RSS

Category Archives: the Danforth Toronto

Toronto’s old Odeon Danforth Theatre—Post 11

Odeon Danforth  4

Odeon Danforth Theatre, the film “Jassy” on the marquee. Released in 1947, it was a drama about an English squire and his daughter’s friendship with Jassy, a Gypsy psychic. Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 119. 

The Odeon Danforth is another of the movie theatres on the Danforth that I remember well, but never attended. However, I viewed it many times from the windows of the old Bloor PCC streetcars, which passed in front of the theatre. The Bloor cars were removed from service after the Bloor-Danforth Subway opened in 1966. The Odeon Danforth’s main rival was the Palace Theatre, located a short distance to the east of it. Both theatres are now long gone.

The Odeon chain of theatres entered the Toronto market to screen British films, but later showed Hollywood films as well. In the 1950s and 1960s, Odeon developed the policy of featuring the same films simultaneously in several of its theatres. As I lived nearer to the Odeon Humber, there was no need for me to journey to the east end of the city to view  the films playing at the Odeon Danforth.

On a hot day in July 2014, I travelled on the subway to visit the site where the theatre had once stood, at 635 Danforth Avenue. Today, a branch of Extreme Fitness, an exercise gym, is on the location. The site is on the south side of Danforth Avenue, a short distance west of Pape Avenue.

Map of 635 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1R2

The Odeon Danforth opened on April 16, 1947. Later the same year the Odeon chain opened the Odeon Toronto (Carlton) on September 9th, and the Odeon Hyland on November 22, 1948. The previous year, the company had opened the Odeon Fairlawn on Yonge Street. The following year they opened the Odeon Humber on January 7th. The Odeon Danforth was the only theatre they owned located east of the Don Valley.

The theatre was impressive, its massive marquee dominating the street. The modern glass doors were recessed a distance back from the street, creating an open space that formed a grand approach for patrons entering the theatre. This compensated  for the theatre’s small frontage on The Danforth. The box office was outside, to the right of the doors. Since the theatre extended back a good distance from the street, there was space for an extensive lobby, which was richly carpeted, with a wide staircase leading to the balcony. Its auditorium was large, possessing over 1300 seats, including the ground-floor and the balcony. The seating on the main floor contained two aisles—a centre section and further seating  on either side of the aisles. Surrounding the screen were rich folds of drapery, which created elegance, but also intimacy. The walls were decorated with sweeping decorative lines that accented its modernistic style.

When the demographics of the area changed, the theatre commenced showing Greek films and its name was changed to the Rex. Eventually the theatre was no longer profitable and it closed. Finally, the building was renovated for a fitness gym, but some of the interior architectural features of the theatre were maintained. Passing by the site of the Odeon Danforth today, it is difficult to conceive that there was once a grand theatre on the premises.

Odeon Danforth   AO 2142   2

Ground-floor seating of the Odeon Danforth, with its sweeping decorative lines on the side walls and generous drapery near the screen. Photo Ontario Archives, AO 2142.

Odeon Danforth -  AO 2141

Lobby of the theatre, with the rich carpeting and the grand staircase to the balcony. Ontario Archives, AO 2141.

              Odeon Danforth (3)

The fitness gym in 2014, at 635 Danforth Avenue, where the Odeon Danforth was located.

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s Music Hall (Allen’s Danforth)—Part 11

DSCN8258  DSCN8259

             Allen’s Danforth Theatre, now the Music Hall in 2014.

When I was a teenager, I lived in the west end of the city and did not often travel east of Yonge Street to attend movie theatres, especially those on Danforth Avenue. Because the Danforth was east of the Don Valley, I viewed it as too close to Halifax. However, I remember the old Allen’s Danforth Theatre. In the 1970s, I worked for two years near Danforth and Pape Avenues and passed the theatre many times while travelling on the old PCC streetcars on the Bloor line. Prior to the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway in 1966, the Bloor streetcars travelled from Jane Street in the west to Luttrell Avenue in the east.

Today, the TTC only has a few remaining PCC streetcars, which are only placed in service during the summer months as tourist attractions or as rentals for special occasion. On the occasions that I saw the Allen’s Danforth Theatre in the 1970s, it was named the Titania and was screening Greek films. As I remember, the theatre had become somewhat shabby.

Until the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor Viaduct) was opened in 1918, the land to the east of the Don Valley, near Danforth Avenue, was mostly farmland and dusty roads. After the opening of the bridge, a streetcar line was built across it. The area ceased to be a remote suburb of the city, since it was connected to downtown Toronto. This opened the district for commercial and residential development. It was not long before the opportunities for theatres became evident.

Two entrepreneurial brothers, Jule and Jay Allen, decided to open a theatre at 147 Danforth Avenue, not far from the eastern side of the viaduct. The theatre was on the south side of the street, near the corner of Danforth and Broadview. Though the Allen brothers were young, they were not new to the theatre business. They had opened their first theatre in Brantford, Ontario in 1907. After relocating to Toronto in 1915, they opened one of the city’s great movie palaces in November 1917—the Allen Theatre at Victoria and Adelaide Streets. The theatre was later renamed the Tivoli.

For the inauguration of Allen’s Danforth, it screened the silent film, “Through the Wrong Door,” starring Madge Kennedy and John Bowers. This 50-minute silent film was accompanied by vaudeville acts featuring comedians and musicians. On the opening night, patrons were amazed by the luxurious interior of the theatre, the finest east of the Don Valley. Allen’s Danforth possessed 1600 seats and when the opening ceremonies commenced, all of them were occupied. During the next few years, the theatre flourished as the Allen brothers had negotiated exclusive rights to screen Paramount films in their movie houses. For a few years, this monopoly kept the Allen theatres profitable. 

However, the Allen brothers over-extended themselves financially and in 1923, Famous Players bought the theatre chain, including the Allen’s Danforth. In 1929 it was renovated and converted to accommodate sound films. It was then renamed the Century, which mostly screened B-Grade movies and older films.

In 1934, the theatre became a part of the B&F chain, which managed theatres such as the Radio City and the Vaughan Theatres, both located near Bathurst and St. Clair Avenue West. These were two of my favourite theatres when I was a teenager. I still remember the towering sign on the Vaughan Theatre, at its pinnacle the words B&F flashing in the night sky.

In the 1970s, the old Allen’s Danforth again changed hands and commenced screening Greek films, reflecting the changing demographics of the neighbourhood. During these years, the theatre was named the Titania. I still remember the days before Greek cuisine became a familiar part of the Toronto restaurant scene. My earliest recollections of this was in the early 1970s, when I visited  the Acropole Restaurant, which was on the second-floor level of 18 Dundas Street West. Because authentic Greek foods were unfamiliar to Torontonians, instead of diners being given a menu, they were instructed to enter the kitchen and point to the dishes that attracted them. How times have changed. Today, the Danforth offers some of the best Greek cuisine in the world. For a few years, the Titania Theatre was a part of this Canadian-Greek world.

In 1978, it was renamed the Music Hall and featured second-run films and live shows. However, the theatre continued to deteriorate, its doors closing in 2004.

Eventually the Century (Allen’s Danforth) was taken over by Ellipsis Leisure Retail. Renovations to the theatre required one and a half years. However, after a few years they were evicted for non-payment of rent. The Music Hall reopened it December 2011, with improved seating and sound system. It is today one of the best venues for live entertainment in the city.

Map of 147 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1N2

           The site of Allen’s Danforth Theatre, now The Music Hall

DSCN1749

                               The Music Hall c. 2007

AO 1998

      Interior of Allen’s Danforth (The Music Hall). Photo Ontario Archives.

DSCN8258

                                              The Music Hall in 2014

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Oxford

Oxford SC 488-1136

The Oxford Theatre c. 1937, shortly after it was renovated. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1178 fl.436

Located at 1510-1512 Danforth Avenue, the Oxford Theatre opened in 1928. It was one of a string of movie theatres that lined Toronto’s busy east-west arterial road. The Danforth was a magnet for movie houses due to the extensive residential areas located both north and south of it. The Oxford, located between Monarch Park and Coxwell Avenue, was one of the theatres that drew patrons from these communities.

The Oxford was an independent theatre, built by J.E. Wainwright. The building consisted of three storeys, with residential apartments on the second and third floors. When it was built, there were retail shops on either side of the entrance. I was unable to discover when these shops were removed.

The symmetrical brick facade contained no ornamentations, other than several rows of bricks inserted into the facade vertically to create a pattern. These were located between the second and third floors. The cornice was plain, with chimney-like projections at regular intervals. It possessed slightly more than 800 seats, on a concrete floor, the box office located to the right of the lobby. The air-conditioning was installed by Canadian Air Conditioning Company.

The Oxford was renovated in May 1937 by the well-known architects Kaplan and Sprachman. The marquee was altered and became rectangular in shape, with a clock positioned above it. An illuminated sign was also added to the roof of the theatre that advertised the name “Oxford.”

In 1942, the theatre changed hands and was operated by B&F Theatres.

Oxford

The Oxford Theatre in 1936 before the renovations of 1937. The old marquee is evident.

Oxford, Seot.25, 1936, Photo Alfred Pearson, TTC 11595

Streetcar tracks being repaired along the Danforth in the 1936. The Oxford Theatre is visible on the left.

Oxford, Feb. 1937, TTC 1833

The Oxford Theatre in 1937, with the new rectangular marquee. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, TTC Collection, 1833.

site of Oxford (2)

The building after the Oxford Theatre closed and it was renovated to contain shops. The windows on the second floor have been altered, the patterned row of bricks is no longer evident and the chimney-like projections above the cornice have been removed. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives. 

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

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

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

Tags:

Toronto’s old Allenby (Roxy, Apollo) Theatre on the Danforth

Allenby 1113-116

           The Allenby Theatre in 1936, City of Toronto Archives, 1113-116

The Allenby Theatre was at 1219 Danforth Avenue, near Greenwood Avenue. Because I knew that the building where this venerable theatre was located still  existed, on a hot summer day in 2013, I travelled on the subway to find it. Having always resided in the west end of Toronto, I had rarely ventured any great distance to the east of Yonge Street.

After exiting the subway at the Greenwood Station, I walked west along the Danforth. I was intrigued and delighted with the streetscape, as the shops, cafes and restaurants were interesting and inviting. However, I must admit that locating the old theatre was the highlight of my trip. When I saw the theatre, I was amazed to discover that its facade and box office remained attractive and in excellent condition. They appeared not to have changed since as the day they were built.

The Allenby commenced its life in 1936. It was designed by Kaplan and Sprachman, the prolific architects who created about 75 percent of the theatres constructed in Canada between 1921 and 1950. The Allenby is one of the finest theatres that they designed in the Art Deco style. The symmetrical yellow-brick facade has strong vertical lines, employing raised bricks to divide the facade into sections. In the cornice at the top, the sections are capped with stone. In typical Art Deco style, the cornice has rounded shapes and corners. A central column of stone rises from the canopy and extends up to the cornice. The overall effect is that of simple elegance. The canopy over the entrance is large, but it does not obscure the facade and detract from the over-all design. The entrance contains an attractive box office, and on either side of it are shops that in their day were rented to offset the costs of operating the theatre.

The  auditorium of the Allenby contained 775 seats, in a pattern of eight on either side and fifteen in the centre section. There was no balcony. In 1942, the theatre received permission to allow 25 patrons to stand at the rear of the theatre, behind the centre section. The air-conditioning consisted of water-washed air, typical of the era.

In the late-1930s, the theatre inaugurated a children’s movie club—the Pop Eye Club. For the price of 10 cents, children saw two feature films, a newsreel, and two “Popeye the Sailor” cartoons. In the cartoons, Popeye attained magical strength after gulping a tin of spinach. The Pop Eye Club commenced at 1 p.m. each Saturday. At these matinees, children were able to purchase a soda pop and a big bag of candy for 5 cents. Surely this deal was enough to make any kid swallow a tin of spinach. 

I located only one complaint against the theatre in the files at the Toronto Archives. In 1947, someone observed that the matrons on duty were not in uniform. This infraction of the rules was officially investigated.

The name of the Allenby was eventually changed to the Roxy. The movie “The Rocky Horror Show’ was screened there before it moved to the Bloor Theatre. For a brief period, the theatre enjoyed considerable success. Unfortunately, the Roxy was unable to compete with the popularity of TV and it eventually was closed. For a few years it was named the Apollo and screened Greek films. But this too was unsuccessful.

The building was vacant for a few years and in danger of being demolished. However, it was declared a heritage site in 2007. The building was finally became the location of a coffee shop. Today, to enter the shop, customers pass under the magnificent canopy of the old Allenby and view the box office, where in former decades, eager patrons purchased theatre tickets.

1278-15  SC 488-1117   dated 1935

The Allenby in 1935. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278-15, SC 488-1117.

Allenby, 1119-116

Lobby of the Allenby, its Art Deco designs evident in the ceiling. City of Toronto Archives, 1119-116.

1278-15  AO 2259

Auditorium of the Allenby, City of Toronto Archives,1278-15 (AO 2259)

AO 2258

Entrance and box office of the Allenby. The film “Up Goes Maisie” is displayed on the marquee. The movie was released in 1946. Photo from the Ontario Archives, AO 2258.

DSCN8242

The former box office and entrance to the coffee shop in 2013.

DSCN8243  DSCN8244

Details on the theatre’s facade (photo taken in 2013).

                DSCN8238

Centre column of stone that rises from above the marquee, upward to the cornice. (Photo, 2013)

                  DSCN8239

The canopy on the north facade, facing Danforth Avenue, and a portion of the west facade that reveals the original yellow colour of the bricks.

May 21, 2013

The restored Allenby, which now contains a coffee shop, during the summer of 2013. Similar to when the theatre opened, there is a gasoline station on the west side of the theatre.

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)

 

Tags: , , ,

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. 

                  Palace 1948 OA 2161-6

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.

Palace OA 2160-5

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

Palace OA A30611-4  (2)

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.

DSCN8246

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)

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old Odeon Danforth Theatre

Odeon Danforth  4

                           Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 119

The Odeon Danforth Theatre was located at 635 Danforth Avenue, on the south side of the street, a short distance west of Pape Avenue. Similar to the other theatres in the Odeon chain—the Carlton, Humber, Fairlawn and Hyland—the Danforth originally featured mainly British film. When the theatre opened its doors on April 16, 1948, Toronto was enjoying the postwar economic boom, and no section of the economy benefitted more than the theatre industry. Families had been reunited after the men returned from Europe and the Pacific front. They wished to forget the hardships of the war years, and going to the movies was a favourite past-time. The film on the marquee in the above photo, taken on opening night, had been released in 1947. It was a gripping melodrama.

Theatres had existed on the site of the Odeon Danforth prior to the Odeon chain purchasing the property—the Rex and the Athena Palace. The new Odeon Theatre was designed by Jay English. It contained 852 seats in the auditorium and a further 476 in the balcony. Because I lived in the west end of Toronto, I was never inside the Odeon Danforth. I rarely ever travelled east of Yonge Street, which was the great divide. However, I was aware of it, as I had seen its name in the newspaper ads when I was checking to determine what was playing at other Odeon Theatres.

DSCN4162   DSCN4163

These ads appeared in the Toronto Star on February 16, 1952. The Odeon Carlton was still referred to as the Odeon Toronto. The ad also reveals that the Christie Theatre was a part of the Odeon chain. The year 1952, when the above ad appeared, was when the popularity of the city’s movie theatres was at its height. The following year, TV sets were purchased by the thousands across Toronto to view the Coronation. It was the beginning of the end for many theatres, particularly those in local neighbourhoods.

In 1964, at the Odeon Danforth, faulty wiring caused the popcorn machine at the concession stand to catch fire. Patrons were immediately evacuated. The theatre passed out 587 free tickets for a return visit, although 13 people requested refunds. The damage was minimal, mostly caused by the thick smoke, but the repair bill was $50,000. In March 1965, another fire occurred in the balcony, caused by a cigarette butt smouldering in a seat. The seat was removed, cut open, and thrown into a snow bank outside the theatre. The disturbance was minimal. 

Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover the exact year that the Odeon Danforth closed, but it was likely in the late-1960s or early 1970s. The building was renovated to accommodate other commercial purposes, and today contains an Extreme Fitness outlet. Roger Smith of Toronto informed me that the interior of the theatre remains basically intact. He vividly recalls viewing the film “Jaws” in the theatre in 1975.

Dec. 1950, Odeon Danforth

The notation on this photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, file 119) states that this photo was taken in 1950. If this is accurate, then the Odeon Danforth was screening films that were quite old—“Cavalcade” was released in 1933 and “On Approval” in 1944.  This was confirmed by Roger Smith of Toronto, who remembers that the theatre had difficulty renting more up-to-date films. The view in the above photo looks east along the Danforth. The eastbound PCC streetcar is stopped at Pape Avenue. The marquee of the Palace Theatre is visible on the north (left-hand side) of the street.

Odeon Danforth -  AO 2141

Lobby of the Odeon Danforth and stairs leading to the balcony. Photo, Ontario Archives, AO 2141

Odeon Danforth   AO 2142   2

            Auditorium of the Odeon Danforth. Photo, Ontario Archives 2142

                                  Odeon Danforth (3)

The site of the Odeon Danforth in 2013, at 635 Danforth Avenue.

DSCN8250

The bank on the right in the photo is the building that was next door(west side) of the Odeon Danforth, and the large brown-brick building across the road on the left (north side of Danforth Avenue) is where the Palace Theatre was located.

Odeon Danforth (2)

The bank on the west side of the Odeon Danforth in the summer of 2013. The site of the theatre was to the east of it.

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

To view previous posts 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 heritage 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)

 

Tags: ,