The Academy Theatre at 1286 Bloor Street West was one of Toronto’s earliest movie theatre. Plans for it were submitted to the city in November 1914. Located on the northwest corner of Bloor Street West and St. Clarens Avenue, it was typical of many structures built in the Edwardian period. It possessed a symmetrical design, with three sided columns (pilasters) decorating the south facade and ornate terracotta tiles in a central position on the second-floor level. I suspect that the building existed when the theatre applied for the building permit, and that the ground floor was renovated to accommodate the theatre. The floors above the theatre were rented to other tenants. There was a small shop on the right-hand side of the entrance to the theatre.
The theatre was modest in size, as it accommodated only 410 patrons, all on the ground floor as there was no balcony. The seats of mohair and leather were plush and they were fastened to a wood floor. Two aisles allowed access to the rows. Because of the decade in which it was built, the theatre likely contained a stage and space for a few musicians to provide music for the silent films and vaudeville acts. Originally, the box office was inside the small lobby, but in 1936, it was relocated to the outside, at the edge of the sidewalk. During these renovations, the number of seats was reduced to 391. There were minor alterations in April 1942, the contract awarded to Mr. A. Wilson. In 1953, the wood flooring was replaced with concrete. In 1962, the theatre was converted from 35mm film to 16mm. At the time, William Kolas was the owner.
I was unable to discover the year the theatre closed, but it was listed on the real estate market in September 1958 for $4900. The listed price was likely for the theatre only, not the entire building. However, the theatre continued to screen films for several more years.
Auditorium of the Academy Theatre, photo from the Ontario Archives
View of the Academy Theatre from the rear of the auditorium, gazing toward the screen.
View from the lobby, gazing toward the doors that gave access to the auditorium.
View of the theatre when it was listed on the real estate market. Both films advertised on the marquee were released in 1960.
The building that housed the Academy after the theatre had disappeared.
Location of the Academy Theatre
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To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern
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.
To place an order for this book:
Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791
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.