Category Archives: toronto’s modern theatres

Toronto architecture—Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinemas

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Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinema is on the second floor of the Manulife Centre, at the busy intersection of Bloor and Bay Streets. The theatre in the fifty-one-storey building was renovated in 1998 to become the Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinemas, with eight auditoriums and four VIP theatres. It was the first theatre in the city to offer small auditoriums, licensed for alcoholic drinks, with VIP service that delivered food and beverages from the snack bar directly to the patrons’ seats.  I saw the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace” in one of the VIP theatres in 2008 and was impressed, especially with the luxuriously comfortable seats. Cineplex Entertainment company now has VIP theatres in their Queensway complex and several more are under construction in their other theatres (as of 2014). The Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinema presently has twelve screens as well as 3-D projectors.

The hallways and lobby of the Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinemas are not as elaborate as some of the other Cineplex Cinemas. The lobby and hallways contains little art work other than numerous movie posters and a large aquarium. However, it is a comfortable and well-located venue that is likely to remain popular. It screens the latest movies and continually draws crowds to its auditoriums, especially on weekends.

An article written by Adam Meyes on June 10, 2013 in the Business Section of the Toronto Star, provided information about Cineplex Entertainment. He wrote that the company presently controls seventy percent of the movie screens in Canada, even though it does not operate east of Quebec.

Cineplex absorbed the Famous Players chain and also purchased four complexes owned by AMC Corporation. One of these was the AMC Theatre at Yonge and Dundas. In November 2013, the company finally extended east of Quebec by acquiring twenty-four Empire Theatres in Atlantic Canada.


The spacious entrance to the Cineplex Odeon Varsity on the second floor of the Manulife Centre.


                       Hallway leading to the various auditoriums.


                              Hallway that displays a large aquarium.

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               The auditoriums have its stadium-style seating.


The open space in the Manulife Centre on the second floor, at the top of the escalator that ascends from the first floor level. In the photo, the entrance to the theatre is on the far side.

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The Fox Theatre on Queen Street East which has shown films since 1913.

The “Bloor Hot Docs Cinema” on Bloor Street West

The Vaughan Theatre on St. Clair Avenue

Toronto’s first movie screening and its first movie theatre

The ultra-modern Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John Streets

Cineplex Theatre at Yonge and Dundas Streets

The Ed Mirvish Theatre (the Pantages, Imperial and Cannon)

The Downtown Theatre (now demolished) at Yonge and Dundas

The Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst

The Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre

Old movie houses of Toronto

The Odeon Carlton theatre on Carlton St., east of Yonge St.


The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

The Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen

Attending a matinee in the old movie houses of Toronto during the “golden age of cinema”

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

Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street

The Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street

The now vanished Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West




Enjoying Toronto’s architectural gems – the St. Lawrence Market

The April 2004 edition of “Food and Wine Magazine” declared the St. Lawrence Market to be among the 25 greatest market in the world. I believe this honour is richly deserved. Many people agree when they wander among the food-crammed aisles of the market to view the vast array of cheeses, spices, meats, seafood, produce, and breads. The variety of food seems endless, representing the best of local produce and the finest gourmet treats from around the world. The market scenes resemble an oil painting, rich in colour and texture.  It is not only a place to shop, as the market contains numerous cafes and food stalls. One of the most popular is “Buster’s Sea Cove” at the south end of the building. Each Friday, the line-ups for seafood are unbelievable. Another factor that adds to the atmosphere when purchasing items or enjoying a coffee, is the history of this venerable Market.  

In1803, Governor Peter Hunter ordered that a farmers’ market be created in the town of York. It was to occupy property south of King Street, east of Church Street, west of Jarvis Street, and north of Front Street. It was built on land reclaimed from and lake and named the St. Lawrence Market, in honour of the Patron Saint of Canada.

At first, the market square was simply a spacious field with a water pump, where local farmers sold their produce and livestock. On Saturdays, farmers arrived from the neighbouring townships, having departed their farms long before daybreak, travelling by horse and cart along the muddy roads that led to the town of York. About the year 1814, they erected a small wooden shelter 35’ by 40’, at the north end of the square, adjacent to King Street. In 1820, the sides of the structure were enclosed.

In 1831, an impressive quadrangular market complex was constructed, stretching from King Street on the north to Front Street on the south. 


The picture above is a photo of a model of the old market complex of 1831. (City of Toronto Archives)

In the foreground of the above picture is a red-brick market building, with three entrance archways. It fronted on King Street East. The complex included a rectangular central courtyard for farmers’ carts and wagons. Surrounding the courtyard were sheltered spaces with butcher stalls and vegetable stands. The covered section protected vendors and customers from the whims of the weather. 

In 1834, the town of York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto. Because there was no City Hall, for a decade after its incorporation, city officials met in the red-brick structure on King Street, at the north end of the St. Lawrence Market complex. Thus, the building doubled as both a City Hall and market venue.

In 1844, the market expanded to the south side of Front Street, and in 1845 a permanent City Hall was built on this site. In 1849, fire swept along King Street, destroying the north market. When they rebuilt it in 1851, a grand hall was added – the St. Lawrence Hall. It became the cultural centre for the city, where the citizenry gathered for recitals, concerts, and important speakers.

In 1899, both the north and south market buildings were rebuilt, the construction completed in 1904. The architect was John W. Siddal. The wings on either side of the 1845 City Hall were demolished, as well as its pediment and cupola. The remaining central part of the old structure was incorporated into a much larger building, with sweeping arched walls. It contained plenteous space for food stalls and shops under its massive domed roof. The architectural styles of the north and south buildings complemented each other.

The 1904 south-market building remains to this day, but the north building was rebuilt in 1968. This building is now slated for demolition and a new structure is to be built.

People entering the south building of the St. Lawrence Market today, pass through the archways of the 1845 City Hall. This entranceway and the rooms above it are all that remain of the old City Hall. Today, the council chamber on the third floor contains the Market Gallery, which showcases the art city’s collection, as well as special exhibits.


North facade of the south St. Lawrence Market building of today, with the three stone archways that were a part of the 1845 City Hall. The 1904 building has sweeping walls and a high-domed ceiling that provide ample space for the modern market.


Market stalls and in the background the rear wall of the 1845 City Hall


Colourful shops and stalls along the wide aisles of the market. The great domed-roof floats high over the stalls.


                                 One of the popular meat stalls


                                Stairs to the basement level


                        Cafe in the basement, with its colourful mural


View of the south side of the 1904 St. Lawrence Market. The great domed roof is clearly visible.


East side of the 1904 market building, sloping toward where the shoreline of the lake was once locate.

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


   To place an order for this book: .

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

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