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Panasonic Theatre—Part II—archival photos

The Panasonic Theatre is located on the east side of Yonge Street, a short distance south of Bloor Street. It has changed named several times in its long history. In April 2015, in the Ontario Archives, I discovered several photos and a sketch of the theatre that I had not seen before.

Victoria

The theatre commenced its life in 1919 as the Victoria, when two Second-Empire houses on Yonge Street were renovated to create a theatre. The above sketch reveals the plans for remodelling the houses to create a theatre. The drawing shows the windows of the two former houses. The plans included shops on either side of the theatre’s entrance to provide rental income to offset the expenses of operating the theatre.

Victoria   3

The theatre’s name was changed to the Embassy in 1932, as shown on the marquee in the above photo. Other names it has possessed include the Astor, Showcase, and Festival. In 1993 it became the New Yorker and was renovated to accommodate live theatre. It is presently named the Panasonic. The view in the photo gazes north on Yonge Street toward Bloor, from the corner of Isabella and Yonge Street. In the foreground, on the northeast corner of Yonge and Isabella is a shop of the Reilly Lock Company, founded in 1932.

Astor, New Yorker,

This photo shows the New Yorker theatre in 1993, when it featured “Forever Plaid,” a spoof of the male harmony groups of the 1950s. The facade of the theatre shown in the 1919-sketch remains intact in this photo. Even the shop on the north side of the entrance can be seen. To create the Panasonic Theatre, the building was demolished, except for the facade, which today is covered with metal meshing. However, it remains visible beneath it.

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                                The Panasonic Theatre in 2015.

For a link to a more in depth post about the Panasonic Theatre:

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

Map of 651 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

                        Location of the Panasonic Theatre.

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Toronto’s old 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

                   Astor OA 2127

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.

DSCN8244   DSCN8246

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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