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Category Archives: entertainment Toronto

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Panasonic Theatre (Victoria, Astor, New Yorker)

Astor OA 2126

The Panasonic Theatre at 651 Yonge Street was originally a four-story residence, built in 1911 in the Second-Empire style, with a Mansard roof containing windows with ornate surrounds. In 1919, the house was gutted and converted into a theatre, named the Victoria. It screened silent movies, with a live piano player, until it was renovated in 1932 and converted to sound films. At this time, its name was changed to the Embassy. During the years ahead, the theatre’s name changed several more times, becoming the Astor, Showcase and Festival. The above picture from the Ontario Archives (AO 2126) was taken in 1935, when it was the Astor. The film on the marquee is the “Prince and the Pauper,” based on Mark Twain’s novel by the same name. The film was released in 1937.

During the 1970s, the theatre was one of the venues for the “Festival of Festivals,” which later changed its name to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). On Christmas day in 1978, I attended the theatre and saw the film “The Last Emperor, “ the story of Tao Wu, the last emperor of China. In 1993, the theatre was renovated and converted from a movie theatre into a venue for live theatre. It was renamed The New Yorker. It premiered the Toronto production of the off-Broadway musical, “Forever Plaid.” It paid homage to the harmonizing male-groups popular in the 1950s. The production opened with a spoof version of the song “Love is a Many Splendid Thing.” I remember seeing the show at the New Yorker and enjoying it immensely.

During 2004 and 2005, the theatre was demolished, except for the facade. A modern theatre was constructed on the site of the former residence from 1911. In June of 2005, the theatre was purchased by Live Nation, and in 2008 it became part of the group of theatres owned by David Mirvish. It is presently named the Panasonic, and the early 20th-century facade is mostly obscured by metal webbing.

Astor, OA 2128

The auditorium of the theatre when it was named the Astor. Ontario Archives- AO 2128

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The theatre lobby when it was the Astor. Ontario Archives – AO 2127. This photo was taken about 1940.

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The facade of the Panasonic Theatre during the summer of 2013. The facade of the 1911 house is visible behind the metal screen.

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Views of the Mansard roof of the 1911 residence, behind the metallic screen.

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/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To View links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

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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Toronto’s old Palace movie theatre on the Danforth

Palace, 1948, OA 2161-6

The magnificent Palace Theatre at 664 Danforth Avenue was a few doors west of the northeast corner of Danforth and Pape. The above photo from the Ontario Archives (AO 2161-6) was taken in 1948, when the film “Cheyenne” was advertised on the marquee. The movie starred Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyman.

A copy of the opening night program for the theatre survives in the City of Toronto Archives. It reveals that the theatre opened on February 21, 1924. One of the opening night features was the silent film, “Midsummer Madness,” released in 1921, directed by William Churchill de Mille, the older brother of the famous Cecil B. de Mille.  It was a drama starring Jack Holt, Conrad Nagel and Lois Wilson. The film received rave revues for its excellent cinematography. On the same program was the comedy film “My Goodness,” released in 1921, starring a popular slapstick comedian of the 1920s, Louise Fazenda.  The music for the silent films was provided by “Ladies Orchestra,” conducted by Miss Marjorie Stevens. The opening night was a grand success.

The 1575-seat theatre had no balcony. The floor was sloped from the stage area to the back wall, providing excellent sightlines for all the rows. The Tivoli Theatre on Richmond Street had been the first theatre in Toronto to offer this type of seating. It resembled the “stadium seating” of modern theatres, though the slope was more gentle. The loges section at the rear was the designated smoking area, and tickets for this section cost more. However, the seats were plusher than in the other parts of the theatre.

The theatre’s lobby created a grand entranceway to the auditorium as it contained extravagant gold ornamentations. Furniture in the lobby was silver-grey. Marble staircases on the east and west sides gave access to the washrooms on the second floor. The east-west aligned auditorium was parallel to Danforth Avenue, which allowed shops to be built into the south facade of the theatre, without the loss of any interior space. The shops were rented to provide extra income to offset the expenses of the theatre. This was a common practice during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1937, all matinees at the Palace were 25 cents. In the evenings, from 6:30 pm until 7:30 pm, tickets were 25 cents, but from 7:30 pm until closing they were 32 cents. It cost 40 cents to sit in the lodges. The reduced prices at the early evening hours were an attempt to fill seats at a time that was generally sparsely attended. All these prices included the Ontario Amusement Tax.

I was never inside the Palace Theatre, but I remember its impressive marquee and facade. I often passed it on the Bloor streetcars when travelling along the Danforth. Unfortunately, the theatre closed in 1987, having held on longer than most neighbourhood theatres. It was sadly missed by the residents of the Danforth.

800px-DanforthPapeNECorner1927[1] the Palace, City of T. Archives

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 71, S 0071, It.5484) was taken by the TTC on November 3, 1927. It shows a partial view of the south facade of the Palace Theatre. The marquee was later changed. On the corner is a United Cigar Store. In the 1920s, this chain of shops possessed many locations throughout the city. Next to the theatre is a Jenny Lind candy shop, which was famous for its chocolates. The chain was named after the famous Swedish singer who had once performed at the St. Lawrence Hall.  The streetcar in the photo is a Peter Witt car. They first arrived in Toronto in 1921. The most famous Peter Witt cars were those that travelled on Yonge Street. They remained in service on the city’s main street until the subway was completed in 1954. 

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The Palace Theatre in 1948, with its new marquee. Photo from the Ontario Archives, AO 2161. This photo reveals the Art Deco style ornamentation on the theatre’s facade.

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Interior view of the entrance of the Palace Theatre. Ontario Archives, AO 2160.

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The auditorium of the Palace, with its sloping floor that extended from near the stage to the rear wall. The ceiling has Wedgewood-style designs and concentric circles, with a chandelier in the centre. The ceiling was similar to that of the Parkside Theatre at Queen and Roncesvalles. Photo, Ontario Archives, AO 30611-4

Palace, April 1947, G&M 114209

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (G&M 114209) was taken in April of 1947. The movie on the marquee is “Big Sleep,” starring the famous duo, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacal. This movie had been released in 1946. The view looks east along the Danforth, from the southwest corner at Pape. The streetcar is a PCC car, first introduced to the city in 1938. Only two of these streetcar remain  in existence today. The remainder of them was sold to Cairo, Egypt.

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The site of the Palace Theatre on the Danforth during the summer of 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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Toronto’s Hip Queen St. West—naughty and nice—Part 2

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The former Bank of Hamilton on the northeast coroner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. 

This is the second post providing a snapshot view of Queen Street West on October 5,2013, exploring the street from Spadina Avenue, west to Bathurst Street.

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The Cameron House at 408 Queen Street, on the northwest corner of Queen West and Cameron Street is a well-known institution. To view a post about this famous pub.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/torontos-architectural-gemscameron-house-displays-a-new-mural/

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The Burger’s Priest is the latest (summer 2013) hamburger restaurant to open near the corner of Queen and Spadina. The major problem with this cafe is that it is so popular that it is difficult to get inside the door. I do not know why there are so many hamburger places near this intersection, but I placed a post on this blog referring to Queen and Spadina as “hamburger corner.”

For a link to this post: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/torontos-hamburger-cornerwhere-is-it-and-why/

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Continuing west on the south side of Queen Street, a short distance west of Spadina is  McDougall Lane, which gives access to Graffiti Alley. This notorious/famous laneway runs parallel with Queen Street, between Spadina and Bathurst Street. It is perhaps the best place in Toronto to view street art. To view a link to posts about the graffiti artist Uber5000, one of Toronto’s best known street artists:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/toronto-graffitiuber5000-does-it-again/

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This shop is named “Come as You Are.” It is on the south side of Queen, a short distance west of McDougall Lane and has a window display that features condoms in all sizes and colours—very naughty.

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These shops, on the north side of Queen West, to the west of Cameron Street, are housed in a mixture of modern and 19th-century buildings. Fortunately the modern structures are the same height as the old, so the streetscape maintains a sense of cohesion. However, the facades of the modern buildings are smooth and lack the texture that the older structures provide.

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These shops, between Spadina and Augusta avenues add colour to the streetscape. Their crowded window displays attract many shoppers and provide interesting views for those strolling along the street.

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The Java House, contained within a 19th-century building, has one of the most popular summer-time patios on the strip for enjoying a coffee, beer, or light meal. It is on the southwest corner of Queen West and Augusta.

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The patio of the “Java House,” is on the east side of the building. The food is quite good and as a place for observing the passing scene, it is superb.

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This 19th century block of buildings is on the northwest corner of Queen West and Denison Avenue. The side of the building that faces on Denison Avenue has an interesting mural.

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Mural on the Denison Avenue side of the building on the northwest corner of Denison and Queen West. It depicts the famous “501” streetcar on Queen, rated as one of top ten trolley lines in the world, and the only one that remains a functioning public transit line, as opposed to being maintained primarily for tourists.

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This 19th-century building is on the northeast corner of Queen and Ryerson Avenue. It houses “The Hideout,” another of the well-known pubs and entertainment venues of Queen West.

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“Cosmos”(left photo) was selling vinyl records before it became popular elsewhere in the city. The “Old Times Antiques” shop (right-hand photo) is a favourite of many who stroll Queen Street to browse for bargains. 

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       Gazing in the doorway of the “Old Times Antiques” shop.

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The “Rock Lobster” is a new addition to the street (2013), located where the hamburger place “Shanghai Cowgirl” was formerly located. The Rock Lobster has a great back patio, and serves seafood in the manner of a Spanish tapas restaurant. The lobster rolls are to die for. This restaurant is very busy most evenings with a young vibrant crowd. 

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Interior of the Rock Lobster, looking toward the patio on the north end of the restaurant.

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As a person approaches Bathurst Street, other colourful shops appear. This is the Shanti Baba Shop.

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                   Window display in the Shanti Baba Shop.

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On the southeast corner of Bathurst and Queen West is an historic building that was gutted to accommodate the CB2 store. In the 19th century the site was a Masonic Temple. The facade of the structure has been lovingly restored to showcase its attractive red and yellow bricks. For a link to the history of the building:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/torontos-architectural-gems-building-at-queen-and-bathurst/

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The 501 Streetcar line is an important part of the streetscape, it rattling wheels as much a part of the scene as the trendy shops and eclectic crowds.

For a link to part one of this post:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/torontos-gemsqueen-st-westpart-ithe-naughty-and-nice/

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/

Book published in 2014 about Toronto’s old movie theatres, which 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.  

“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen”

                           cid_6E1BDA0D-74B3-4810-AB4C-AC5CC5C0

To place and order for this book, either in electronic or hard copy format, follow the link below.

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), 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)

 

Tags:

Toronto’s hip Queen St. West—naughty and nice—Part One

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The quote below was written by Christopher Hutsul in the Toronto Star on August 29, 2004.

Queen St., in effect is becoming one vast accidental urban success story. In richness and scale, there may be no better street in the world than our very own Queen Street.“I can’t think of another street that the vitality, the variety, and has the length and has the depth that Queen has from one end to the other,” says Dr. Mitchell Kosny of Ryerson’s School of Regional and Urban Planning. “It’s starting to fill in.”

It might seem bold to pit Queen Street against the world’s top strips but, in its way, it stacks up against the best of the best. Broadway in New York City starts out hot, then cools as it wends its way to Albany. Champs-Elysees in Paris is one of the world’s most famous streets, but it’s also a major thoroughfare. Highbrow visitors can enjoy the expensive restaurants and boutiques, but the average Parisian would head somewhere more accessible.

Admittedly, our humble Queen Street might have a tough time out-classing La Ramblas in Barcelona, which, with its stunning architecture and endless culinary offerings, is one of the greatest streets in the world. However, could it match Queen’s understated, New World charm?

Certainly Queen Street reigns over Yonge Street, which is often considered our flagship route. “I don’t see Yonge St. as having all that much continuity at all,’ says Kosny. “It doesn’t have anywhere the life and vitality that Queen St. has.” And while downtown has been busy evolving into a mini Times Square (as if that were something worth emulating), Queen St. has quietly grown out of its awkward years.

                                                                          * * *

On Thursday, October 20, 2013, the weather was sunny with cloudless skies, the temperature in the mid 20s, a perfect Toronto autumn day. Walking along Queen Street West, I encountered delightfully naughty window displays, colourful street art, and a few puzzling sights. The following photos are a snapshot of the street between University and Spadina avenues, on the morning of October 3, 2013. In these photos, the street was relatively quiet as it was not yet 10 am.

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Historic Campbell House is on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Queen Street. Built in 1822, it was the home of Chief Justice William Campbell. It was relocated from Adelaide Street East and Frederick Street in 1952. When this photo was taken, the morning sun was creeping across the east side of the house. Queen West is well known for being “hip,” but it is also rich with history. It contains some of the best 19th-century buildings in North America. Campbell House is open for public tours and is well worth a visit.

For a link to information on the history of Campbell House.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-campbell-house/

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This colourful sight is on the east wall of a row of 1860s shops, a short distance west of Simcoe Street. Though it resembles a wall mural, it is an ad for a condominium.

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The “Condom Shack,” a naughty shop that is the delight of tourists, is located in one of the 1860s shops. Elderly woman seem to take great delight in photographing the store, but usually remain on the far side of the street as they are too embarrassed to approach any closer. This is a pity, as they are unable to see the risqué sign in the east window (shown below).  

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                  The sign in the east window of the “Condom Shack.”

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The Rex Hotel, one of the city’s most popular jazz venues since the 1950s, at Queen and St. Patrick’s Street. It opened in 1890 as the William’s Hotel.  

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The “Cannabis Culture Shop.” Marijuana has recently been in the news, but on Queen West it has been an integral part of the scene for several decades.

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The “Lavish and Squalid” Shop on the south side of Queen, with its ornate classical store front (left photo), and the popular Queen Mother Cafe at 206-210 Queen on the north side of the street (right photo). The 1890s building where the Queen Mother Cafe is located was designed in the  Second Empire style. When constructed in the 19th century it contained three shops—the grocery store of Charles Woolnough, the locksmith store of Benjamin Ibbotson, and the confectionary shop of Patterson and Wilson. The Queen Mother Cafe now occupies all three shops.

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The sign in the window of “Mucho Burrito” advertises that its “Ghost Pepper Burrito” is  available in “hotter than hell and whimpy.”

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Some of the heat from the “Mucho Burrito” can also be found in the spicy food at 273 Queen, the “Babur Restaurant,” specializing in Indian cuisine.

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The Queen Street Market is on the site of the old St. Patrick’s Market of 1836, the second farmers’ market established by the city after the St. Lawrence Market in 1803. The present-day building dates from 1912. 

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This is the doorway on the old Methodist Publishing House, built in 1913, on the southeast corner of Queen and John streets. It is the most impressive doorway on Queen St. West. The decorative detailing is achieved with terracotta tiles. Today the building houses Bell Media.

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View looking south on John Street, from the middle of the intersection at Queen and John streets.

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The ultra-chic Beverley Hotel, which opened on Queen West in 2013 (left-hand photo). The right-hand photo is of an assortment of signs on the 19th-century buildings nearby.

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19th-century shops on the northwest corner of Beverley and Queen streets.

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The “Active Surplus Shop” on the south side of Queen, west of Beverley St. It is a great place to purchase household items such as batteries, at bargain prices.

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This wonderfully ornate building, located where the sidewalk widens to the west of it, was built in 1881 and was Mara’s Grocery and Liquor Store. Its facade was employed in the TV show “Street Legal,”as the offices of the fictional law firm. The show starred Cynthia Dale, . 

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The “Black Bull Tavern” at Queen and Soho streets was established in 1822. It’s patio was voted by the readers of a downtown newspaper at the most popular patio in the city.

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The “Jealousy Beauty and Life Shop” and the BMQ Restaurant, both located in the 1888 Noble Block. The BQM specializes in gourmet burgers and has a sidewalk patio that is ideal for observing the Queen-Street scene.

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              The former Bank of Hamilton, built in 1902, now the CIBC.

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The zodiac signs painted on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the bank (left photo) and a view of the bank from the southwest corner of Queen and Spadina.

For a link to Part Two of this post, which contains a snapshot of Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst Street, on the morning of October 3, 2013:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/toronto-gemsqueen-st-westpart-twonaughty-and-nice/-com/

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

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

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

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

Book published in 2014 about Toronto’s old movie theatres, which 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.  

“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen”

                           cid_6E1BDA0D-74B3-4810-AB4C-AC5CC5C0

To place and order for this book, either in electronic or hard copy format, follow the link below.

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), 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 Zanzibar Tavern on Yonge Street

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The Zanzibar Tavern with its flashing neon signs is a famous and infamous part of the downtown scene that enhances the eye-appeal of the Yonge Street strip. With the disappearance of the amazing light-display on the facade of “Sam the Record Man,” and the soaring marquees of the Biltmore, Downtown, and Imperial Theatres, the Zanzibar is one of the few “showcases of neon” that illuminates the night skies on the main drag of the city.

The building at 359 Yonge Street, which houses the Zanzibar, was one of the larger buildings constructed on the street during the nineteenth century. Historically, structures on Yonge had small frontages that extended back from the street, creating long, narrow premises. The larger size of the building at #359, where the Zanzibar is today located, allowed shops within it to be larger than many of the others on the strip. In 1950, the building was home to two enterprises—“Farmer and Hunter Photos” and Nalpac Ltd. Tavern. In 1951, the Zanzibar took over both premises and opened its doors. It soon became a landmark on the strip.

The Zanzibar originally played jazz and blues. Then it became a dance club and featured the “Zanzibar Circus.” Later it added rock and roll and go-go dancers. In the 1970s it became a strip club. The bar has been featured in films such as the “Incredible Hulk” and “Exit Wounds.”

At night, the Zanzibar’s garish display of neon lights dominates the section of Yonge Street north of Dundas Street, adding colour and motion to the scene, especially on a hot summer evening when the sidewalks are crowded with people strolling the avenue.

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           The enticing neon display on the facade of the Zanzibar

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The Zanzibar on a cloudy spring day, when the interior of the bar might bring a little sunshine into a man’s heart.

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               The neon lights flashing in to the night during the heat wave of July 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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Toronto’s first movie screening and first movie theatre

Today, Toronto is known as one of the great film centres of the world. The Toronto International Film Festival clearly demonstrates the city’s love affair with the silver screen. Thousands of people stand in line each year to view the numerous films that the festival offers. Despite TV and modern devices where films can be viewed, Torontonians continue to love the “big-screen  experience.”

Where and when did this romance with movies begin? 

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The site where Torontonians first experienced the world of film

Toronto’s fascination with the silver screen began on the southeast corner of Yonge Street and Adelaide Street East, where today, a high-rise tower of glass and steel is located. In the final decade of the 19th century, this was the site of Robertson’s Musee. When it opened in 1890, it offered a curio shop, acts of magic, dazzling jugglers, musicians, and aerialists. On the second floor it possessed a wax museum, and on the roof were cages with live animals. However, all that was about to change. When the Musee opened its doors on 31 August in 1896, they had no idea that they were introducing a form of entertainment that would begin a permanent love affair between Torontonians and the world of cinema.

Robertson’s Musee featured “moving pictures,” projected by a “Vitascope,” the miraculous new invention of Thomas Edison. The movie experience in 1896 was quite simple compared to the films that would be seen in the years ahead. It was a series of films, each running less than a minute. Some of the clips simply depicted a man galloping past on a horse or an automobile appearing on the scene, and then, departing. Because the Musee charged ten cents admission, it became known as the “Dime Museum.” Although the quality of the films was crude compared to today, a newspaper reported that the “. . . machine projects apparently living figures and scenes on a canvas screen . . .  it baffles analysis and delights immense audiences.” It was a momentous moment in the history of Toronto’s  entertainment scene.

Robertson’s Musee was sold several times and managed by different proprietors. In 1899, it became the first location of Shea’s Theatre, which later relocated to Bay Street, a short distance north of Queen Street. Unfortunately, the building at Yonge and Adelaide was destroyed by fire in 1905. In 1998, the Toronto Historical Board placed a plaque to commemorate “Toronto’s first moving picture show,” on the Yonge Street facade of the building that is located on the site today.  Much of the information for this post was obtained from the historic plaque. 

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               Historic plaque on the building at Yonge and Adelaide Streets

          Toronto’s First Permanent Movie Theatre

After Robertson’s Musee introduced Toronto to the world of film, other establishments soon realized the possibilities of the new form of entertainment. In the months ahead, in the downtown area, films were shown in small shops that had been converted for the purpose, or in backrooms where bed sheets were hung against a wall. Patrons stood to watch or were accommodated on kitchen chairs. However, because the locations were constantly changing, it became evident that a permanent location, offering more space and better seating was required.

In March of 1906, ten years after Robertson’s Musee had opened, Toronto-born John C. Griffin inaugurated the first permanent space for showing moving pictures. He named it the “Theatorium.” It was in a rented space at 183 Yonge Street. The 150-seat theatre, with a mere 17-foot frontage on Yonge, and only 100-foot depth, was on the east side of the street, a short distance north of Queen Street East. The first feature shown was an Edison Production, “The Train Wreckers,” produced in 1905. He added several vaudeville acts to each screening, a formula that was quickly copied by the theatres that followed in Griffin’s wake. 

“The Theatorium” was renamed the “Red Mill” in 1911.  Today, the Elgin/Winter Garden complex at 189 Yonge Street is located on a portion of the site.

                    fo1231_f1231_it0640[1]  Apr. 8, 1913

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives was taken on 8 August 1913. It shows the  “Theatorium” after it was renamed the “Red Mill Theatre.” The feature film is “The Red Girl’s Sacrifice,” a production of the Bison Motion Picture Company. It starred Mona Darkfeather and was directed by Frank Montgomery. The cornice of the old Bank of Montreal, on the northeast corner of the intersection of Yonge and Queen is visible in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. Today, the bank building is incorporated into an office tower, and its banking hall contains a subway station.

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This photo of a portion of the “Red Mill Theatre” is from the City of Toronto Archives, was also taken on 8 April 1913. A poster for “The Red Girl’s Sacrifice” can be seen. The boy leaning against the lamp pole appears curious about the photographer, or perhaps his sullen look is because he does not possess the funds to enter the theatre. Even if he had the admission price, his parents would likely not have allowed him to enter. In this era, many of the churches condemned movie houses as they considered them “dens of iniquity.” The educated people of the city thought that films were low-class and vulgar.

Theatorium -Red Mill  1914

The “Theatorium Theatre entrance on Yonge Street in 1914. The signs on either side of the entrance create the illusion that the theatre was much larger than its 17-foot width. One of the movies shown in the above photo is “The Singular Cynic,” starring Florence Lawrence.” It was released in 1914, and is about a woman who must choose between two suitors, but surprises them both by choosing a third. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

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)

 

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A and A Records and Broadway shows on vinyl

When 33 1/3 rpm vinyl disks hit the record shops of Toronto in the 1950s, we marvelled at the technological advancements that allowed so much music to be recorded on a single format. After being accustomed 78 and 45 rpm’s, the disks were a great improvement. The 33 1/3 rpm disks are now mere collectors items. For those who remember those days, the album covers shown below might produce a pleasant moment of nostalgia. They are from several different decades.

A and A Records

The famous A and A Records on the east side of Yonge Street, north of Dundas Street.

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I am presently researching the old movie houses of Toronto as I wish to write a book about them to supplement “The Nabes,” written by John Sebert. Do you have any photos, black and white or in colour, of the old movie houses of Toronto that you are willing to share. Do not have any  memories of Saturday afternoon matinees, evening performance, movie clubs ? Please give your name and in which city you presently reside if you wish to have your name mentioned in the book.

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

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[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 .

      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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