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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Toronto’s Paradise Theatre—Part II

Paradise

                      Paradise Theatre c. 1946. Ontario Archives

During the summer of 2014, in my quest to locate and photograph Toronto’s old local theatres, none of the discoveries surprised and pleased me more than the sight of the Paradise Theatre. Located at 1008 Bloor Street West, it is on the northwest corner of Bloor and Westmoreland Avenue. However, I must admit that my pleasure slowly became tinged with a hint of sadness, as its impressive marquee was blank, devoid of the names of films, and the spaces where posters had once advertised films were empty or contained faded posters. One of the spaces had graffiti defacing it. The theatre was akin to a grand old lady whose glory days had vanished and was now a relic from the past.

Despite these thoughts, I must confess I was gladdened by the realization that at least the theatre had survived, and despite the passing of the many decades since it opened, its façade of glazed bricks still sparkled in the afternoon sun. Its marquee may have been empty, but it was well preserved and as attractive as when it was first installed. In my opinion, the Paradise is an architectural gem.

The site where it exists has a long history in the story of Toronto’s local theatres. The first theatre built on this site at 1008 Bloor Street was named the Kitchener. It opened its doors to screen silent movies in 1909, in the days prior to the First World War. The cost of constructing the theatre was $3000. To build the Paradise, the old Kitchener Theatre was gutted, very little of it being retained.

The present-day cinema opened in 1937, designed by the Lithuanian-born Benjamin Brown, one of the city’s famous architects. He had previously created the Reading Building in 1925, the Tower Building in 1927, and Balfour Building in 1930, all located on Spadina Avenue. Brown also was the architect of the infamous Victory Theatre. Benjamin Brown chose the Art Deco style for the Paradise Theatre. The tall rectangular windows on the second floor and the narrow rows of raised bricks create the impression of extra height. Its cornice is relatively unadorned, with a raised centre section in the central position, typical of many Art Deco buildings. When it opened in 1937, its auditorium contained a small stage, with dressing rooms to accommodate actors when live performances were offered. It was an intimate theatre, containing a small lobby and less than 500 seats in its auditorium, including the balcony.

The theatre changed ownership several times during the decades ahead, but except for a period in the 1980s, when it screened soft porno and was named Eve’s Paradise, it always retained its original name. It screened Italian films in the 1960s. In the 1990s it was a repertoire theatre, part of the Festival chain.

By the early years of the 21st century, it had become somewhat shabby, its projectors having insufficient power to properly illuminate the film-prints, and the sound system was in poor shape. It closed in 2006, but in 2007 was listed as a Heritage Property. Unfortunately, because the laws are very lax, this did not ensure that it would not be demolished.

However, this story has a happy ending. The Paradise Theatre was purchased by Moray Tawse, who plans to restore it to its original glory. It will become an arts centre and community theatre, a true addition to Toronto’s cultural scene.

To view plans for the redevelopment of the Paradise Theatre, google: www.insidetoronto.com

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Undated photo of the auditorium of the Paradise. Photo from Ontario Archives.

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            Lobby of the Paradise. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

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View of the Paradise on the northwest coroner of Bloor and Westmoreland during the summer of 2014.

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                        Marquee and the sign of the Paradise.

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                             Brick designs on the facade of the theatre.

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    The lobby and entrance door to the auditorium of the Paradise in 2014.

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Gazing west along the busy section of Bloor Street West, where the Paradise is located.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

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“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear 

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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Toronto’s Revue Theatre-Part II

AO 2020

The Revue Theatre in 1938, Ontario Archives.

The Revue Theatre at 400 Roncesvalles Avenue is one of the oldest surviving movie houses in Toronto, its only rival for this distinction being the Fox Theatre, on Queen Street East. Both theatres opened between 1912 and 1913 and remain active today. Their façades are unchanged from when they opened, although the original marquees on both theatres have been removed as they were too costly to maintain.

Because of the Revue’s location, I was never inside it when I was a teenager. However, during “Doors Open Toronto” in 2013, I journeyed on the streetcar to visit it. I had my choice of boarding either a King or a College streetcar, as the theatre is located near the intersection of Roncesvalles and Howard Park Avenues. This caused me to realize the advantage of the theatre’s location in earlier decades, when almost everyone moved around the city by streetcar. On arriving at the theatre, I was impressed with the young volunteers that enthusiastically talked about the Revue and provided tours of the space behind the screen. They also allowed access to the projection room. Free popcorn was available at the candy bar—a nice touch.

In the mid-19th century, the area known as Parkdale, to the south of where the Revue is located today, was relative undeveloped. However, it was expanding rapidly, even though it was considered remote from the downtown. Nestled beside Lake Ontario, many of its inhabitants were cottagers who spent only the summer months in Parkdale, sharing it with people who were enjoying day-trips to the beach from the core of the city. However, because of its highly desirable location beside the lake, Parkdale increasingly attracted more and more permanent residents, many large Victorian-style homes appearing on its tree-lined streets. As a result, it was annexed to the City of Toronto in 1889. As land prices increased and vacant residential lots disappeared, residential development moved further northward, along Roncesvalles Avenue. This street derived its name from a mountain pass in the Pyrenees, where a battle was fought in the Napoleonic Wars. 

As the area of Roncesvalles near Howard Park Avenue became more populated, it was obvious that building a movie theatre in the area could be a profitable enterprise. Thus, between 1912-1913, the Revue Theatre was constructed. Though in a quiet neighbourhood to the northwest of the downtown core, it benefited from being close to two streetcar lines and surrounded by residential streets to the east and west of Roncesvalles with ever-increasing populations .

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People arriving at the terminus of the College streetcar line in High Park in 1906, on an open trolley car. This was only a few blocks from where the Revue Theatre was located. City of Toronto Archives, Series 71, Item 9896

The Revue was not a large theatre, containing only around 500 seats. However, its size was appropriate for a local theatre that depended mainly on the surrounding community for patrons, supplemented by those who arrived by streetcar. The theatre’s Fabricord seats were comfortable, and its two aisles provided easy access and exiting of the theatre. This was an advantage in an era when movie-goers entered and departed constantly, rather than arriving at the staring time of a film. Despite the theatre’s modest size, it possessed an impressive marquee, attached to a façade displaying classical designs, with Greek dentils and Doric columns. The cornice on the peaked roof and the horizontal lower cornice below it contained classical decorative detailing. The interior was decorated with designs possessing geometric shapes and patterns.

In the 1980s, the theatre became part of the Festival Theatre chain. However, in 2006 the company closed the Revue. It appeared as if a developer might purchase the property and demolish it. Fortunately, concerned residents raised funds to ensure its survival as a functioning movie house. It reopened the following year, operated by the non-profit Revue Film Society.

In February of the year it reopened, a section of the marquee collapsed to the sidewalk, likely cause by the weight of the snow. For safety reasons, it was necessary to remove the entire marquee. A part of it was preserved by storing it in an area behind the screen.

Thankfully, the Revue Cinema remains today and continues to offer nightly screenings. It is one of Toronto’s few remaining neighbourhood theatres of yesteryear.

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The Revue Theatre in 1935, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1109 File 106

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The Revue Theatre in 1935, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1111, It. 108

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   Interior of the Revue Theatre in the 1930s, City of Toronto Archives.

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      Interior of the theatre in 2013, from the rear of the auditorium. 

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                   View of the auditorium from near the screen.

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Greek dentils in the peak of the facade and the name of the theatre.

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     A section of the old marquee that is stored behind the screen.

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                        Facade of the Revue Theatre in 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.  

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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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Toronto’s old Radio City Theatre—Part II

Radio City OA 2172

The Radio City Theatre in 1941, Ontario Archives

The Radio City Theatre was located at 1454 Bathurst Street, a short distance south of St. Clair Avenue West. It was built adjacent to the southern loop of the Vaughan Bus, which terminated at the north end of its route at Oakwood Avenue and Vaughan Road. As a young boy, I travelled on the Vaughan bus many times. The first time I visited The Radio City Theatre I was too young to go unaccompanied, so an adult neighbour took a friend, my brother and me to see Walt Disney’s animated film, “Snow White.” The film had been released in 1937, but I saw it as the Radio City in 1943.

As a child, I thought the theatre was amazing. Its size and grandeur appeared palatial, worthy of the prince charming that rescued Snow White in the Disney film. I knew the story of Snow White quite well as I had signed-out the picture book from the library at Vaughan and Oakwood Avenues. When I first visited the theatre, it was spanking new, having opened just five years earlier in 1936. Its auditorium contained about 800 seats. The lobby was richly carpeted and included a fireplace. 

I did not attend the theatre again until I was of sufficient age to ride the Vaughan bus on my own. However, I rarely attended it, since by that time the larger and more attractive Vaughan Theatre had opened nearby. Both theatres were managed by the B&F chain.

The theatre’s doors were shuttered in 1975 and the building was demolished. The site today contains a low-rise building that is used for other commercial purposes.

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            Lobby of the Radio City Theatre. Ontario Archives, AO 2174.

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                     Building on the site of the Radio City 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[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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