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Category Archives: entertainment Toronto

Fond Memories of Sam the Record Man

                View of Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street – June 23, 1971

Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street in 1971, Toronto Archives, F1526, fl 0003, Item 0025

My earliest memories of purchasing records from Sam Sniderman’s store date from 1958-1959. I lived in the west end of the city, but was working in the British American Oil Company building at Bay and College Streets. I was collecting 78 rpm recordings of brass bands, particularly those in Great Britain. Sam’s was one of the few shops that stocked these disks, as they were not exactly mainstream merchandise. On my way home from work, I sometimes boarded a westbound College Street streetcar and travelled to Sam’s store at 714 College Street, three blocks east of Ossington Avenue. The store was rather jumbled and slightly run down, but the record collection was fantastic.

The store on College Street that I visited was named, “Sniderman Radio Sales and Service.” It had been established by Sam Sniderman’s father in 1929. In 1937, Sam began selling records in his father’s store. After long-playing vinyl disks were introduced in 1948, record sales expanded greatly, and by the late 1950s, Sam’s store had one of the largest collections of recordings in the world. Its main competitor was A&A Records on Yonge Street. Sam Sniderman realized that to truly be able to compete with A&A, he required a downtown location. As a result, in 1959, he rented space on the ground floor of Yolles Furniture Store at 291 Yonge Street, on the west side of the street, south of Dundas Street. However, he did not remain on the site very long.

In 1961, Sam relocated his business to 347 Yonge Street, two doors south of A&A Records. The signage on the front of the store displayed an huge thermometer and barometer, the colour red dominating the display. Sam’s was in the heart of the movie theatre district, where foot-traffic was constant all day and continued into the late evening hours. People who attended the large theatres such as the Imperial or Loew’s Downtown, and those who visited the smaller Biltmore, Savoy or Downtown Theatres, often dropped into Sam’s or A&A’s before journeying home. The shops remained open until midnight, the late-evening hours being the busiest. In 1967, annual sales at Sam’s topped $2 million, the equivalent of about $15 million today.

The year 1969 was an historic year in the history of the store, and is one of the reasons that Sam’s is so well remembered today. Wishing to attract more attention to his enterprise, he hired the best-known sign company in the city – Brothers Markle. It created the iconic sign that became a favourite of many Torontonians. Requiring two months to complete, the neon vinyl sign resembled a huge record disk, approximately 7 metres by 5 metres. The neon tubes flashed on and off, creating the effect that the record was spinning on a turntable. When Sam took over the building to the north of his store, the signage was extended to include another flashing record disk. This brought the total size of the sign to 15 metres by 10 metres. It was visible to everyone who nightly strolled “the strip,” as that section of Yonge Street was known.  The brightly-lit sign became an integral part of the scene.

During the 1970s and 1980s the record business was flooded with sales, and Sam’s rode the crest of the wave. The store’s brand was franchised throughout Canada; at the height of the popularity of LP records, there were 130 outlets. Sam encouraged vocal artists to perform in his store on Yonge Street, and through these events he promoted the careers of artists such as Stompin’ Tom Connors, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Guess Who, and Joni Mitchell. Sam continually expanded, occupying the bank building on the corner on the northeast corner of Yonge and Gould, to the south of his store.

However, during the 1990s, sales began to diminish. Sam’s went bankrupt in 2001, but was resurrected in 2002 by his two sons—Bobby and Jason. However, they were unsuccessful in restoring the business as even CD sales were dropping due to the internet. The store permanently closed in in February 2007.

Ryerson University purchased Sam’s and A&A, along with others buildings in the same block. They were demolished to create the Ryerson Student Learning Centre, with the understanding that the iconic Sam’s sign would be resurrected and placed on the new building, since it was designated an historic artefact under the Ontario Heritage Act. It was never installed, as the university claimed that the sign did not suit the modern style of their new structure. However, I sometimes wonder if the condition in the purchase agreement was truly impressed on the architect. It now appears that the university is planning to place the sign above a city-owned building that overlooks Yonge/Dundas Square. Viewed from atop a tall building, its impact would be non-existent, especially with the enormous number of signs that overlook Dundas Square.

Sam died in September 2012 at age 94. He made a wonderful contribution to the life of Toronto and is fondly remembered for much more than the neon sign he left behind.

Sources: news.library.Ryerson.ca—www.globeandmail.ca—torontoist.com—www.thestar.com

Canada Archives e010991186-v8[1]  Can.  Ar. Stompin' Tom Connors e010981574-v8[1]

A cut-out showing Sam Sniderman (Canada Archives, 01099186-v8) and Sam with Stompin’ Tom Connors (Canada Archives, 0110981574-v8)

Fonds 124, Fl.0003, id.0197  A and A Records - Copy

View looking south at the east side of Yonge Street. The Edison Hotel is visible on the southeast corner of Yonge and Gould Streets. It was demolished after its north facade collapsed into the street. Toronto Archives, F124, fl 0003, id 0197.

mid 1980s s1465_fl0020_id0023[1]

Sam’s in the 1980s, when it was one door south of A&A’s. It did not yet occupy Thriftt’s, which separated the two stores. View gazes east from Elm Street toward the east side of Yonge Street. Toronto Archives, F1465, fl0020, id 0023

Dec. 30, 2007, Urban Toronto, Edward Skira,  [1]

Sam the Record Man on December 30, 2007, after it closed for the final time. A&A’s had already disappeared. Photo from Urban Toronto, by Edward Skira.

Series 1465, File 48, Item 1

An aerial view gazing eastward, the east side on Yonge Street in the foreground, showing A&A Records and Sam the Record Man. Toronto Archives, S1465, Fl 0048, id 0001

site of A&A. west to Yonge, 2013

Gazing west toward Yonge Street at the former site of A&A and Sam’s, the construction of the Ryerson Student learning Centre in progress. The low-rise buildings in the background are on the west side of Yonge Street.

DSCN9146

The Ryerson Student Learning Centre on the east side of Yonge Street, north of Gould Street, in 2015. It is where A&A and Sam’s once stood. Personally, I believe that it is architecturally magnificent, but is not appropriate for this section of Yonge Street. It overpowers the historic buildings in the neighbourhood and aesthetically does not fit into the area. In another location, this structure would be an architectural icon.

Below is another viewpoint on the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre, written by Luis Fernandes.

Continuing to read your Toronto blog, I came upon your article on Sam the Record Man. At the end of the article as the Ryerson Student Learning Centre replaced the iconic buildings you say, “It overpowers the historic buildings in the neighbourhood and aesthetically does not fit into the area. In another location, this structure would be an architectural icon.”

I agree in principle with your sentiments. Some time in the future, the citizens of Toronto will regret demolishing those buildings.

However let me provide an alternative point of view to the situation– I have to mention that I have been working at Ryerson for 20 years, after having graduated with a degree– and what follows is insider information, so to speak.

Whenever anyone asked for directions to Ryerson, instead of telling them the street intersection it was on, the most accurate answer was to say, “It’s behind Sam the Record Man”– because everyone knew where Sam’s was. I often gave this direction when asked.

When Sheldon Levy become president of Ryerson, he found out about this “direction” and made it his mission to change this “2nd-class perception” of Ryerson’s place by giving the University a more prominent footprint on Yonge Street.

As a result, people no longer ask for directions to Ryerson anymore. It’s a shame that so much history had to be traded for this recognition. 

A link to a post about A&A Records: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/fond-memories-of-a-a-records-demolished/

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in May, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly use the link:

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

 

 

 

 

 

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A cartoon about “Gone With the Wind.”

February 25, 2014 Toronto Star--

This cartoon was in the Toronto Star on February 28, 2015. The cartoon brought back memories of the first time I saw the film “Gone With the Wind.” It was in the mid-1950s, at Loew’s Downtown Theatre, which is today named the Elgin. For links to the history of this magnificent historic theatre :

Elgin Theatre (Loew’s Downtown)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/torontos-old-movie-housesloews-downtown-the-elgin/

Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-elgin-winter-garden-theatres/

Below are links to over 130 of Toronto’s old movie theatres:

Adelphi Theatre (Kum Bac) on Dovercourt Road

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/the-adelphi-cum-bac-movie-theatretoronto/

Alhambra Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bathurst Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/torontos-old-movie-theatres-the-alhambra/

Allen’s Bloor Theatre, (now Lee’s Palace)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/torontos-old-allens-bloor-theatre-the-bloor-lees-palace/

Allenby on the Danforth

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-allenby-roxy-apollo-on-the-danforth/

Apollo (Crystal) Theatre on Dundas West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/torontos-apollo-crystal-theatre-on-dundas-street-west/

Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/torontos-lost-movie-theatresthe-avon-at-1092-queen-west/

Bay (Colonial Theatre) at Queen and Bay

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-bay-originally-the-colonial/

The Bayview Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-bayview/

Beaver Theatre in the Junction area at Keele and Dundas Street West 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/torontos-beaver-theatre-on-dundas-st-west/

Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bell-lightbox-tiff/

Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/the-bellevue-theatre-lux-burlesque-theatre-on-college-street/

The Biltmore Theatre on Yonge, north of Dundas St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-biltmore-theatre/

Birchcliff Theatre on Kingston Rd.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/memories-of-torontos-birchcliff-theatre-on-kingston-rd/

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bloor-hot-docs-cinema/

Bloordale Theatre (the State) on Bloor St. West, near Dundas Street. 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-bloordale-state/

Blue Bell (Gay) Theatre on Parliament Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/torontos-blue-bell-theatre-the-gay/

Bonita (Gerrard) Theatre on Gerrard East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/torontos-bonita-theatre-on-gerrard-east/

Brighton Theatre on Roncesvalles Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-brighton/

The Brock Theatre (the Gem)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-brock-the-gem/

Cameo Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/torontos-old-cameo-theatre/

Capitol Theatre on Yonge at Castlefield

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/torontos-old-capitol-theatre/

Carlton Theatre on Parliament Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-carlton-on-parliament-st/

Casino Burlesque Theatre on Queen Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-infamous-casino-on-queen-st/ 

Cineplex Eaton Centre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-cineplex-eaton-centre/

Cineplex Odeon Varsity Theatre at Bloor and Bay

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-cineplex-odeon-varsity/

Cineplex Theatre at Yonge and Dundas Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/torontos-architectural-gems-cineplex-at-dundas-and-yonge-streets/

Circle Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/torontos-old-circle-theatre/

College Theatre at College St. and Dovercourt Rd.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/torontos-old-college-theatre/

Colony Theatre at Vaughan Road and Eglinton Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-colony-at-eglinton-and-vaughan/

Coronet Theatre (Savoy) on Yonge St. at Gerrard

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-coronet-savoy-on-yonge-at-gerrard/

Crown Theatre on Gerrard St. East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/the-crown-theatre-toronto-on-gerrard-st-east/

Danforth Music Hall (Allen’s Danforth)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-danforth-music-hall-allans-danforth/

Donlands Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-donlands/

Downtown Theatre (now demolished) at Yonge and Dundas

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/torontos-lost-movie-theatresthe-downtown-theatre-on-yonge-st-south-of-dundas/

Duchess Theatre (Circle) on Dundas West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-duchess-centre/

Eastwood Theatre on Gerrard St. East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/torontos-eastwood-theatre-on-gerrard-st-east/

Ed Mirvish Theatre (the Pantages, Imperial and Cannon)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-ed-mirvish-theatre-pantages-imperial-canon/

Eglinton Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-eglinton-theatre/

Elgin Theatre (Loew’s Downtown)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/torontos-old-movie-housesloews-downtown-the-elgin/

Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-elgin-winter-garden-theatres/

Empire (Rialto, Palton) on Queen East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/torontos-empire-rialto-palton-theatrequeen-st-east/

Esquire (Lyndhurst) Theatre on Bloor Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/esquire-theatretoronto/

Garden Theatre at 290 College Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/discovering-two-of-torontos-lost-movie-theatres/

Glendale Theatre on Avenue Rd.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-glendale-theatre-on-avenue-rd/

Golden Mile Theatre on Eglinton East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/torontos-golden-mile-theatre-on-eglinton-ave/

Grant Theatre on Oakwood Avenue near Vaughan Road

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-grant/

Greenwood Theatre (the Guild)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-greenwood-guild/

Grover on Danforth Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/torontos-old-grover-theatre/

Hillcrest Theatre on Christie Street, south of Dupont St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/remembering-torontos-hillcrest-theatre-on-christie-st/

Hollywood Theatre on the east side of Yonge Street, north of St. Clair Avenue.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-hollywood-theatre/

Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street (archival photos)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/archival-photos-of-torontos-old-theatres-give-reality-to-historical-novel/

Iola (Ace, Regal) on Queen St. East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/the-iola-ace-regal-theatretoronto/

Island Theatre on Centre Island

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/the-1950s-movie-theatre-at-centre-island-toronto/

Kent Theatre at Yonge and St. Clair

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-kent-movie-theatretoronto/

Kenwood Theatre on Bloor St. West 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/torontos-old-kenwood-theatre-on-bloor-st-west/

King Theatre at College and Manning Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/torontos-king-theatre-on-college-st-at-manning/

Kingsway Theatre in the Kingsway Village on Bloor St. West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-kingsway-theatre-on-bloor-west/

KUM-C Theatre in Parkdale

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/memories-of-torontos-kum-c-theatre-in-parkdale/

La Plaza Theatre (the Opera House) on Queen Street East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/torontos-la-plaza-theatre-the-opera-house-on-queen-east/

La Salle Theatre on Dundas, near Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/torontos-la-salle-theatredundas-and-spadina/

Lansdowne Theatre on Lansdowne Avenue, north of Bloor St. West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/the-lansdowne-theatretoronto/

Loew’s Uptown Theatre (the Uptown)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/torontos-old-movie-housesloews-uptown/

Major St. Clair Theatre on St. Clair Avenue, east of Old Weston Road.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-st-clair-major/

The Mayfair Theatre at Jane and Annette

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-mayfair

Metro Theatre at 679 Bloor West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-metro-at-679-bloor-west/

Mount Dennis Theatre on Weston Rd, north of Eglinton

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-mount-dennis-on-weston-rd/

Mount Pleasant (Hudson) Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/torontos-old-movie-theatrethe-mt-pleasant-hudson/

Nortown Theatre on Eglinton, west of Bathurst St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-nortown-at-bathurst-and-eglinton/

The Oakwood Theatre on Oakwood Avenue, near St. Clair Avenue West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-oakwood-theatre-at-st-clair-and-oakwood/

The Oakwood Theatre, Part II

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/torontos-old-oakwood-theatrepart-ii/

Odeon Carlton at Yonge and Carlton Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/torontos-great-old-theatresthe-odeon-carlton/

Odeon Carlton Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-odeon-fairlawn/

Odeon Danforth Theatre on the Danforth, near Pape Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/torontos-old-movie-theatresodeon-danforth/

Odeon Humber theatre at Bloor and Jane Streets (now Humber Cinemas)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-odeon-humber-theatre/

Odeon Hyland Theatre at Yonge and St. Clair

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-odeon-hyland/

Odeon Theatre On Queen West in Parkdale

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/odeon-theatre-in-parkdaletoronto/

Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/torontos-old-movie-theatres-the-orpheum-on-queen-st-w/

Palace Theatre on the Danforth

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/torontos-old-movie-housethe-palace-theatre-on-the-danforth/

Palace Theatre on the Danforth near Pape Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/torontos-old-movie-housethe-palace-theatre-on-the-danforth/

Panasonic Theatre on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-panasonic-theatre-victoria-astor-new-yorker/

Paradise (Eve’s Paradise)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-paradise-eves-paradise/

Paramount Theatre on St. Clair West, between Oakwood and Dufferin streets.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-paramount-theatre-at-1069-st-clair-ave-2/

Parkdale Theatre on Queen Street, near Roncesvalles

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-parkdale-on-queen-st-near-roncesvalles/

Photodrome (Ace) Theatre on Queen St. West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/memories-of-torontos-ace-photodrome-theatre-on-queen-west

Pickford (Auditorium, Avenue) Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-pickford-auditorium-theatre-at-queen-and-spadina/

The Princess Theatre on King Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/torontos-old-princess-theatre/

Radio City Theatre on Bathurst, south of St. Clair.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-radio-city-theatre/

Regent Theatre on Mt. Pleasant Rd. (the Belsize, the Crest)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-regent-mt-pleasant/

Revue Theatre at 400 Roncesvalles Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-revue-theatre-at-400-roncesvalles-ave/

Rex Theatre (the Joy)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-rex-joy-on-queen-st-east/

Rivoli Theatre on Queen Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/torontos-old-rivoli-theatre-on-queen-west/

Royal Alexandra Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/torontos-historic-royal-alexandra-theatre/

Royal George Theatre on St. Clair W., west of Dufferin Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-royal-george-on-st-clair-near-dufferin/

Royal Theatre on Dundas Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/torontos-royal-theatre-on-dundas-street/

Royal Theatre (the Pylon) on College St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-royal-theatre-the-pylon/

Runnymede Theatre in the Bloor West Village

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-runnymede-theatre-on-bloor-street/

Scarboro Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-scarboro/

Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-modern-scotiabank-theatre/

Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/sheas-hippodrome-theatre-where-the-nathan-phillips-square-exists-today/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/photographs-from-the-1950s-of-sheas-hippodrome-theatre-located-on-the-site-of-torontos-new-city-hall/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/old-movie-houses-of-toronto-fond-memories-of-sheas-hippodrome/

Shea’s Victoria (The Victoria) at Victoria and Adelaide Streets 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/torontos-old-sheas-victoria-theatre/

St. Clair Theatre, west of Dufferin Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-st-clair-theatre-near-dufferin-st/

Teck Theatre on Queen St. East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/torontos-teck-theatre-on-queen-st-east/

The Tivoli Theatre on Richmond Street East

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-housestivoli-on-richmond-st-e/

Toronto’s first movie screening and its first movie theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/torontos-first-movie-screening-and-first-movie-theatre/

Town Cinema on Bloor East, near Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-town-cinema/

University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

Uptown 5 Multiplex Theatre on Yonge south of Bloor

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/torontos-old-movie-housesthe-uptown-5-multiplex-theatre/

Vaughan Theatre on St. Clair Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/torontos-lost-treasuresthe-vaughan-theatre-on-st-clair-ave/ 

Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

Village Theatre on Spadina Road in Forest Hill Village

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/village-theatre-on-spadina-roadtoronto/

Westwood Theatre on Bloor Street West near Six Points

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-westwood-theatre/

The Willow Theatre on north Yonge St. in Willowdale

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-willow-theatre-at-5269-yonge-st/

York Theatre on Yonge near Bloor St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/the-york-movie-theatre-in-toronto/

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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 at Chapters/Indigo, the book shop at the Bell Lightbox or University of Toronto Press at 416-667-7791

ISBN # 978.1.62619.450.2

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

To view posts about Toronto’s history and its heritage architecture:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

 

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Toronto’s historic Royal Alexandra Theatre

Tor. Pub. Lib. pictures-r-4963[1]

The Royal Alexander Theatre in August, 1955 , Toronto Public Library, r-4963-1

In the 19th century, King Street was one of the most fashionable residential streets in Toronto, as well as its most important business thoroughfare. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario was located at Simcoe and John Streets, the location of today’s Roy Thomson Hall. The prestigious private school, Upper Canada College, was at one time located at the same intersection, on the northwest corner.

In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of business men, its most important member Cawthra Mulock, decided to finance the construction of a theatre to showcase legitimate theatrical productions. Most of them would be touring shows from London and New York. They purchased an 100-foot-wide lot at 260 King Street West, on the north side of the street, between Simcoe and John Streets. It had at one time been part of the previously mentioned campus of Upper Canada College.  

The syndicate hired the architect John M. Lyle, who in later years was to design Union Station on Front Street. For the theatre, Lyle chose the style that he preferred and had specialized in—Beaux-Arts classicism. It was constructed on a steel frame, which was not common in that decade. The exterior walls and floors were reinforced concrete, over two feet thick, and the walls were covered with yellow bricks. It had a Mansard roof with eye-windows inserted in it on three sides. The balconies were constructed of reinforced concrete on steel frames. There were no internal pillars, so no seat in the theatre would have an obstructed view. Sandstone blocks were placed on the facade facing King Street to create an imposing dignified appearance. The theatre was electrified so that no candles or gas lamps were required for stage or house lights, reducing the risk of fire. The stage’s fire curtain contained asbestos, woven on steel wire. There was also an automatic sprinkler system, its water supply contained in a cistern on the roof. There were sprinklers in the ceiling of the auditorium, as well as encircling the stage area and around the curtains. When it was built, it was the only truly fire-proof theatre in North America, setting the standard for theatres throughout the continent.

The stage was 45 feet wide and 35 feet in depth. The 17-foot wings were of sufficient size for the demands of most productions. Behind the stage were dressing rooms and washrooms. The space above the stage possessed extra height to accommodate most scenery and stage sets. Though the theatre was smaller than those in London and New York, the Royal Alex was a “road house,” meaning that touring groups arrived with their own scenery, which tended to be on a smaller scale than in-house productions. In the two balconies and box seats on the sides, as well as in the orchestra sections, there were plush comfortable seats. Every detail was observed to create excellent acoustics, and the auditorium was shaped according to these principles. In summer, storage spaces under the floor contained blocks of ice, so that in hot weather, vents in the floor allowed cool air into the theatre. This was in the days prior to air conditioning.

Royal permission was granted to name the theatre after the consort of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra. It opened on August 26, 1907 with the musical production “Top O’ Th’ World,” starring  Harry Fairleigh and Anna Laughklin. During the many decades ahead, productions of Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, The King and I, Call Me Madam, and the Wizard of Oz had their Toronto premiers at the “Royal Alex,” as theatregoers usually refer to it. As well, Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera have been featured at the theatre.

By the late-1950s, the area surrounding the theatre had deteriorated and it was in danger of being demolished for a parking lot. In 1963, Ed Mirvish purchased the theatre for $215,000. He was quoted as saying that any real estate deal where the asking price was less than the value of the land alone, was a great buy. Mirvish restored the theatre to its early-twentieth- century grandeur and reopened it on September 9, 1963, featuring the play, “Never Too Late.” It was the beginning of the renaissance of King Street West. Today, the Bell Lightbox and Princess of Wales Theatre complement the historic Royal Alexander. It is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in North America.

Note: I am grateful for the information contained in the book, “The Royal Alexandra Theatre” by Robert Brockhouse.

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                                                The theatre in 2012.

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                     The canopy of the theatre on King Street West.

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                                        Entrance doors on King Street.

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                             Architectural detailing of the cornice.

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                                      Interior view from the stage.

May 2012

              View of the theatre from David Pecaut Square in May 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.  

                      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 Photodrome, 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 Princess Theatre

Princess

The Princess Theatre on November 18, 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Salmon Collection, Series 1278 File 136.

In 1880, a grand theatre opened in Toronto at 167 King Street West. Its original name was the Academy of Music, but it was changed to the more regal title of Princess. Located on the south side of King Street West, it was between Simcoe and York Streets. The row of buildings that included the theatre no longer exists as it was demolished when University Avenue was extended south from Queen Street. Thus, the site today is buried beneath the multi-lane University Avenue.

The theatre’s opening was an historic event, as it was first theatre in Toronto of any size that offered live theatre. No one knew that the opening of the Princess was the beginning of Toronto’s rise to become the third most important English-speaking theatre centre in the world. The theatre was amazing for its day. It was the first public building in Toronto to be electrified, following the lead of the Savoy Theatre in London, England, the first building in that city to be electrified.

The Princess was an early-day version of an entertainment complex, as it contained a ballroom, banquet room, art gallery and drawing room, as well as a luxurious auditorium and stage. Along with comic and dramatic plays, it also featured major sporting events. On May 23, 1896, the title contest between fighters Tommy Dixon and Frank Zimpher, for the featherweight boxing division was held at the Princess, 

Mary Pickford, whose real name was Gladys Smith, gave her first stage performance at the Princess in 1900, in the play “The Silver King.” Her mother needed money and allowed her daughter to audition for the part. Mary Pickford loved the experience and eventually became the greatest film star of her day, the first international star of the silver screen. In 1907, the city’s first performance of the opera “Madame Butterfly” was at the Princess, just three years after its Milan debut. The same year, another theatre opened on King Street, offering live theatre in competition with the Princess. This was the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which remains in existence today.

In 1915, fire destroyed much of the Princess Theatre. It required two years to repair the damage and reopened in 1917 as the New Princess Theatre. 

In November 1924, the film “Thief of Bagdad” premiered at the Princess, starring Douglas Fairbanks, the husband of Mary Pickford. It was a silent film and for the occasion the theatre hired a 20-piece orchestra to provide the background music. It was a gala performance, since the theatre rarely showed films, as it specialized in live theatre. However, because this one of the most important movies of the decade, the theatre allowed an exception.

After almost four decades as one of Toronto’s most popular theatres, it finally shuttered its doors. The theatre was demolished in 1931. 

DSCN6704   DSCN6696

DSCN6698  DSCN6703

    Programs from the Princess Theatre, Ontario Archives.

I am indebted to www.world theatres.com, silenttoronto.com, and Man in the green goggles journals.hil.unb.ca for some of the information contained in this post.

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 Photodrome, 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 Prince of Wales Theatre

Tor.-Ref.-Lib.-c.-1927-_thumb4

               The Prince of Wales in 1927, photo, Toronto Reference Library

The Prince of Wales Theatre was located at 2094 Danforth Avenue, on the north side of the street, near Woodbine Avenue. Today, the Woodbine subway station is nearby. The theatre opened on May 5, 1924, six years after the Prince Edward Viaduct was completed across the Don Valley. On its brick facade were several narrow horizontal bands of stone, which gave the building a degree of individuality that differentiated it from the structures on either side of it. The theatre possessed a heavy cornice that contained a row of dentils beneath it. Above the cornice was a parapet that created the illusion of extra height. On the second storey were residential apartments, their rental income helping to defray the operating expenses. The theatre’s auditorium contained 1250 seats.

                 Map of 2094 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C 1J9

                                                  Map from Google, 2014

There is very little information on the theatre in the archives, but it likely possessed a stage and an area to accommodate musicians, since it was built in an era when theatres featured vaudeville acts along with the silent films. Both of these forms of entertainment required music.

The film advertised on the marquee of the 1927 photo of the Prince of Wales is “An Affair of the Follies,” released in February 1927, directed by Millard Webb, starring Billie Dove. This movie is one of many films from the era of silent films that has been lost. The fact that the film was being shown at the Prince of Wales the same year it was released illustrates that the theatre was showing recent films in direct completion with the larger theatres on Danforth Avenue. The theatre shut its doors in 1966, but the building remains today though it has been altered to accommodate other commercial enterprises.

Note: The author is grateful to cinematreasures.org for the information about the opening and closing dates of the Prince of Wales Theatre.

DSCN4933_thumb2

The site of the Prince of Wales  after the theatre was demolished. Photo, Toronto Archives.

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

To view previous blogs about old 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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

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), thePhotodome, 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 Bell Lightbox (TIFF) on King St. West

DSCN0784

I remember when the site of the Bell Lightbox, the headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), was a parking lot. I also recall the excitement that occurred when they announced that a permanent home for the festival was to be built, designed by the architectural firm of Kuwbara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB). Until it was completed, the festival’s offices were to remain in several different buildings in the downtown area. The new headquarters would allow TIFF’s support facilities to be located in a single structure. Another difficulty, prior to the construction of the new building, was that the screening venues for the festival were scattered from Bloor Street in the north to King Street in the south. Since the new headquarters was to be located in the heart of the city’s Entertainment District, it was hoped that the festival’s screening venues would eventually cluster around it. This did indeed occur. 

After construction began, I anxiously watched the storeys rise, one after the other. Located at 350 King Street West, on Reitman Square, on the northwest corner of John and King Streets, it soon towered to a height of 46 floors. The name “Bell Lightbox” seemed appropriate, since Bell Corporation was a major financial contributor, and the word “lightbox” was an early-day name for a camera. The building opened on September 12, 2010, the 35th year since the inauguration of the festival, with a massive street party on King Street. Featuring live performers and concerts, it was a gala that lit the night until the early-morning hours.

The TIFF Lightbox occupies the five-storey podium of the 46-storey tower, its entire space dedicated to film—screening, archival, and educational. Above the Lightbox is a hotel/condo complex named the Festival Tower, set back from the street, with a separate entrance at 80 John Street. When sales commenced for the condos, rumours spread in the press and on the internet that Hollywood stars were purchasing condo units in the tower to provide accommodations and entertainment suites during the festival. However, the identity of the stars was kept a secret. These stories added to the mystery and glamour surrounding the building.

The TIFF Lightbox contains five cinemas, three studios, two restaurants, the Film Reference Library, a gift shop, two art galleries, a licensed lounge and a museum-quality display gallery. The members’ lounge is on the second floor, on the southeast corner of the building, with panoramic views of the street below where colourful streetcars ramble along the crowded avenue. The lobby is the equivalent of three storeys in height. An exceedingly tall escalator ascends from the lobby to the second floor. The south facade of the podium contains sheets of glass that during the day reflect the ever-changing panorama of historic King Street, and at night, its interior lights illuminate the streetscape like a giant beacon.

The theatres in the complex are among the most comfortable in the city. The rows are steeply-sloped to create stadium seating, ensuring that each seat possesses an unobstructed view of the screen. The Lightbox owns five types of 35 mm cameras, as well as one that is 70 mm.   

I toured the building after it opened in 2010 and enjoyed the experience. However, I must admit that I had never attended the festival itself. I had resisted because I did not enjoy line-ups and did not wish to sit in a darkened theatre on a sunny late-summer day. However, in 2011, a friend had an extra ticket for a screening of a South Asian film at TIFF and offered it to me. I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, particularly the discussion with the stars of the film following the screening. The next day, I purchased tickets to view a movie at the Elgin, and on arrival at the theatre, my friends and I were dismayed at the length of the line-up. However, when the doors opened, the lines entered within minutes. The organizational skills of the volunteers were amazing. My resistance to attending TIFF crumbled. I purchased a membership that I intended to use the following year.

Each year since, I have faithfully attended TIFF, and now consider it one of the highlights of my year. Several weeks prior to the festival, I purchase a package and choose the films I wish to see. I tend to avoid the popular Hollywood films as they will arrive in the regular theatres at some point following the festival. Instead, I concentrate on foreign movies and films that I might otherwise never have an opportunity to see. I choose mainly evening performances to enable me to continue enjoying September’s late-summer days. This  approach works well for me, though it would not be everyone’s approach to choosing movies. I consider attending TIFF a wonderful experience. I am hooked.

The atmosphere on King Street during the festival is amazing. It’s wild, a kaleidoscope of colour and motion. While attending the various screenings, I have enjoyed conversations with strangers during the short waiting times before the theatre doors open. Inside the theatres, while waiting for the movies to begin, invariably people chat with me and share their opinions about films they have seen.

My visits to the Bell Lightbox are not restricted to when TIFF is in operation. I attend films there throughout the year. Viewing movies there is akin to attending a live theatrical performance, whether it is a movie classic from yesteryear, a foreign film, a recent Hollywood release or an art film. One evening I went to see a film about the painter Tom Thomson and was surprised to see that the theatre was full. It was gratifying to realize how much interest the famous artist generated.

On another occasion I viewed “2001 Space Odyssey,” viewing it as it was intended, with a 70 mm projector and Dolby sound. Another night a group of us saw the 1979-film “Love at First Bite.” The movie was corny and delightfully campy. Great fun! After the movie, the star of the film, George Hamilton, appeared and answered questions. The same group of friends also saw “Jaws,” and after viewing it on the big screen, we rediscovered what a terrifying film it was. The Bell Lightbox has become a regular haunt for my friends and me as it offers a wide range of films and experiences 365 days a year.

The Bell Lightbox is now an integral part of the Toronto scene. It participates in various events of the city. During the summer of 2012, the City of Toronto placed second-hand pianos throughout the downtown area and encouraged people to perform on them. Artists decorated the pianos, each one representing a country that would be participating in the 2015 Pan Am Games. The piano representing Costa Rica was in the lobby of the Bell Lightbox.

Toronto is greatly enriched by the presence of the Bell Lightbox, home to one of the world’s greatest film festivals. 

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The TIFF Lightbox and the Festival Tower Hotel/Condo above it during the summer of 2012. View gazes west on King Street.

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             The lobby of the Bell Lightbox from the second-floor level

Lobby of Light box, 2013

          Lobby of the Bell Lightbox during TIFF 2013, the red carpet visible.

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                              The Bell Lightbox during 2012 TIFF

DSCN0749

                 Entrance to the three-storey lobby of the Bell Lightbox

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              The south facade of the Bell Lightbox on King Street West

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

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

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), thePhotodome, 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 movie theatres—the Royal Theatre (the Pylon)

Royal

The Royal Theatre at 608-610 College Street, near Clinton Avenue, is in the heart of Little Italy, although the area also has a substantial Portuguese community as well. When the Royal opened in October in 1939, it was named the Pylon, and was located in a community that was predominately British. The choice of the name Pylon is unknown, but in ancient Egypt it was the name given to the entrance of a grand temple. Perhaps the owner of the Pylon Theatre wished to portray that when people attended the theatre, they were in a place of significance.

The builder of the theatre was a woman named Ray Lewis. She was determined to create a venue that would truly be the entertainment centre of the community. To accomplish this aim, she included a roller-skating rink at the rear of the theatre and a dance hall on the second floor. Ray Lewis was born Rae Levinsky, in Toronto in 1883.  She was the editor-in-chief of the “Canadian Moving Picture Digest,” and eventually became its owner. Ray Lewis was influential in the Toronto theatre scene in an era when it was not common for a woman to engage directly in owning and managing a company.

The architect of the 749-seat theatre was Benjamin Swartz, who designed the old Mount Sinai Hospital on Yorkville Avenue, as well as many homes, factories and apartment buildings throughout Toronto. The Pylon was built in the Art Deco style, with a yellow-brick facade. On the facade were raised columns of bricks (pilasters), which rose from the second-floor level to the cornice atop the building. The cornice and the rows of bricks were crowned with stone. The rows of bricks created strong vertical lines that dominated the facade. The windows on the second floor were inserted between the raised bricks. Today, the theatre retains its original marquee, though the sign above the marquee has been changed. As well, the sign now reads “Royal” instead of “Pylon.”

During the 1940s, the theatre held matinees for children, pioneering the idea of encouraging adults to attend, though they were seated in a separate section of the auditorium. The management claimed the idea worked well, although I find this difficult to believe. However, there is no doubt about the success of the theatre’s children’s parties, held for Jewish and Roman Catholic organizations. In the evenings, during this decade, amateur talent nights were offered as well as short-subject films. The name of the theatre was changed from the Pylon to the Royal at some time after the old Royal Theatre at Dundas and Dufferin closed.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, the demographics of the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre changed. The owner of the Bar Cafe Diplomatico on College Street, Rocco Mastrangelo, purchased the theatre. He also bought the St. Clair Theatre and showed Italian films at both venues. Interestingly, the Bar Cafe Diplimatico survives to this day (2014). In the 1990s, the theatre was renamed the Golden Princess and screened Asian films.

The theatre eventually became part of the Festival chain of theatres and reverted to its original name, the Royal. In 2006 the chain folded and the theatre became independently owned. Today, it is an integral part of the scene in Little Italy, screening recent films, second-run features, and independent art films. During the day, it is rented for studio and rehearsal space. 

                  erudit_erudit.cine41.cine1199.013051arf002n[1]

The original owner of the Pylon Theatre, Miss Ray Levinsky (Ray Lewis). Photo from the Globe and Mail, January 8, 1915. (Source, City of Toronto Archives)

                       881- 350

The Royal (Pylon) c. 1940, when it screened Hollywood films. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, M. Sprachman Collection.

S 1107

The Royal Theatre, when it was named the Pylon, in the 1970s when it featured Italian films. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, fl. 1197

B&F M. Sprachman

The Pylon Theatre on College Street, with its original marquee and signage. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, M. Sprachman Collection.

                   Royal, C of TO SC 23-110

The old Royal Theatre at Dundas and Dufferin Streets. The Pylon adopted its name after it closed.

                   Royal on College 2

     The Royal Theatre on College Street during the summer of 2013.

Royal on College

                                              The Royal, summer 2013.

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

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

         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), thePhotodome, 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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