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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Toronto’s old Nortown Theatre-Part II

Series 1278, File 108

Nortown Theatre in 1971, the film on the marquee “Straw Dogs,” starring Dustin Hoffman. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278  It. 108

When I was in high school in the 1950s, I worked as a delivery boy for Crosstown Pharmacy, near the corner of Bathurst Street and Eglinton Avenue West. The owner of the store was Ed Green, the brother of Lorne Greene, the actor who starred at the Stratford Theatre in its early years. The actor later became famous on an American TV show about a father and three sons who lived on a ranch named the Ponderosa. The TV program was “Bonanza.”

A short distance west of the pharmacy was the Nortown Theatre, at 875 Eglinton Avenue West, on the south side of the street, between Bathurst and Peveril Street. After high school classes ended for the day, I travelled to work on my bicycle and regularly passed this theatre. Because the theatres in my own neighbourhood were older and less modern, I considered the Nortown luxurious and longed to attend it. When the “African Queen,” starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart played at the theatre in 1951, I finally attended the theatre. Needless to say, I was duly impressed.

Map of 875 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C 3Z9

                               Location of the Nortown Theatre

The Nortown opened on March 17, 1948, located in the southeast section of a rural district to the north of the city, named Bedford Park-Nortown. It received this name when it was forest and farmland. It extended from Eglinton Avenue, north to today’s Hwy. 401. Bathurst was its western boundary and Yonge Street its eastern. It is likely that the Nortown Theatre derived its name from this district. The Bedford Theatre on Yonge Street received its name from the same district.

On the ground-floor level of the facade of the Nortown Theatre, there were extensive stainless-steel framed windows that allowed its lobby to be visible from the street. The round-shaped box office was to the right of the entrance, which possessed large glass doors. The furniture in the lobby and foyer was contemporary, meant to appeal to the residents of the expensive homes in the area. Its auditorium contained almost a thousand seats, which were plush and well padded to create a feeling of luxury. The floor of the theatre was a maroon red, as dye had been added to the concrete before it was poured, the colouring removing the necessity of painting the floor every three or four years. On the second floor of the Nortown there were offices.

The theatre screened several hard-ticket reserved seat films. In 1966, “My Fair Lady” played at the theatre for seven weeks after departing the University. In 1966-1967 “Dr. Zhivago” screened there for 61 weeks, after leaving the University. “Paint Your Wagon” was another long-run film at the Nortown.

In the 1970s, as theatre attendance lessened, and because the price of land near Bathurst and Eglinton had greatly increased, the theatre was listed on the real estate market for $890,000. It eventually sold and was demolished in 1974. A small low-rise strip mall is now on the site.

AO 2133  1948

                 The Nortown’s auditorium, Ontario Archives AO 2133

Series 1278, File 108  Nortown   2

Facade of the Nortown c. 1951 ,City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278 It. 108

Series 1278, File 108, AO 2131   in 1948

                A section of the lobby, Ontario Archives, AO 2131

Series 1278, File 108,  AO 2131,  in 1948

                   Lounge area, photo Ontario Archives, AO 2131

Series 1278, File 108

The site of the Nortown after it had been demolished and a low-rise mall erected.

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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Winter scenes after a Toronto storm

D'Arcy St.   7

             Houses wrapped in winter on D’Arcy Street in Toronto

February is a cruel month, when Toronto becomes locked in frost’s icy grip. However, after a snow storm, the beauty of winter in the city emerges, the sun sparkling in a cerulean blue sky. The Arctic air and drifts of snow appear as unblemished as those of the countryside beyond the city. The streets are quiet, life’s daily hum stilled by the gentle white. Images of Charles Dickens’ days of old magically appear.

I was fortunate, because in the days prior to the storm, the warmth from February’s increasingly direct rays of sunshine caused water to drip, forming long icicles on the eves, roofs and gables. I spent a delightful two hours under the winter sky, appreciating anew the beauty of Toronto in winter. Dressed warmly, I did not find it particularly cold, although my hands nearly froze while I was photographing and was forced to periodically thrust them into my pockets, a small price to pay for the pleasure that the scenes bestowed.

The photographs in this post were all taken on February 10, 2015, when the temperatures hovered around –10 degrees. I chose to photograph near Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue, where the side streets have numerous Victorian homes.

Huron St.   23   

19th-century homes on Huron Street, a short distance north of Dundas Street West.

18.  20x24  2002

In 2002, I chose the houses in the previous photo as the subject for an oil painting. It was not until I viewed the painting this year that I realized that one of the trees in front of the houses has since been removed, and the facades of the houses and the windows have been altered. 

Baldwin St.  10

Late-Victorian houses on Baldwin street, between Spadina Avenue and McCaul Street. The wire fences and recycling bin betray that the scene is in the 21st century.

Baldwin St.  11   Baldwin St.   12

A 19th-century home on Baldwin Street, with a bay window on the ground-floor level (left photo), and a close-up view of the right-hand window on the second storey (right-hand photo).  

              Balwin St.  2

       Houses on Baldwin Street on February 10, 2015.

Balwin St.  7   Balwin St.  8

Houses on Baldwin Street with a shared Victorian porch containing ornate woodwork trim and spindle-work. The house on the right-hand side has a Christmas wreath, ready for next  December, I suppose.

                      Baldwin St.  14

Baltic ivy clinging to a building on Baldwin Street—a touch of greenery amid the winter white.

   corner D'Arecy and Huron (SE)

Store on the southeast corner of D’Arcy and Huron Streets, which has a reproduction of Van Gough’s painting of June 1889—“Starry Night” on its north wall.  

Balwin St. at Spadina, NW corner   Balwin looking west to Spadina

A picnic table, posts, recycling bins and graffiti art are all enhanced by winter’s sunlight reflecting from the snow. Photos taken on Baldwin near Spadina Avenue.

D'Arcy St.   14    DSCN5808

                                   Icicle magic on Huron Street.

n. side of Baldwin

Colourful Kensington—the north side of Baldwin Avenue, between Augusta and Kensington Avenue.

                          Baldwin in market

North side of Baldwin Street near Kensington Avenue, in the Kensington Market. 

Augusta and Kensington

Casa Acoreana on the northeast corner of Baldwin and Augusta Avenue in the Kensington Market. I believe that this shop has the best selection of spices and herbs in the city.

                        Balwin St.    5

                   Kensington Market—drifts on south side of Baldwin Street.

DSCN5801

Gazing east on Dundas Street West from near Spadina Avenue, in China Town.

terrace, Feb. 10, 2015

             A terrace garden in downtown Toronto, draped in snow .

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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Renovations at site of old Backpackers’ Hotel

DSCN5788

          The site of the former Backpackers’ Hotel on February 10, 2015.

I have been observing the renovations in progress at the former site of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King Street West and Spadina Avenue. Thankfully, these heritage structures are being restored, although they presently appear rather forlorn, their windows boarded over and the doorway on King Street containing graffiti. However, the results of the renovations are slowly emerging. The 19th-century bricks, hidden by many layers of paint, are once more exposed. The ornate trim around the windows in the Mansard roofs have been repaired and the missing slate tiles replaced. Thus, a hint of its original appearance is now visible.

DSCN5791    DSCN5792

The former  Backpackers’ Hotel (left) and the entrance door of the south building (right). Photos, February 10, 2015.

The buildings on the northwest corner of Spadina and Kings Street have a long history. In 1873, Samuel Richardson erected a two-storey frame home on the site. It survives today and is the building that is painted blue. Richardson added a third floor to the house in 1875, employing the Second Empire style of architecture, with a Mansard roof and ornate gabled windows. When completed, he converted it into a hotel, named the Richardson House. His establishment, which included a tavern, was popular with the businessmen in the western part of the city. As Richardson had served eleven years overseas with the Thirteenth Hussars Regiment, he constantly repeated his accomplishment when promoting his hotel.

In 1885, a four-storey brick addition was added to the north side of the hotel, on Spadina Avenue, and two years later another extension was added, doubling the number of rooms. The hotel advertised hot-water heating in every room, at the rate of $2.00 per day. Weekly boarders received a special rate of $1.50 per day. Samuel Richardson died in 1904. In 1906, the hotel was renamed the Hotel Falconer. Its name was changed again in 1914, when it became Zeigler’s Hotel.

In 1916, it became the Spadina Hotel and retained this name for many decades. In the 1950s, the hotel was extensively renovated. When completed, visitors who entered the hotel walked to the far end of the lobby, where there was a narrow set of stairs with five steps, which gave access to the dining room. It had been restored to its 1883 splendour, with Canadian walnut and chestnut panelling. The old doors and the wood panelling had been maintained. On the second floor, on the north side of the hotel, the redecorated large space was named the Cabana Room, which featured nightly entertainment.

In this decade, the hotel became a centre for the avant-garde community of the city. Established artists and students from the Ontario College of Art (today the Ontario College of Art and Design University) congregated in the Cabana room to raise a glass to toast their accomplishments or to drown the sorrows of their failures. The students vilified, praised, defended and ignored the latest trends in art. Despite their varying opinions and general disrespect for the established art forms of the day, throughout the years ahead, many of the young artists established themselves in promising careers in galleries, graphic design firms, and commercial art establishments. Others, similar to the old hotel, fell into obscurity. Such is the way of life in the arts community.

Finally, the hotel became a hostel for student backpackers, with 185 beds available, with four occupants per room. The former dining room became a billiard and games room, much removed from its elegant past. The Cabana room was a lounge and reading room. Because of the building’s brightly-coloured exterior walls, ornate gables, and garish trim, it has been a landmark in the Spadina district for many years.

The Backpackers’ Hotel closed in 2014 and is presently being restored. When completed, the buildings will be leased for office and retail space. The city will be enriched by the preservation of these historic structures.

DSCN9443

                               The Backpackers’ Hotel in 2013.

Photo_18

The corner of Spadina and King Street West, c. 1900  City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568 It. 284. 

pictures-r-5623[1] 1954. Tor Ref.

The former Backpackers’ Hotel when it was the Spadina Hotel in 1954. Photo from City of Toronto Archives.

f0124_fl0002_id0097[1]

The Spadina Hotel in the 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 0124 Id. 0097

DSCN9439

   Same view as previous picture, taken in 2013, when it was the Backpackers’ Hotel.

DSCN1419

The dining room of the Hotel Spadina, after it was converted into a billiard’s room by the Backpackers’ Hotel.

                   DSCN1404

Staircase in the former Spadina Hotel when its was the Backpacker’s Hotel. Photo taken in 2013.

DSCN1422  DSCN1423

A quiet reading corner in the Backpackers’ Hotel (left) and the sign above the doorway of the hotel (right).

DSCN0310

                                          Backpackers’ Hotel in 2013.

DSCN0204

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 Eglinton Theatre—Part II

                    881-350  2

The Eglinton Theatre on opening night, April 2, 1936. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 350

In my mind, the Eglinton Theatre is forever associated with mega-hit films, which played for extended periods of time and sometimes several years. Most of them were “hard ticket reserved-seat” shows, requiring patrons to purchase tickets in advance of the date. In the industry, theatres that screened these types of films were referred to as “Roadshow Houses.” The Eglinton was one of them, and by agreement, when such films were screened, no other theatre featured the same film unless it was located 90 miles or more from the Eglinton. This assured the theatre of exclusivity. Films screened between mega-hits were referred to as “Fillers.”

Map of 400 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N 1A2

     Location of the Eglinton Theatre at 400 Eglinton Avenue West.

One of the best examples of a “hard-ticket” film at the Eglinton was “The Sound of Music,” screened from March 10, 1965 to December 21, 1967. Twentieth Century Fox Studios, the producers of the film, insisted on handling the open night in Toronto. Though they did not own the theatre, they shipped from the United States new projectors, which were encased in bubble-wrap. As well, a new screen was installed to permit the film to be viewed in Todd-AO. Further improvements included new seating and carpeting. The studio also brought in their own staff for opening night, insisting that the Eglinton’s regular staff step aside. Snacks, popcorn and drinks were prepared in advance for the intermission. I remember seeing the “Sound of Music” at the Eglinton in 1965 and was impressed with the theatre and film.

In the months ahead, daily performances were at 8:15 pm, ending at 11:30 pm, with Wednesday afternoon matinees at 2 pm. The matinees were well attended by seniors who tended to avoid the evening shows as they ended too late. The matinees were also popular with school groups. One of the employees of the theatre caught the chicken pox due to being in contact with so many children.

Other long-running films that played at the Eglinton were “Windjammer Holiday” in Cinemascope in 1958, “How the West Was Won” (1962), “Dr. Doolittle” (1967), Finian’s Rainbow in 1968, and “Hello Dolly!” in 1969. To promote the film “Dr. Doolittle,” a press luncheon was held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the CNE. In 1983 the James Bond movie “Octapussy” was shown, but it was not a hard-ticket screening.

For the opening of Hello Dolly!, a life-size photo of Barbara Streisand, attired in white gown, was placed in a prominent position in the lobby. A Toronto graphic design studio and the manager of the theatre created the picture from a cut-out. It depicted Streisand descending a red-carpeted staircase, as if she were in New York’s Harmonia Gardens. Unable to obtain palm trees, a local florist found tall fluffy corn tails, which were placed in two urns on either side of the picture. Fox Studios liked it. 

                                                             * * *

The Eglinton Theatre has a distinguished record in the history of Toronto’s movie theatres. Its story commenced during the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, Eglinton Avenue was an unpaved dusty street with few shops, though the area was rapidly developing as a prosperous residential district. An immigrant from Sicily, Agostino Arrigo Senior, realized its potential and purchased property on the north side of Eglinton Avenue, a short distance west of Avenue Road, in the district of Forest Hill. In this decade, financing for projects was extremely difficult. However, Agostino Arrigo dreamed of creating the finest theatre in the city. He reasoned that despite the Depression, movies remained highly popular, since they were inexpensive compared to other forms of entertainment. His faith was rewarded when he finally arranged financing with Famous Players theatre chain. The Eglinton Theatre emerged from the dream world into reality.

The theatre’s architects were Kaplan and Sprachman, who designed the theatre in the Art Deco style, with rounded corners and geometric shapes, accompanied by whimsical ornamental designs inspired by the “Century of Progress Exposition of 1933” in Chicago. When the Eglinton opened in 1936, it was hailed as being futuristic—Toronto’s best modern theatre. It won the Governor General’s Award for architectural excellence in 1937.

The theatre cost $200,000 to construct, an enormous amount of money during the Great Depression. Its 800-seat auditorium was recessed back from the street, parallel to Eglinton Avenue. Shops flanked the north side of the theatre that fronted on the sidewalk. The rent from these stores helped to offset the expenses of operating the theatre. The huge curved marquee covered the entire entrance area, the sign above it boldly displaying the name of the theatre. The sign was one of the tallest in the city, rivalling the great sign on the Imperial Theatre on Yonge Street.

The film screened at its opening on April 2, 1936 was “King of Burlesque.” The decorative features of the interior amazed the audience. There were chandeliers, hand-carved statues and glass-etched panels surrounded by attractive colours. The lobby even contained a fireplace.

Though theatre attendance declined in the decades ahead, the Eglinton remained profitable as it was a premier venue. However, similar to most theatres, it struggled as the 21st century dawned. When the city demanded that wheelchair access be installed, its owners decided that the cost of this renovation was not practical, and it was finally shuttered in April 2002. Fortunately, it was not demolished and survives today as a special events venue, “The Eglinton Grand.”

Note: the author is grateful to Michael Allen Bronstorph for information on the Eglinton Theatre. Among other positions in the theatre industry, he was the manager of the Eglinton for several years.

881-350   3

Entrance of the Eglinton Theatre in 1936, the year it opened. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 350

881-345     1

A small portion of the lobby of the Eglinton in 1936. Photo City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 345

881-345    2

View of the art work seen on the wall in the previous photo. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 345 

881-345     3

               View of the lobby. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 345

881-347     3

The lobby of the Eglinton in 1936, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 350

881-350

   Woman’s washroom, c. 1936, City of Toronto Archives, Series  881 File 350

881-346     4

View of the auditorium from the stage area. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 346

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Entrance of the Eglinton Grand, the former Eglinton Theatre, in 2013

DSCN0801

                  Box office and marquee of the Eglinton Grand in 2013.

DSCN0813

                    The facade of the Eglinton Grand in the summer of 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

   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 Pickford Theatre—Part 11

Pickford, Spadina and Queen 1916, dmol. 1972

                            The Pickford Theatre in 1916

The intersection of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West is today one of the busiest intersections in downtown Toronto. I sometimes refer to it as “hamburger corner,” as  there are four fast-food hamburger outlets located at this intersection. However, until I commenced researching Toronto’s old movie houses, I had never realized that it was also the site of one of the city’s earliest theatres—the Auditorium Theatre.

It was located at 382 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. It opened in 1908, on the ground-floor level of the Moler College Barber Building, which was three storeys in height and topped by a Mansard roof. The 1916 photo depicts the theatre and shows two of the three storeys above it.

When the theatre opened in the first decade of the 20th century, the movie theatre business was in its infancy and was considered a risky business enterprise. Thus, renting space within an existing building was  the least expensive way to present “film plays.” However, within a few years this attitude changed due to the increasing popularity of the movies. Buildings were then constructed for the express purpose of showing films. The situation now was reversed, as theatre owners rented excess space for other business enterprises. The funds assisted in reducing the expenses of operating a theatre.

When the Auditorium opened, it imitated the format established by the Theatorium Theatre at Yonge and Queen, which featured films and a series of vaudeville acts. The Theatorium  was a nickelodeon, as it charged five cents for tickets. The Auditorium Theatre followed this pattern too. It boasted that it showed films that required three reels to complete, considered quite a technological feat in 1908.

The interior space of the theatre was long and narrow, extending back from Queen Street. There was a stage at the north end of the auditorium, but its ceiling was not of sufficient height to accommodate a large screen. This restriction also prevented the building of a balcony. Thus, it was a small theatre, containing less than 400 leatherette seats, all with plush-backs. It possessed three narrow sections of seats, separated by two aisles. From its opening day, it was well attended as there were no other theatres in close proximity to it.

In 1913 the theatre was renovated, its north wall extended further back to increase the seating capacity by almost 50 seats. Following the alterations, the theatre was renamed the Avenue, the name likely chosen because it was on Spadina Avenue.

In 1915, it again changed its name and became the Mary Pickford Theatre. This allowed the theatre to take advantage of the fame associated with the first true international film star of the silver screen. She had been born in Toronto and her name added to the popularity of the theatre. The theatre’s name was later shortened and it was simply referred to as the Pickford. This name was to remain until 1945, when it was renamed the Variety.

The old theatre finally closed in 1947. The Moler Barber Building, where the Pickford had been located, during the 1950s was occupied by Bargain Benny’s. It operated on business practices similar to Honest Ed’s. The bargain emporium went bankrupt in 1961. After the building was demolished in 1972, a small cafe was erected on the site. Today, a hamburger outlet occupies the cafe.

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    The entrance to the Standard  Theatre, later renamed the Pickford.

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View gazes north on Spadina toward Queen Street West. The Pickford was on the ground floor of the Moler Barber building, which has a turret on its southeast corner.

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The Moler Barber Building at Spadina and Queen in 1958, where the Pickford Theatre was located.

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The small cafe that was erected on the site after the Moler Barber Building was demolished.

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The northwest corner of Queen and Spadina after the cafe became a McDonald’s outlet (photo 2012) .

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.  

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   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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