete with the Odeon Carlton. The University opened on March 25, 1949 with the film “Joan of Arc,” starring Ingrid Bergman.

My memories of the University Theatre are associated with some of the greatest mega-hits of the latter half of the 20th century. These films usually required that a ticket be purchased in advance. Tickets displayed the seat and row number, similar to live performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. There were intermissions halfway through the films. This feature, along with the ticketing system, added to the sense of occasion when attending screenings.

One of the first films that I recall seeing at the University was “The Ten Commandments,” in 1956. Then, in 1957, the theatre screened its first film in Cinerama. This wide-screen format was an instant hit. Other ticketed films that I remember are “Ben Hur” (1959), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Cleopatra (1962), “My Fair Lady (1964), “Doctor Zhivago (1965) and “The Agony and the Esctasy” (1965).

The last mega-hit that I associate with the University is “Apocalyse Now” (1979). This Vietnam was film was not reserved-ticket seating. However, I can still recall how the entire theatre vibrated in the scene where the military helicopters roared across the beach, guns blazing, while majestic music thundered from the theatre’s Dolby sound system. Small wonder that the film played for 52 weeks at the theatre.

Due its enormous size, the theatre eventually developed financial problems when attendance declined. In the mid-1980s, the theatre’s manager was quoted as saying that even if the theatre were able to screen another hit with the same potential ticket sales as “Apocalypse Now,” the venue would not be profitable.

The University shut its doors in 1986. The building was demolished, except for its façade, which today is part of a high-rise condominium. However, the theatre’s box office remains, facing Bloor Street. Every time I pass it, I remember the great films that I saw at this venerable theatre.

881-336

A section of the lobby and the stairs leading to the balcony. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881- File 336

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The University in 1980, after the enormous sign above the marquee had been removed. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 337

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The University Theatre in 1983, Photo City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, Fl 0124, Id. 0101

Series 881, Fl.336 It. !9A

The auditorium of the University, view from the stage area. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 336

881-336

View from the rear of the theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl. 336

5 Oct. 2013

View of the former University Theatre. When this photo was taken on October 5, 2013, the theatre has been demolished and converted for other commercial purposes. Its facade is attached to a modern condo, which can be seen behind it.

                       DSCN8230

The former box office of the theatre, now employed as a display area for a shop that sells dinnerware etc. Photo taken in 2013.

                       DSCN8235

The two-storey window of the lobby that faced Bloor Street. Photo, 2013.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old Allen’s Bloor Theatre (the Bloor, Lee’s Palace)

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Site of the Allen Bloor Theatre, with its colourful graffiti art, at 529 Bloor Street West. Photo taken in 2014.

On a hot summer afternoon in 2014, I journeyed to the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst Streets in search of one of Toronto’s old movie houses. I had never attended the theatre and did not remember it from when I worked in the area in the 1950s. However, I had read about the Allen brothers, Jule and Jay, who had built the theatre.

The Allens opened their first “moving picture theatre” in their home town of Brantford in 1907. They arrived in Toronto in 1915 and in the years ahead, built a chain of theatres that were among the finest in Toronto. They eventually included  the Allen Theatre (later renamed the Tivoli), Allen’s Danforth, Allen’s Parkdale, the Beaver, St. Clair, College and the Beach. The exterior of their theatres were often relatively plain, but the interiors were richly ornamented, the exuberant plaster ornamentations and gold-painted trim portraying hints of the cathedrals and palaces of Europe. 

In the first decade of the 20th century, the Bloor/Bathurst district was under intense development, a much sought-after residential area. It was not far from downtown Toronto and was serviced by the Bloor and Bathurst streetcar lines. Because it was densely populated, with much pedestrian traffic, it was an ideal location for a movie theatre. The first theatre opened in the area in 1913.

Map of 529 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y4

                     The site of Allen’s Bloor Theatre

In July 2014, I finally arrived at location of the former Allen’s Bloor Theatre. It was at 529 Bloor Street West, on the south side of the street, not far to the east of the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst. However, few traces remained of the luxurious theatre that had been on the site. Now named Lee’s Palace, it was a nightclub and dance hall, offering live performances. Its facade was covered with colourful graffiti art. 

The Allen’s Bloor Theatre opened on March 10, 1919 with the silent film “Don’t Change Your Wife,” starring Gloria Swanson. It was one of a series of three films with a similar theme, all starring Gloria Swanson. The theatre was in direct competition with the Madison that had opened in 1913, further west along the street. Allen’s Bloor was the smallest of the Allen theatres, with about 700 seats, as opposed to other Allen venues that were 1200-1500 seats.

Its marquee was small, with three windows above it, topped with Roman arches. Windows of similar design were on opposite sides of them. These small touches, along with the dentils in the cornice, provided classical touches to the facade. The architect of Allen’s Bloor was C. Howard Crane of Detroit, who designed all the Allen venues. Its auditorium contained a stage for vaudeville and an orchestra pit for the musicians. Over the stage area was an enormous archway, with decorative plaster ornamentations surrounding it. The vaulted ceiling resembled a great cathedral.

The theatre was highly successful, but unfortunately the Allen brothers over-extended their finances. In 1923, the chain was purchased by Famous Players, who renamed it the Bloor Theatre.

The Bloor  remained an active theatre until the 1950s. After it closed, the premises were renovated for other purposes. It was the Blue Orchid Restaurant for a few years and also a bank. In 1985 it became Lee’s Palace and today is one of the city’s popular live theatre and dance venues.   

Note: I am indebted to cinematreasures.org and torontodreamsproject.blogspot.com for the historic photos in this post and to silenttoronto.org by Eric Viellete for some of the information. The colour photographs are my own. 

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                                      Allen’s Bloor Theatre c. 1920.

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                         Stage and screen of Allen’s Bloor in 1920.

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                  Upper portion of the facade of the old theatre in 2014.

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                                                  Lee’s Palace in 2014.

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                       Site of Allen’s Bloor Theatre in the summer of 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s old (Odeon) Carlton—Part 11

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Cover of the pamphlet designed for the opening of the Toronto Odeon Theatre, later renamed the Odeon Carlton. Graphic courtesy of Walter Godfrey of Toronto.

Even though I lived in the west end of Toronto, I considered the Odeon Theatre on Carlton Street one of my local theatres. This was because when I was a teenager in the 1950s, I frequently travelled downtown to attend it. Whenever I entered its enormous lobby, I was in awe of its elegant grandeur and viewed it as a true movie palace. However, unlike the movie palaces of yesteryear, such as the Imperial and Shea’s Hippodrome, the Odeon was sleek and modern. Its architecture and interior trim reflected the finest trends of the second half of the 20th century. As a young adult, I saw several of the James Bond films at the Odeon Carlton—Goldfinger in 1964 and Thunderball in 1966.

When the theatre opened on September 9, 1948, the posters and newspaper ads boasting that it was, “The Showplace of the Dominion.” It contained a restaurant on the mezzanine level, the first theatre-restaurant in Canada. On frigid winter evenings, friends and I enjoyed fish and chips or a Ritz Carltons (hot dogs) in this eatery, managed by the Honey Dew Restaurant chain, famous for its orange drink that included real pulp. It was one of the most popular beverages at the CNE during this decade. The theatre had originally intended to operate a first-class restaurant on the premises, but was unable to obtain a liquor license.

As a teenager, I remember seeing the film star Dorothy Lamour on its stage in a live show that also featured the famous quartet, The Four Lads. They were graduates of the St. Michael’s Choir School on Bond Street in Toronto. The magnificent sound of the theatre’s enormous organ, situated on the right-hand side of the stage is another memory that remains with me. The instrument was capable of surrounding the audience in full lush sounds, despite the cavernous size of the venue. Today, the organ resides at Queen’s University in Kingston.

The theatre required two years and 2 1/2 million dollars to build. It opened as the Odeon Toronto, the premier movie house in Toronto of the British Odeon chain. The theatre contained 2300 plush seats of green and gold, the drapery and curtains surrounding the stage weighing 2 ½ tons, contoured to wrap around the front of the auditorium. Long horizontal decorative lines swept the full length of the north and south walls, the lines becoming curved near the stage area. All floors were covered with thick broadloom that possessed brightly coloured floral designs. The carpeting and colour scheme had been chosen by Eaton’s College Street store, on the southwest corner of Yonge and College Streets. The trim throughout the theatre was blond-stained wood and stainless steel. The curved balcony swept across the width of the auditorium. At the rear of the theatre, there was free parking for patrons from 6 pm onward. This information was obtained from the brochure provided to patrons on opening night.

For its inauguration, the theatre featured the North American premier of the J. Arthur Rank production of Dickens’ classic tale of Oliver Twist, with Alec Guinness as Fagan. Trevor Howard and Patricia Roc, who starred in the film, were present for the opening. The seating was all reserved ticketing.

Later in the month, the naughty stars of the CNE Grandstand—Olsen and Johnson—attended the theatre. These stars had been warned by the Toronto morality squad to censor the jokes they told in their grandstand performances. This rebuke created great publicity for the comedians and ticket sales soared. A luncheon was held in their honour at the Carlton, but I doubt if they were served either fish and chips or hotdogs in the restaurant.

In January 1949, the film Scott of the Antarctica was screened, starring John Mills showed at the Carlton. No luncheon was held for this show, although frozen fish sticks would have been appropriate.

By the early 1970s, it became obvious that the Carlton was too large to screen movies profitably, and operating it at reduced capacity was not economical. For a brief period, the city considered purchasing it as a home for the Canadian Opera Company. However, this was deemed financially ruinous for the city, since it was already subsidizing the O’Keefe Centre, now named the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

The theatre shut its doors in September 1975 and was later demolished. A modern office building is on the site today, and on its ground floor is a multiplex theatre named the Carlton Cinemas.

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Construction of the Odeon Toronto (Carlton in 1947-1948). Photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

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Invitation to the opening of the Odeon Toronto (Carlton) Theatre. Photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

               Odeon Carlton

View of the facade of the Odeon Carlton Theatre in 1972. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

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Opening night program, courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

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Auditorium of the Odeon Carlton, photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto

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The lobby and candy bar of the theatre in the 1950s, photo courtesy of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

from Tor. Ref. Lib. DSCN3033

Gazing north on Yonge Street in 1956 toward College/Carlton Street, the Westbury Hotel under construction. This intersection was one block west of the Odeon Carlton. Photo, Toronto Reference Library.

                      Odeon Carlton 1958

Photo of the Odeon Carlton in 1956, from the author’s 35mm slide collection.

                          site of Odeon Carlton

                         Site of the Odeon Carlton in 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s old Madison Theatre Part II

                  MIdtown, 1278-File 103, SC488-6047

The Midtown Theatre c. 1940, photo City of Toronto archives, Series 1278, File 103

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, for two summers I was employed was at the Dominion Bank (now the TD), on the southeast corner of Bloor West and Bathurst Streets. The bank’s largest customer was a relatively unknown merchant named Ed Mirvish, who had converted two old houses on the southeast corner of Bloor and Markham Streets into shops. Mirvish eventually took over the entire block, creating the famous Honest Ed’s bargain store. One of his slogans was, “Often imitated but never duplicated.” I find it sad that this Toronto landmark will disappear on December 31, 2016.

Part of my job at the bank during the 1950s was to deliver bank drafts to the shops between Bathurst Street and Ossington Avenue. I often strolled past the Midtown Theatre at 506 Bloor West. During these years it was screening mostly horror flicks. I was fascinated by the colourful posters outside the theatre and often gazed up longingly at the movies listed on the marquee. However, because the theatre’s location was distant from my home, I was never inside it.

The bank where I worked has long since been closed and the building where it was located renovated for other commercial purposes. Alas, the Midtown Theatre has also departed the scene and has been demolished.

Map of 506 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y3

In the early twentieth century, the Bathurst/Bloor district was serviced by two major streetcar lines. The homes in the surrounding streets were constructed close together, increasing the population density. It was a decade when builders were not required to provide laneways between houses to accommodate automobiles. In later decades, when automobile ownership became more common, space was taken from the rear gardens of the houses. It was employed to construct laneways behind the houses, parallel to the streets. The lanes, flanked by garages, remain today.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the city’s children employed these laneways as playgrounds, which were superior to anything that modern designers could ever create. They were private world’s, away from the prying eyes of adults, where kids explored and learned about life, sometimes even about sex. The veracity of the sex lessons was often doubtful, but the laneways did teach kids how to “exaggerate.” Another source of exaggerated  sexual activity was the back rows of theatres, although by today’s standards, they were relatively innocent. No one “made out” on the back of a #504 King streetcar, as happened in 2014.

Returning to the Bathurst-Bloor area, because it possessed much pedestrian traffic, it was ideal for a theatre. The site chosen for the Madison was on the north side of Bloor, between Bathurst and Albany Avenue (Lippincott on the south side of Bloor). When it opened on December 23, 1913, it was one of the earliest Toronto “picture palace” theatres in Toronto. It possessed slightly over 700 plush leather seats, including the balcony and ground-floor level.

In 1913, silent films were the latest entertainment craze. Lacking soundtracks, instrumentalists were hired to provide suitable music for the scenes shown on the screen. In smaller local theatres, a single piano player was the norm. A stage was included in the construction of the Madison to accommodate vaudeville acts. It was necessary to supplement the films in that decade as movies were often less than an hour in length. Until Allen’s Bloor (Lee’s Palace) Theatre opened in 1919 and the Alhambra in 1920, the Madison was the main theatre on Bloor Street, near Bathurst. 

It remained a popular local theatre for several decades. In 1940, Twentieth Century Theatres took over the property. They demolished the building, except for the two side walls. The architectural firm of Kaplan and Sprachman designed the new theatre, which opened in May 1941—renamed the Midtown.

During the 1950s, attendance at the Midtown slowly dwindled. To attract patrons, it screened mostly horror films. The theatre remained under the management of Famous Players until 1967, but at some time during this period its name was changed to the Capri.

In 1973 its name was again renamed and it became the Eden, screening censored adult films, containing scenes that today are often shown on regular TV programs during primetime hours. Times have indeed changed. The adult flicks at the Eden ended in 1979. Its name was changed to the Bloor Theatre and it reverted to showing family-type films.

From 1980 to 1999 the theatre was managed by Carm Bordonaro and his partners, as part of the Fesitval Cinema Chain. Finally the Bordonaro family purchased the theatre to ensure that it would remain an active movie house.

In 2011 the Blue Ice group invested in the property. The theatre was renovated and reopened on November 14th of the same year, renamed the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Its interior was almost as luxurious as the movie palaces of the early decades of the twentieth century, although its design was more modern.

It remains as one of the most comfortable and attractive theatres in Toronto, specializing in documentary films that audiences might not have a change to view in other theatres. It is sincerely hoped that Toronto never loses this exceptional theatre venue.

Series 1278, File 103 AO 2031

            Interior of the Midtown Theatre—date unknown

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Entrance to the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor Street, summer of 2014

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          Interior of the Bloor Hot Docs Theatre (the old Midtown) in 2014

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                     View from the rear of the auditorium in 2014.

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Stairs in the lobby to the balcony on the second-floor level (2014).

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     The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on a hot summer evening in 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

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Toronto’s Music Hall (Allen’s Danforth)—Part 11

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             Allen’s Danforth Theatre, now the Music Hall in 2014.

When I was a teenager, I lived in the west end of the city and did not often travel east of Yonge Street to attend movie theatres, especially those on Danforth Avenue. Because the Danforth was east of the Don Valley, I viewed it as too close to Halifax. However, I remember the old Allen’s Danforth Theatre. In the 1970s, I worked for two years near Danforth and Pape Avenues and passed the theatre many times while travelling on the old PCC streetcars on the Bloor line. Prior to the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway in 1966, the Bloor streetcars travelled from Jane Street in the west to Luttrell Avenue in the east.

Today, the TTC only has a few remaining PCC streetcars, which are only placed in service during the summer months as tourist attractions or as rentals for special occasion. On the occasions that I saw the Allen’s Danforth Theatre in the 1970s, it was named the Titania and was screening Greek films. As I remember, the theatre had become somewhat shabby.

Until the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor Viaduct) was opened in 1918, the land to the east of the Don Valley, near Danforth Avenue, was mostly farmland and dusty roads. After the opening of the bridge, a streetcar line was built across it. The area ceased to be a remote suburb of the city, since it was connected to downtown Toronto. This opened the district for commercial and residential development. It was not long before the opportunities for theatres became evident.

Two entrepreneurial brothers, Jule and Jay Allen, decided to open a theatre at 147 Danforth Avenue, not far from the eastern side of the viaduct. The theatre was on the south side of the street, near the corner of Danforth and Broadview. Though the Allen brothers were young, they were not new to the theatre business. They had opened their first theatre in Brantford, Ontario in 1907. After relocating to Toronto in 1915, they opened one of the city’s great movie palaces in November 1917—the Allen Theatre at Victoria and Adelaide Streets. The theatre was later renamed the Tivoli.

For the inauguration of Allen’s Danforth, it screened the silent film, “Through the Wrong Door,” starring Madge Kennedy and John Bowers. This 50-minute silent film was accompanied by vaudeville acts featuring comedians and musicians. On the opening night, patrons were amazed by the luxurious interior of the theatre, the finest east of the Don Valley. Allen’s Danforth possessed 1600 seats and when the opening ceremonies commenced, all of them were occupied. During the next few years, the theatre flourished as the Allen brothers had negotiated exclusive rights to screen Paramount films in their movie houses. For a few years, this monopoly kept the Allen theatres profitable. 

However, the Allen brothers over-extended themselves financially and in 1923, Famous Players bought the theatre chain, including the Allen’s Danforth. In 1929 it was renovated and converted to accommodate sound films. It was then renamed the Century, which mostly screened B-Grade movies and older films.

In 1934, the theatre became a part of the B&F chain, which managed theatres such as the Radio City and the Vaughan Theatres, both located near Bathurst and St. Clair Avenue West. These were two of my favourite theatres when I was a teenager. I still remember the towering sign on the Vaughan Theatre, at its pinnacle the words B&F flashing in the night sky.

In the 1970s, the old Allen’s Danforth again changed hands and commenced screening Greek films, reflecting the changing demographics of the neighbourhood. During these years, the theatre was named the Titania. I still remember the days before Greek cuisine became a familiar part of the Toronto restaurant scene. My earliest recollections of this was in the early 1970s, when I visited  the Acropole Restaurant, which was on the second-floor level of 18 Dundas Street West. Because authentic Greek foods were unfamiliar to Torontonians, instead of diners being given a menu, they were instructed to enter the kitchen and point to the dishes that attracted them. How times have changed. Today, the Danforth offers some of the best Greek cuisine in the world. For a few years, the Titania Theatre was a part of this Canadian-Greek world.

In 1978, it was renamed the Music Hall and featured second-run films and live shows. However, the theatre continued to deteriorate, its doors closing in 2004.

Eventually the Century (Allen’s Danforth) was taken over by Ellipsis Leisure Retail. Renovations to the theatre required one and a half years. However, after a few years they were evicted for non-payment of rent. The Music Hall reopened it December 2011, with improved seating and sound system. It is today one of the best venues for live entertainment in the city.

Map of 147 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1N2

           The site of Allen’s Danforth Theatre, now The Music Hall

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                               The Music Hall c. 2007

AO 1998

      Interior of Allen’s Danforth (The Music Hall). Photo Ontario Archives.

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                                              The Music Hall in 2014

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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