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Tag Archives: Bloor Street West

Toronto’s old Academy Theatre on Bloor Street West

Academy

The Academy Theatre at 1286 Bloor Street West was one of Toronto’s earliest movie theatre. Plans for it were submitted to the city in November 1914. Located on the northwest corner of Bloor Street West and St. Clarens Avenue, it was typical of many structures built in the Edwardian period. It possessed a symmetrical design, with three sided columns (pilasters) decorating the south facade and ornate terracotta tiles in a central position on the second-floor level. I suspect that the building existed when the theatre applied for the building permit, and that the ground floor was renovated to accommodate the theatre. The floors above the theatre were rented to other tenants. There was a small shop on the right-hand side of the entrance to the theatre.

The theatre was modest in size, as it accommodated only 410 patrons, all on the ground floor as there was no balcony. The seats of mohair and leather were plush and they were fastened to a wood floor. Two aisles allowed access to the rows. Because of the decade in which it was built, the theatre likely contained a stage and space for a few musicians to provide music for the silent films and vaudeville acts. Originally, the box office was inside the small lobby, but in 1936, it was relocated to the outside, at the edge of the sidewalk. During these renovations, the number of seats was reduced to 391. There were minor alterations in April 1942, the contract awarded to Mr. A. Wilson. In 1953, the wood flooring was replaced with concrete. In 1962, the theatre was converted from 35mm film to 16mm. At the time, William Kolas was the owner.

I was unable to discover the year the theatre closed, but it was listed on the real estate market in September 1958 for $4900. The listed price was likely for the theatre only, not the entire building. However, the theatre continued to screen films for several more years.

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     Auditorium of the Academy Theatre, photo from the Ontario Archives 

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View of the Academy Theatre  from the rear of the auditorium, gazing toward the screen.

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View from the lobby, gazing toward the doors that gave access to the auditorium.

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View of the theatre when it was listed on the real estate market. Both films advertised on the marquee were released in 1960.

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      The building that housed the Academy after the theatre had disappeared.

                    Map of 1286 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N9

                                   Location of the Academy 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.  

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   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

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.

 

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Toronto’s old Paradise movie theatre (Eve’s Paradise)

            Paradise 1150N-147

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (1150N-147) was likely taken about 1937, the year the Paradise Theatre opened, as the film starring the ice-skating star Sonja Henie was released in 1936. The building that contained the theatre still exists today, located at 1008 Bloor Street West, on the northwest corner of Bloor and Westmoreland.  Its architect was Benjamin Brown, who also designed the Victory Theatre at Dundas and Spadina. Brown was one of the city’s finest 20th-century architects, having designed several Art Deco buildings on Spadina that remain in existence today—the Tower, Balfour and Reading buildings. Born in Lithuania in 1890, as a child he immigrated to Canada with his family. He received his education in Toronto. Most of his buildings reflect the Art Deco style, and the Paradise was no exception.

In 1909, a theatre named the Kitchener had been built on the site where the Paradise was to be located. The Kitchener had cost $3000 to build. When the Paradise opened in 1937, it was the height of the Great Depression and money was scarce. However, the theatre was instantly popular, as attending a movie was one of the few forms of entertainment that people could afford. The theatre contained 643 seats, with 466 in the auditorium and an additional 177 in the balcony, all of which had plush backs and leather seats. It possessed two 35mm projectors, broadloom covered floors, and air-conditioning. The original cost of the theatre was $110,000, not including the equipment. It also possessed a stage to accommodate live theatre or musical acts, and two dressing rooms for the actors, one to the left of the stage and the other to the right.

For a brief period in the 1980s, the theatre changed its name to Eve’s Paradise and screened movies that today would be referred to as soft-core porn. Most of these films could today be shown on primetime television.  The theatre closed in 2006.

I was afraid that the Paradise might be demolished, even though it is officially listed as a Heritage Building. The laws projecting our heritage architecture are too weak to prevent them from a fateful meeting with a wrecker’s ball. However, I recently learned that the theatre is to be restored and will once more screen films. If these plans succeed, it will be reopened in 2015.

Paradise, OA 2308

Interior view of the Paradise, looking toward the screen and stage. Ontario Archives, AO 2308

Paradise, OA Seies 1278, File 127, Item 2306

View of the auditorium, gazing to ward the rear of the theatre from the stage area. Ontario Archives AO 2306.

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The theatre’s lobby, containing a rather quaint popcorn machine. Ontario Archives AO 2307

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The busy section of Bloor Street where the Paradise Theatre is located (photo, July 2013)

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View of the Paradise Theatre on the northwest corner of Bloor and Westmoreland.

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View of the south facing facade and the marquee of the theatre (July 2013)

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Entrance of the theatre in July of 2013. The pay telephone appears quaintly out of place.

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            Details on the south facade of the theatre in 2013.

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         View of the Paradise, looking east on Bloor Street in 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[2]

                 To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

 

 

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