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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

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

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   Entrance of the Humber Cinemas during the summer of 2013. 

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                                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)

 

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Toronto’s old Odeon Humber Theatre

Odeon Humber AO 2154

The Odeon Humber in 1949, located at 2442 Bloor Street West, slightly west of Jane Street. (photo Ontario Archives AO 2154)

In the years following the Second World War, for a period of about a decade, prior to the advent of television, the movie theatres of Toronto thrived. People were weary of the shortages and rationing of the war years, and had more money to spend. The terminus of the Bloor Streetcar line was at Jane Street, and the community to the north and west of it was expanding as more housing was required to accommodate the city’s expanding population. These factors made the Bloor/Jane intersection an ideal location for a movie theatre. As a result, in 1948, the Odeon chain decided to build a new modern theatre—the Odeon Humber. It was to be one of five theatres that the chain owned—the Carlton, the Danforth, Fairlawn, and the Hyland.

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

                                 Map from Google, 2014

My own personal memories of this theatre are rather embarrassing. One Saturday evening I attended a double-bill screening. When purchasing a soda drink from the vending machine, nothing happened. In frustration, I gave the machine a whack with my fist, which brought an angry response from the manager. I slinked into the auditorium with my popcorn, but no drink. I was soon immersed in the film and forgot about the great financial loss that I had suffered—well, I never completely forgot, as forty years later I still remember the incident. By the way, the drink that I had attempted to buy was “Tahiti Treat,” made by Canada Dry. This drink has long since disappeared from the scene, along with the Odeon Humber.

As theatre attendance diminished, the Odeon Humber was partitioned into into two theatres in an attempt to draw larger crowds. In 1999, over $400,000 were spent to install larger seats, digital sound, new carpets, expanded washroom facilities, and a new concession stand. However, the Odeon chain closed the theatre in 2003, and for several years it sat vacant. In April of 2011 it was reopened by Rui Pereira, the owner of the Kingsway Cinema. It is now the named the “Humber Cinemas” and has four auditoriums.

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An autographed program for a musical that was held on the stage of the Odeon Humber in 1955 or 1956.  Katherine Dunham and her dancers were extremely popular throughout Europe and North America during the 1940s and 1950s. Program courtesy of Walter Godfrey.

Odeon Humber, Photo Gilbert A. Milne, 51618

The Odeon Humber Theatre after it had been partitioned into two auditoriums (Humber 1 and Humber 2). Photo, Gilbert A. Milne, City of Toronto Archives 51618

Odeon Humber  OA 2152

The interior of the Odeon Humber, photo Ontario Archives AO2152

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Exterior lobby, foyer and ticket booth of the Odeon Humber c. 1960. Photo from Ontario Archives, AO 2153.

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The old Odeon Humber Theatre in July of 2013, after being converted to the Humber Cinemas. Its facade appears rather severe with the large letter spelling ODEON having been removed. 

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                 The colourful lobby of the Humber Cinemas in 2013

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The doorway leading to the stairs that allow entry to the theatre auditorium.

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The windows that allow light into the lobby, the buildings on the south side of Bloor Street reflected in the glass.

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The Odeon Humber has disappeared, but thankfully it is still maintained as a functioning theatre by its present owners. This photo gazed west along Bloor Street, at Jane Street in March of 2013.

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 phoning University of Toronto Press Distribution at 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)

 

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Toronto’s old Runnymede Theatre on Bloor Street

      Series 1278, File 147 DSCN1314

                Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 147

The Runnymede Theatre at 2225 Bloor Street West, near the southwest corner of Bloor Street West and Runnymede Road is an architectural gem in the crown of Bloor West Village. It is small wonder that the local residents fought so hard to save the building. Fortunately, the Chapters/Indigo book chain was interested in recycling the building and using it as a book store. They spent 4 million dollars to gut the interior of the auditorium and the balcony to create a space suited to their needs. In the process, they restored and maintained the interior walls and stage area, though they repainted the walls in colours that were not those of the original theatre. By saving this structure, the interior and exterior architectural features of this fine old theatre can be appreciated by future generations. The day that I visited the store, the manager graciously allowed me to photograph the interior and chatted with me about the days when his store was a theatre, proud to be associated with a book shop located inside an old theatre. Chapters/Indigo is be congratulated for recycling this great structure.

Unfortunately, it appears that the bookstore will soon close and another retail chain will occupy the premises.

              Map of 2225 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1N6

                                                   Google map, 2014

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The above photo of the interior of the Runnymede Theatre was taken in 2013, from where the balcony was once located, looking toward the stage area and screen below. The slanted floor of the balcony was levelled to create an area to display books.

The Runnymede Theatre was designed by Alfred Chapman, a Toronto architect well known for his work on the Royal Ontario Museum and the Palais Royale at Sunnyside. The theatre’s exterior was constructed of red brick and stone. The interior resembled an open air theatre, the ceiling painted blue to simulate the sky. Tiny light bulbs in the ceiling looked like stars. Silver and blue images of clouds were projected onto the ceiling to create a cloud-effect, as if a person were sitting in a forest under the night sky. The interior walls were in the Spanish style, with ivory stucco and gold leaf. The book store restored the walls to the way they appeared when the theatre was painted in terracotta and pastel colours.

Above the exits of the theatre were plaster ornaments. The space was lit by sconces and wall lanterns. It was the first of twenty-one “atmospheric theatre” built in Canada. The only atmospheric theatre that remains today is the Capital in Port Hope, which was inspired by the Orpheum in New York City.

The Runnymede Theatre commenced life on 2 June 1927 with several vaudeville acts, followed by screening of the film “The Fire Brigade,”  the second feature being “Rookies.” The 1920s was mostly a period of prosperity in Toronto, an era when the movie-craze gripped the nation. The theatres was renovated in the 1930s and its seating capacity increased. During most of the 1970s, it ceased to operate as a theatre and was a bingo hall. It reopened in 1980 as a two-screed venue.

When the lease held by Famous Players expired, attendance at the theatres had declined. It was no longer profitable to operate the theatre. In 1999, the rent was $35,000 per month. The theatre closed on February 28, 1999. The last film shown at the Runnymede was “You’ve Got Mail.” Chapters/Indigo purchased the building and renovated it to accommodate a book store, which has since closed and the site is now occupied by a Shoppers Drug Mart.

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Line-up to attend the opening of the Runnymede. This photo reveals the size of the auditorium. Photo from City of Toronto Archives.

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The symmetrical north facade of the Runnymede, constructed of red bricks and stone. (Photo taken Sept 2, 2013)

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                   Detailing on the north facade of the theatre. 

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Box office and entrance to the Runnymede in 2013, the buildings on the north side of Bloor Street reflected in the glass in the doors.

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The lobby of the theatre today, looking out toward Bloor Street, and the medallion in the lobby ceiling.

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              View of the lobby in 1920s, the medallion clearly visible.

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View of the orchestra seating area when the building was a movie house.  In the 1920s and 1930s, the theatre was also a vaudeville venue. The photo is from The City of Toronto Archives.

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        View of the theatre from the stage area, looking back toward the balcony.

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The stage area of the old theatre. Where the screen was located there is now a brick wall (2013).

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              The stage area of the old theatre. Photo from City of Toronto Archives.

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                        The east emergency exit from the theatre. (2013)

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      The Spanish-style walls and the simulated sky above them in 2013.

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Gazing from the balcony down onto the main floor of the theatre, where the orchestra seats were located. When this photo was taken in 2013, it contained rows of shelves for books.

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Where the orchestra section of the Runnymede Theatre had been located (Photos taken in 2013)

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Sources of information: web site of Heritage Toronto and the files of the City of Toronto Archives. 

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

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

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-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 .

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)

 

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