RSS

Tag Archives: Bloor Street West Toronto

Toronto’s Paradise Theatre—Part II

Paradise

                      Paradise Theatre c. 1946. Ontario Archives

During the summer of 2014, in my quest to locate and photograph Toronto’s old local theatres, none of the discoveries surprised and pleased me more than the sight of the Paradise Theatre. Located at 1008 Bloor Street West, it is on the northwest corner of Bloor and Westmoreland Avenue. However, I must admit that my pleasure slowly became tinged with a hint of sadness, as its impressive marquee was blank, devoid of the names of films, and the spaces where posters had once advertised films were empty or contained faded posters. One of the spaces had graffiti defacing it. The theatre was akin to a grand old lady whose glory days had vanished and was now a relic from the past.

Map of 1008 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M2

Despite these thoughts, I must confess I was gladdened by the realization that at least the theatre had survived, and despite the passing of the many decades since it opened, its façade of glazed bricks still sparkled in the afternoon sun. Its marquee may have been empty, but it was well preserved and as attractive as when it was first installed. In my opinion, the Paradise is an architectural gem.

The site where it exists has a long history in the story of Toronto’s local theatres. The first theatre built on this site at 1008 Bloor Street was named the Kitchener. It opened its doors to screen silent movies in 1909, in the days prior to the First World War. The cost of constructing the theatre was $3000. To build the Paradise, the old Kitchener Theatre was gutted, very little of it being retained.

The present-day cinema opened in 1937, designed by the Lithuanian-born Benjamin Brown, one of the city’s famous architects. He had previously created the Reading Building in 1925, the Tower Building in 1927, and Balfour Building in 1930, all located on Spadina Avenue. Brown also was the architect of the infamous Victory Theatre. Benjamin Brown chose the Art Deco style for the Paradise Theatre. The tall rectangular windows on the second floor and the narrow rows of raised bricks create the impression of extra height. Its cornice is relatively unadorned, with a raised centre section in the central position, typical of many Art Deco buildings. When it opened in 1937, its auditorium contained a small stage, with dressing rooms to accommodate actors when live performances were offered. It was an intimate theatre, containing a small lobby and less than 500 seats in its auditorium, including the balcony.

The theatre changed ownership several times during the decades ahead, but except for a period in the 1980s, when it screened soft porno and was named Eve’s Paradise, it always retained its original name. It screened Italian films in the 1960s. In the 1990s it was a repertoire theatre, part of the Festival chain.

By the early years of the 21st century, it had become somewhat shabby, its projectors having insufficient power to properly illuminate the film-prints, and the sound system was in poor shape. It closed in 2006, but in 2007 was listed as a Heritage Property. Unfortunately, because the laws are very lax, this did not ensure that it would not be demolished.

However, this story has a happy ending. The Paradise Theatre was purchased by Moray Tawse, who plans to restore it to its original glory. It will become an arts centre and community theatre, a true addition to Toronto’s cultural scene.

To view plans for the redevelopment of the Paradise Theatre, google: www.insidetoronto.com

Map of 1008 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M2

                              Location of the Paradise Theatre  

Paradise, OA 2308

Undated photo of the auditorium of the Paradise. Photo from Ontario Archives.

Paradise, OA 2307

            Lobby of the Paradise. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

DSCN1729

View of the Paradise on the northwest coroner of Bloor and Westmoreland during the summer of 2014.

DSCN1735  DSCN1734

                        Marquee and the sign of the Paradise.

DSCN1740

                             Brick designs on the facade of the theatre.

DSCN1738

    The lobby and entrance door to the auditorium of the Paradise in 2014.

DSCN1728

Gazing west along the busy section of Bloor Street West, where the Paradise is 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 old Odeon Humber Theatre—Part II

Odeon Humber, Photo Gilbert A. Milne, 51618

The Odeon Humber Theatre in 1993, after it had been divided into two auditoriums. One of the movies on the marquee is Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery.” Photo City of Toronto Archives, Gilbert A. Milne 51618

The Odeon Humber was one of the local theatres that I often attended when I was a teenager. Of the five original Odeon theatres, it is the only one that remains today, all the others having been demolished.

My family relocated in 1954 from the Fairbank District, where we lived near the Rogers Road-Oakwood area. Our new home was near Jane Street and Lambton Avenue, in the west end of the city. In that year, the TTC service did not extend beyond Jane and Annette Streets, so to travel to the Humber Theatre we journeyed on the privately-owned Roseland Bus Lines to Jane and Annette Streets, and then, to reach Jane and Bloor we boarded an Annette Trolley bus.

The Humber Theatre was located in the Bloor West Village. It was only a few doors to the west of the intersection of Bloor and Jane Streets, on the north side of the street, at 2442 Bloor Street West. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was in an area that possessed much pedestrian traffic, since it where the Bloor streetcars looped before travelling east as far as Luttrell Avenue. This was prior to the opening of the Bloor /Danforth Subway in 1966.

Map of 2442 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1R1

                      Location of the Odeon Humber Theatre.

Designed by Jay Isadore English (1903-1947), at a cost of $400,000,  the Humber Theatre opened on January 27, 1948. My first visit to the Humber was in 1954, the year that Hurricane Hazel devastated the city, causing much destruction and loss of life, when the Humber and Don Rivers flooded their banks. The Odeon Humber was a large theatre, containing 1200 seats. It was constructed by the British Odeon Chain, a subsidiary of the Rank Organization. At the beginning of Rank movies, I remember that a well-muscled man struck a huge gong at the opening of each film and the words, “J. Arthur Rank Presents” appeared on screen.

One Saturday evening, when I was in my late-teens, I attended the Odeon Theatre accompanied by a friend. After we arrived, two couples from my high school entered the theatre and sat behind us. They teased us about not having  girl friends to take to the theatre on a Saturday night. Being teenagers had its embarrassing moments, which we thought were disasters.

I purchased my first car in 1967, a bright-red Acadian Pontiac, at the astronomical price of $3300. During the next few years, I often visited the Odeon Humber, parking in the Green-P parking behind the theatre, entered by the street to the west of the theatre—Riverview Gardens.

The Odeon Humber Theatre was split into two auditoriums in 1975. One theatre was on the ground floor and the other was in the space that had previously been the balcony. It received a $400,000 renovation in 1999, when larger seats, digital sound and a new concession stand were installed. It was eventually owned by Cineplex Odeon Corporation, but the company closed it in 2003. The building was empty for several years and was in danger of being demolished for condominiums. However, it was rescued by Rui Pereira, owner of the Kingsway Cinema, who reopened as a multiplex theatre named the Humber Cinemas. It now contains five auditoriums. The theatre space in the balcony remains in tact, but the ground-floor area now contains four small theatres.

It is hoped that the Humber Cinemas survives in the years ahead, as it representative of the local theatres that at one time were in almost every community across the city.

Odeon Humber  OA 2152

         The Odeon Humbers auditorium, Ontario Archives, AO 2152

800px-Humbercinema[1]

The Odeon Humber after it was converted to the Humber Cinemas, photo taken in 2013.

DSCN8393

   Entrance of the Humber Cinemas during the summer of 2013. 

DSCN8396

                                Lobby of the Humber Cinemas.

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 Bloordale (State) movie theatre

              Bloordale 1103-1004

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (1103-100) of the Bloordale Theatre was likely taken in 1937, the year the theatre opened. The view looks east along Bloor Street toward Dundas Street West. The Bloordale was located at 1606 Bloor Street West, on the north side of the street, between Dorval Road and Indian Grove. It was designed by the architects Kaplan and Sprachman, Toronto’s prolific theatre designers. From the 1920s until the late 1960s, they designed over 300 theatres across Canada. In 1937, they were awarded the bronze medal at the 6th Biennial Toronto Exhibition for their design of the interior of the Eglinton Theatre. Many consider the Eglinton to be the finest Art Deco theatre ever created in Canada. For the Bloordale Theatre, Kaplan and Sprachman chose the Art Deco style, with strong vertical lines and an unornamented stone cornice.

The theatre opened as a venue for moving pictures and vaudeville, but the stage contained no moveable scenery. It possessed almost 700 seats, with two aisles and no balcony. However, the theatre received permission to allow standing room for 40 patrons, behind the back row. In 1938, the theatre featured Sunday afternoon amateur competitions that were broadcast at 2 p.m. over CKCL. The program was named, “Do you want to be an actor?” Admission was free, which circumvented the Sunday closing laws of the time. The shows were sponsored by the Hudson Coal Company. The theatre’s name was eventually changed from the Bloordale to the State.

As a teenager, I worked at the Dominion Bank at Bloor Street and Dovercourt Road. I travelled on the Bloor streetcars to work and passed the theatre every weekday. Like any teenager, I always glanced out the streetcar window to view the films advertised on the Bloordale’s marquee. However, I was never inside it. The theatre closed in 1968, but the structure survives today (2013), though it is employed for other commercial purposes.

                       Bloordale 1108-99

The Bloordale Theatre when it first opened. City of Toronto Archives, 1108-99

           AO 2188

The theatre c. 1950, when it was named the State. Photo from Ontario Archives AO 2188.

AO 2190

Interior of the Bloordale Theatre. Photo, Ontario Archives, AO 2190.

1278-31

The Bloordale Theatre (State) after the premises ceased to be employed as a theatre. Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, It. 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                 To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Kingsway Theatre on Bloor West

DSCN1419

The Kingsway Theatre at 3030 Bloor Street West is in the attractive Kingsway Village, a short distance west of Royal York Road and the Royal York subway station. It is an ideal location, as the street in front of the theatre has much vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The community is fortunate that this historic theatre has survived for over seventy years. However, its survival has not occurred without considerable effort on the part of its present-day owner, Rui Pereira. And best of all, the theatre features first-run films, as opposed to screening movies that are readily available on DVDs, Ipads or other electronic formats.

The 700-seat Kingsway Theatre opened its doors in 1939, the year the Second World War commenced. Its facade contains elements of Art Deco, particularly evident in the parapet that rises above the simple cornice at the top of the building. Near the mid-way point of the facade, there is a horizontal row of cut stone (it’s possible it is concrete), which has been inserted into an otherwise plain, yellow-brick facade. The pilasters (fake columns) constructed from bricks, ascend from above the marquee to the roof line, and are capped in the same material as the parapet. The impressive marquee is positioned flat against the facade. The theatre originally had an enormous marquee, triangular in shape, which covered most of the facade. I have been unable to discover when the present-day sign was added or when the marquee was changed to one that possesses curved lines.

In 1954, the Kingsway’s theatre license was transferred to Twinex Century Theatre Company. In this year, the staff consisted of a manager, two ushers, a doorman, a matron (required by law) and three candy girls. The theatre was taken over by the Festival Chain of theatres, which also owned the Fox, Revue, and the Royal. This company folded in 2006, and the Kingsway remained vacant for two and a half years. It was purchased  by Rui Periera, who renovated the old theatre. Carpets were replaced, seats reupholstered and the washrooms refurbished. The front doors were replaced and a new candy bar installed. Several letters in the large neon sign on the theatre’s facade were repaired as they were broken. The theatre reopened on January 2, 2009. 

To attend the Kingsway Theatre today is to experience a piece of living history, harkening back to the days when local theatres were the centre of entertainment in communities throughout Toronto. People walked to them, visiting at least once a week and sometimes several times. It was the glorious era of the silver screen, an age when you chatted with your neighbours and made friends at the local cinema.

f1257_s1057_it7997[1] The Kingsway

The section of Bloor West where the Kingsway Theatre is located, c. 1960. The large marquee is triangular in shape and covers most of the facade. It would appear that the letters were removed from the top of the marquee in the photo and placed on the marquee that exists today (2014). Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, It. 799.

DSCN1416

The marquee that is flat against the wall, situated above the curved canopy above the entrance of the Kingsway Theatre. (Photo, July, 2013)

DSCN1420

            A section of the parapet on the roof of the theatre.

                     DSCN1423

                          The box office of the Kingsway

DSCN1422

                            The theatre’s lobby, July 2013

DSCN1425

                               The candy bar of the Kingsway

DSCN1421

           The Kingsway Theatre in the picturesque Kingsway Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

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/2013/12/18/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/

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s old University Theatre

                      Ao 2018

                 The University when it opened in March 1949, Photo from Ontario Archives, AO 2108

            Map of 100 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 3L7

                                           Map  from Google, 2014

Shortly after World War II, Famous Players Corporation commenced planning for a movie theatre to be built at 100 Bloor Street West, in the street’s upscale retail section between Bay Street and Avenue Road. The excavation and the pouring of the cement foundations were completed on April 17, 1947.  On March 25, 1949 the University thrust wide its doors to an eager public. The architect had been A.G. Facey, who also designed the Nortown. The University Theatre’s smooth, rounded granite facade was sleek and modern, its lobby two-storeys in height, and its Art Moderne marquee towered high into the sky. Its auditorium contained approximately 1350 seats, installed by the Canadian Theatre Chair Company. It possessed Dolby sound and an enormously wide screen, ideal for screening epic films. However, despite the theatre’s size, it was said to be too intimate to be referred to as a “movie palace.” In a way, this was a tribute to the atmosphere created by the designer of the theatre’s interior, Eric W. Hounsom.

The film on opening day was “Joan of Arc,” starring Ingrid Bergman. Matinees tickets were 75 cents, but it was $1.20 to attend during the evening. A critic wrote, “The film spread itself like a colourful mediaeval tapestry over the screen . . . a pageant, rather than a re-creation of history . . . a spectacle rather than a drama.” Some felt that Bergman was too old to play the teenager heroine, Joan of Arc. Others said that perhaps the theatre was the real attraction, not the opening film.

My grandfather thought the theatre and the film were magnificent. He had been the night watchman during the theatre’s construction and appreciated the complimentary pass he received to view the film. However, the opening meant that he lost his job. My grandmother was relieved, as she thought him too old to be travelling downtown at night to the construction site.

I will never forget the University Theatre. As a teenager and as a young man, I enjoyed many excellent movies in it.” In 1956, I purchased an advanced-seating ticket to view “The Ten Commandments,” and in 1959 the film, “Ben-Hur.” In 1963 I saw “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Watching “love among the pyramids” was a great thrill. In the 1965-movie “Doctor Zhivago,” directed by David Lean, the winter scenes, filmed in Canada, were gorgeous. However, my rear-end almost froze. Lara’s theme did not compensate, although Julie Christie was “hot.” Despite my perceived sufferings at the University Theatre, I consider myself fortunate to have attended this magnificent venue.

In my mind, Charlton Heston was forever Moses or Judah Ben-Hur. Later, he played the role of Michelangelo in the 1965 film, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” based on the novel by Irving Stone. Why he became head of the “National Rifle Association” was always a mystery to me. In the movies, he represented valour and justice, but I was never able to find any justice in promoting unrestricted gun sales. Today, I wonder if conservative-minded Charlton Heston was ever disturbed by the fact that when he performed the role of Michelangelo, he was portraying a gay man.

Eventually, the economics of operating the theatre changed. In the 1980s, the manager of the University stated that even if another film came along such as “Apocalypse Now,” which had played for 52 weeks at the theatre, it was not possible to keep the University open. Eventually, it was offered for sale. The Toronto Historical Board attempted to have it designated a Heritage Building, but the request was denied.

When they locked its doors in 1986, a truly great movie auditorium was lost. Today, the theatre’s façade is part of a condominium. This is all that remains to remind Torontonians of its existence.  Great theatres such as the University can never be replaced. Our heritage buildings disappear, and it seems that very few lament their passing. Years later, when they demolished Loew’s Uptown, my sentiments were similar

                    881-339. on May 19, 1980

The University Theatre on May 19, 1980. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881-Fl.339

881-336

Lobby of the theatre, photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, fl. 336

   G&M 135159

This photo dates from about 1950, but the two feature films on the marquee are from the 1930s. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Collection, 135159

Seriews 881 Fl. 336 It. 18A  ,

View of the auditorium from the rear of the balcony. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl.336 It. 18A

881-336

The magnificent screen area of the University, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl. 336

Series 881, Fl.336 It. !9A

The auditorium from the front of the stage area, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl.336, It. 19A

Series 881, File 337

The lobby of the University, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, Fl. 337

DSCN0182

The University was the first theatre in Toronto to screen Cinerama. It required three cameras and the theatre was renovated to accommodate its requirements.

DSCN0351

Tickets for Cinerama at the University Theatre. Source, City of Toronto Archives.

                  DSCN0348

Program for the special screening of “South Seas Adventure” at the University. Source: City of Toronto Archives.

DSCN8233

The facade of the University, which is all that remains of the theatre (August 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.

                            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 .

 

 

 

 

Tags: ,