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Tag Archives: Eaton Centre Toronto

Toronto’s Eaton Centre Phase Two (history)

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Phase Two of the Eaton Centre, gazing south toward Queen Street at Christmas in 1994. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0015016.

In 1979, the second phase of the Eaton Centre opened, extending the mall from Albert Street south to Queen Street. It now stretched from Dundas Street in the north to Queen Street in the south. A glass-topped pedestrian bridge provided a link to Simpsons (now the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue). At the south end of the Eaton Centre, suspended from the glass ceiling was the art installation, “Flight Stop,” by Michael Snow. It depicted a flock of Canada Geese on their migratory path, descending to the ground.

The Centre now contained not only Eaton’s, but over 200 stores and two office towers, one at 20 Queen Street and the other at 1 Dundas Street West. Another tower was built in 1991 at 250 Yonge Street. Under the 274-metre glass-covered shopping galleria, there were five levels of shops and restaurants, two above the concourse (ground) level and two beneath it.

In the 1970s, the Eaton Centre was connected to the Path, reputed to be the largest underground walkway/shopping mall in the world. Today it has twenty-nine kilometers of pathways, which rival the Edmonton Mall in size. It eventually connected shoppers and visitors from the Air Canada Centre in the south, to the Bus Terminal on Bay Street at the north end. The climate-controlled Path had great appeal due to the city’s harsh winters and hot humid summers.  

On Tuesday, April 17, 1979, the Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre opened in a 25,000 square-foot space in the basement level of the parking garage of the Eaton Centre. It contained 18 auditoriums, each containing 50 to 100 seats—about 1500 seats in total—the largest movie-theatre complex in the world at that time. The auditoriums were grouped into four sections, located on two different floors. A rear projection system was employed to screen the films, which caused the edges of the pictures to be slightly blurred. Few patrons seemed to notice, as the auditoriums were attractive and the seats comfortable. The aisles were on both sides of the auditoriums, which meant that no seats were jammed against the walls.

About 1995, the central court in the mall, in front of the Eaton store, was extended on its west side. It was where Albert Street had once been. This was made possible when The Salvation Army Headquarters building was purchased and demolished.

Further changes commenced in 1999 when additional shops were added to the exterior of the Centre’s Yonge Street facade. This was needed as Yonge Street, between Queen and Dundas Streets, had become somewhat lifeless and devoid of shoppers after the Eaton Centre opened. When completed, the shops on Yonge helped reanimate the street, although it never regained the glory of its past.

In 2001, the Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre closed, because attendance had dwindled. It was demolished shortly thereafter.

On June 20, 2010, Cadillac Fairview commenced renovating the Eaton Centre at a cost of $120 million. It required two years to complete. The north food court was rejuvenated and a new restaurant added, “Open Kitchens by Richtree.”

Today, the Eaton Centre continues to be a prime tourist attraction and a magnet for shoppers in the city’s downtown core. 

Sources: thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/eaton-centre and torontoist.com/2017/02/historicist-opening-the-eaton-centre and  

blogto.com/city/2010/12/the_origins_of_the_eaton_centre/

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Model of the completed Eaton Centre, showing phases one and two. Photo of the model, taken in 1975, gazes south from Dundas Street.

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Final sales at Eaton’s old Queen Street store in 1977, as Phase Two containing the new Eaton’s Store was set to open. Toronto Public Library tspa 0110133.

View of sale signs displayed along Queen Street Eaton's store windows – April 5, 1977

The south facade on Queen Street of the Eaton’s store on April 5, 1977. Signs in the windows advertise the final sales before the store closed for demolition. Toronto Archives, F 1526, fl 0085, item 9.

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Looking west on Queen Street from Yonge Street in 1978 at the construction of the bridge connecting Phase Two to the Simpsons Store. Toronto Public Library tspa 019985 

Close view of construction of Eaton Centre bridge from a streetcar stop on Queen Street West – September 25, 1978

View gazing west on Queen Street on September 25, 1978 of the glass-covered bridge that connected the Eaton Centre to Simpsons (now the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue). The south facade of the Centre, which is under construction in the photo, is visible in the background. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl0090, item 0014.

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Gazing north on Yonge Street (c. 1978) as Phase Two of the Eaton Centre progresses. This is the section where the old Eaton’s store had been located at Queen and Yonge. Toronto Archives, Series 8, File 0008, id 0014.

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Opening day in 1979 of Phase Two of the Eaton Centre. Premier Bill Davis is on the left, John Craig Eaton in the middle, and on the right Allan Lawrence, Federal Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. In the background is the art installation “Flight Stop” by Michael Snow, which depicts Canada Geese descending for a landing.

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               Close-up view of “Flight Stop” by Michael Snow.

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Southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas in 1987, the north entrance of the Eaton Centre visible, Toronto Public Library tspa 0018592.

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                                           Eaton Centre, Christmas 2011.

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                                                Christmas 2012.

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 Phase Two of the Eaton Centre at Christmas in 2012. View looks south to Queen Street.

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                                  Christmas at the Eaton Centre in 2017.

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Eaton Centre in December 2017, looking north to Nordstrom’s, where Eaton’s was once located.

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The bridge that links The Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue to the Eaton Centre. The bridge was opened in 2017 to replace the one erected in the 1970s. 

For a link to Phase One of the Eaton Centre:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/torontos-eaton-centre-phase-one-history/

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)  

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“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

 

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Memories of Eaton’s Queen Street Store Toronto

View of construction site and Eaton's Queen Street store – April 16, 1975

The Eaton’s Queen Street Store on April 16, 1975. The view looks south on Yonge Street toward Queen Street, the east facade of the Simpson’s Store (now The Bay) visible in the distance. Behind  the white hoarding, to the north of the Eaton’s Store (in the foreground), construction is underway for the northern part of the Eaton Centre. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, FL 0084, Item 62.

The Eaton’s Queen Street store occupied an entire city block, which was bounded by Yonge, Queen, Albert and James Streets. It was one of the most magnificent retail stores ever built in Canada. I was a young man when it was demolished to build the Eaton Centre, and I must confess that I did not lament its demise, despite having wonderful childhood memories of visiting it. Similar to most Torontonians in the 1970s, I was looking forward to the modern shopping mall that was to replace it and was too obsessed with the future to consider preserving the past. I now regret that I did not pay more attention and take photographs of it before it disappeared in 1977.

The northern half of the Eaton Centre, containing the new Eaton store, opened the same year that demolition commenced on the Queen Street store. The southern half of the Centre opened two years later. In future years, it became obvious that the Centre’s Yonge-Street facade had caused the street beside it to deteriorate, as it was a barren wall of concrete, devoid of stores with windows. Many millions of dollars were spent to renovate it to duplicate what the former Eaton’s store had always provided. How much better it would have been if the architects had paid more attention to the facade of the old Eaton’s Queen Street store. Attractive shops at street level provide a more inviting streetscape, and streets that are inviting attract shoppers, customers for restaurants, and tourists.

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, I considered the T. Eaton Company so immense that it seemed indestructible. It was a retail and manufacturing empire, spanning the nation from Atlantic to Pacific. When it disappeared, in today’s terms, it was akin to Tim Horton’s, Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, the NHL, or Canadian Tire disappearing from the scene. Similarly, when I attended Shea’s Hippodrome, the University Theatre, and the Odeon Carlton or the Odeon Hyland, I never dreamt that in the years ahead, they would all disappear. Only the facade of the University remains to remind us of the days when Toronto included many Canadian-owned commercial enterprises, including the largest of them all—Eaton’s.

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Shea’s Theatre (left) on Bay Street near Queen, and the University Theatre (right) on Bloor Street West.

Eaton’s was a retail success story that commenced in 19th-century Toronto. It became one of the most trusted and respected firms in Canada. Its founder, Timothy Eaton, was born in Ireland in 1834 and immigrated to Canada West (Ontario) in 1854, settling in the southwest part of the province. He relocated to Toronto in 1869 and opened a wholesale business on Front Street, near Yonge. However, later in the year, he moved into a rental property at 178 Yonge Street, near the corner of Queen Street, and opened a retail dry goods shop.

In the 1860s, King Street was the main shopping avenue of Toronto. The streets north of King possessed mostly pedestrian traffic, although there were horse-drawn streetcars on Yonge Street, between King Street and the village of Yorkville. The wealthy in their fancy carriages did not often venture as far north as Queen. However, Timothy was more interested in the masses than the wealthy. During the next few years, his store lured shoppers north to Queen Street. Due ever-increasing sales, Eaton’s shop was extended 40 feet to the rear and then, it leased the second-storey apartment above the store. It was said that Timothy paid the drivers of the horse-drawn streetcars to announce at the appropriate time in the journey—“Queen Street, all out for Eaton’s.”

Timothy soon outgrew the building at 178 Yonge, and in 1883, he relocated to 190-196 Queen Street, a short distance north. He now had 52 feet of frontage on Yonge Street, which provided 25,000 square-feet of retail space. His new shop possessed exceptionally tall plate-glass windows, vastly improving the displays of merchandise. This was a new concept, as although many shops at the time contained large windows, they had numerous small panes of glass.

Timothy’s merchandising methods, however, were far more revolutionary. He ended the system of bargaining for the price of goods; he sold all items at an advertised fixed price. The store offered no credit, but if customers were not satisfied with their purchases, the items were either exchanged or the money refunded. Customers were also invited to enter the shop to browse, and were not asked to leave if they did not purchase anything within a reasonable period of time, as occurred in other stores. The public quickly warmed to these new ideas and began flocking to the store. 

In 1884, Eaton’s acquired its first telephone. Also, an overhead pneumatic tube system was installed. A bill for a purchase and the customer’s cash were placed in a small container and sent through a pressurized tube to a central service counter. The container was returned with the customer’s change and a receipt for the goods. I remember watching this system in operation in the 1940s in the Eaton’s Annex store on Albert Street.

In 1886, having grown to employ 1500  employees, Timothy acquired space on Queen Street West, with a frontage of 31 feet. This doubled Timothy’s retail space. Eaton’s now possessed an “L-shaped” configuration, with an entrance on Yonge and another on Queen Street. The same year, Eaton’s installed its first elevator. As a boy, I remember the elevators at Eaton’s, operated by women in uniforms, who wore white gloves. They called aloud the floors and stated the goods available on each floor. To allow customers to exit or enter the elevator, the operator opened a heavy cage-like set of iron bars that folded back, accordion-style, and then manipulated the actual elevator doors.

The same year, Eaton’s commenced closing on Saturday afternoons during July and August to allow employees to enjoy the summer weather. To compensate, special sales were held on Fridays. Other stores remained open all day on Saturdays during the summer, but their profits were less. My great Uncle Jim worked at Eaton’s in the 1920s, and was extremely loyal to the company as he had a cottage in Long branch. He was grateful to be able to depart to visit it on Saturday afternoons, during the summer months. Today, it is difficult to imagine Long Branch as cottage country.

In 1889, Eaton’s expanded with another section added to the complex, its west facade on James Street and its north facade on Albert Street. Next, the retail space on Queen Street was doubled in size. In 1891, restaurants were added to the complex, including the Grill Room on the fifth floor and the “Quick Lunch Room” in the basement. Next, a grocery department was opened in the basement. Two years later, a four-storey addition on Albert Street extended the retail space of the store. In 1896, the section on Queen Street was increased to four storeys. In 1903, the mail-order department relocated from the main store to its own building on Albert Street.

The year 1905 was when the first Santa Claus Parade was held. By 1907, Eaton’s owned 22 acres of property in downtown Toronto, its retail space within the city-block bounded by Yonge, Albert, James and Queen Streets. Only the small building on the northwest corner of Yonge and Queen was not part of the complex. A building to showcase furniture was acquired on the northwest corner of James and Albert Streets. In 1924, the Georgian Room opened on the ninth floor of Eaton’s; many considered it Toronto’s first fine restaurant.

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       Easter Display in the Eaton’s Store in 1906. Photo, Ontario Archives.

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Looking north on James Street in 1910, toward Albert Street. Old City Hall is on the left-hand side (west) and Adam’s Furniture Store on the right-hand side (east). Eaton’s eventually acquired the furniture store as well. Toronto Archives, F. 1244, Item 1160a.

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Statue of Timothy Eaton presented by the store’s employees in 1919. It was located near the Queen Street entrance. When the Eaton Centre was built, it was relocated to the Dundas Street entrance of the store. Today it resides in the basement of the Royal Ontario Museum. It was said that rubbing the toe of the shoe of the bronze figure brought a person good luck. Photo from Wikipedia. 

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Same view of James Street as the 1910 photo, but taken in 1920. In this picture, in the distance, the Eaton’s Furniture Store is visible on the northwest corner of Albert and James Streets. Toronto Archives, F. 1244, Item 1160b.

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                         Post card showing the Eaton’s complex in 1920.

Queen St, east, from James, traffic, noon - 1 p.m., (Executive Department) – August 31, 1929

The view is looking east along Queen Street West toward Yonge Street in 1929. The Eaton’s store is on the left, and Simpson’s (The Bay) on the right. On the north facade of Simpson’s there is a large Union Jack and a banner fluttering over the street that advertises the CNE. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 7175.

North, on Yonge, from north of Queen, 1:37 p.m., no rush hour parking on east side frees extra street space for use of rush hour moving traffic, (Traffic Study Department) – January 12, 1929

View looks north on Yonge Street from near Queen Street on January 12, 1929. Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre (now the Elgin) is on the right, and the Eaton’s store is on the left. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 6569. 

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The Georgian Room in 1939. An orchestra played here while customers dined. Photo Ontario Archives.

                    

The Yonge Street facade of the Eaton’s store decorated for the coronation in 1953. Photo, Ontario Archives.

View of sale signs displayed along Queen Street Eaton's store windows – April 5, 1977

The south facade of the Eaton store on Queen Street on April 5, 1977. Signs in the windows advertise the final sales before the store closed for demolition. Toronto Archives, F 1526, fl 0085, item 9.

Personal Memories of Eaton’s

I was a young boy in the 1940s, and my first memory of the T. Eaton Company was the catalogue that my mother carefully examined each November, prior to our trip downtown to shop for Christmas. It was glossy and colourful, and for me, the section advertising toys particularly exciting. On the day we finally journeyed downtown, my brother and I thought that riding the old square-shaped Yonge Streetcars was part of the adventure. I especially enjoyed the trailer-cars as they swayed considerably as they rattled their way south toward Queen. If we were lucky, we found a place to sit near the coal stove, which was situated in the centre of the streetcar.

After arriving at Eaton’s, my mother examined goods on the ground-floor level and then, we went to the basement. This was where there was a tunnel under Albert Street that led to the Eaton’s Annex store. Goods were cheaper in this building, and my mother usually purchased bedding and towels there. In the tunnel, the scent of ice cream waffles filled the air, which seemed strange as the walls of the tunnel contained space for selling house paints. Hot dogs and soft ice cream were two other delights that were sold in the tunnel. I remember that the escalators in the Annex were quite narrow and very rickety. On this visit, it seemed forever before we returned to the main store via the underground tunnel, where the aroma of treats again tortured my brother and me.  

Today, I wonder if my mother visited the other departments of Eaton’s to build suspense before she took us on the elevator to the fifth floor, where Toyland was located. It was a sight beyond the magic of the “Thousand and One Tales of the Arabian nights.” The huge diorama containing model electric trains possessed rivers, bridges, miniature towns, and mountains with tunnels. The model trains disappeared into the tunnels and then, shot out on the other side. Some of the trains even emitted smoke.

The display of board games was endless. Snakes and Ladders, Clue, and Parcheesi were my favourites. The games were manufactured from wood and cardboard, as the use of metal was restricted due to the war effort. There was also an amusement ride, a small train that carried passengers on an imaginary trip across Canada. It was 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. To save money, my brother and I rode the train without my mother. The train weaved its way across Northern Ontario, the prairies and into the mountains of B. C. It was great!

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Of course, the highlight of the trip was visiting Santa, who sat on an elaborate chair in his North Pole castle. The Eaton’s Santa Claus was the “real” Santa, my mother had explained to my brother and me. The Santa at Simpson’s was merely a helper. Most Torontonians were loyal to one store or the other. My mother preferred Eaton’s as she felt that the prices were cheaper. However, we always took the time to view the Simpson’s Christmas windows that contained fairy-tale scenes with animated figures. The Bay Store continues this tradition today.

A few years ago, I visited San Francisco during November and visited the Macy’s Store on Union Square; it was like being in the Eaton’s store of my boyhood. The decorations were lavish and the toy section amazing. The restaurant on the top floor was crammed with people, similar to the days when Eaton’s operated restaurants. It is not surprising that Macy’s copied the advertising techniques of Eaton’s, as they came to Toronto many years ago seeking advice on how to create a Christmas Parade. They learned fast, and the Macy’s New York parade survives to this day. 

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Eaton’s Annex Store on Albert Street. The view looks west on Albert toward Nathan Philip Square in front of the New City Hall. Toronto Archives. F0124, fl0003, id. 0031.

Close view of construction of Eaton Centre bridge from a streetcar stop on Queen Street West – September 25, 1978

View on September 25, 1978 of the glass-covered bridge over Queen Street that connects the Eaton Centre to Simpson’s (now the Bay). The south facade of the Centre is also under construction, and is visible in the background of the photo. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl0090, item 0014. 

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View of the Eaton Centre in 1978 from the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

                   View of Eaton Centre with holiday decorations towards Queen Street – December 15, 1981

View of the Eaton Centre, gazing northward, on December 15, 1981, when it was decorated for Christmas. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl 0092, Item 0056.

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                                       View of the Eaton Centre in 2011.

The author is grateful for the information provided by the publications: “The Eatons, The Rise and fall of Canada’s Royal Family” by Rod McQueen (Stoddart Press, 1998) and “Eaton’s, The Trans-Canada Store,” by Bruce Allen Kopytek (History Press, 2014) 

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

To view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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 by 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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016, entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” 

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press, explores 75 of the city’s heritage buildings. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s old Cineplex Eaton Centre Cinema

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                        City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 Fl. 251

In the 1970s, the downtown section of Yonge Street had deteriorated, especially between College and Dundas Streets. When the Eaton Centre opened in 1979, the area south of Dundas was revived. The new mall was instantly popular with Torontonians and attracted thousands of tourists as well. On the northwest corner of the Eaton Centre was a ten-storey parking garage. In the basement of the garage was a 25,000 square-foot space that attracted the attention of Nathan A.  Taylor (Nat) and Garth Drabinsky. They formed the Cineplex Odeon Corporation in 1979, as they realized the possibilities of the space in the Eaton Centre as a site for a movie-theatre complex. It was in the heart of the city at Yonge and Dundas and easily accessible by public transportation. As well, the area had much foot traffic.

To create the theatre complex, the huge space below the parking garage was converted into a series of small theatres, all under the same roof. They coined the word “Cineplex” for the theatre—a contraction of “cinema complex.” Mandel Sprachman was hired as the architect. He had designed theatres for several decades, having been the architect for many theatres across Canada and also had restored the Elgin/Winter Garden Theatres. He also had considerable experience in converting large theatre auditoriums into smaller venues, as he had redesigned the Hollywood, Imperial, and Loew’s Uptown Theatres into multi-screen complexes.

Multi-screen complexes allowed theatre owners to screen several movies in the same building, catering to the different tastes of viewers. Thus, increased revenues were generated without increasing costs for rent, taxes, and heating. Nathan Taylor also had experience with operating multi-screen complexes, as he had opened one in Ottawa and had previously divided the Uptown Theatres into the Uptown Five.

The Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre was a natural extension of the multi-screen concept. When it opened on Tuesday, April 17, 1979, it contained 18 auditoriums, each containing 50 to 100 seats—about 1500 seats in total—the largest movie-theatre complex in the world at that time. The auditoriums were grouped into four sections, located on two different floors. A rear projection system was employed to screen the films, which caused the edges of the pictures to be slightly blurred. Few patrons seemed to notice, as the auditoriums were attractive and the seats comfortable. The aisles were on both sides of the auditoriums, which meant that no seats were jammed against the walls.

The main lobby was capable of holding 200 people. Designed to resemble a “Common Room,” Canadian art was displayed on the walls. Patrons were able to gather before attending a movie or linger after a film. A cafe and bistro were included, offering a wide variety of foods. Computerized ticket-vending machines were installed and it was possible to purchase tickets in advance, even a day or two ahead. By employing these machines, and by staggering the times the movies started, crowding was reduced. No tickets were sold after a film began, preventing interruptions during viewings. A year or two later, the tickets were colour-coded, with eye-catching directional signs on the theatre walls to guide people to the appropriate auditorium. In 1981, three more auditoriums were added to the complex, bringing the total to 21, and the total number of seats to over 2000.

In the early years, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre offered specialty films and foreign films, many of them with sub-titles. It was not profitable to screen these in larger theatres, as the appeal of a single movie might be quite small. However, in smaller auditoriums, even if only 30 to 35 patrons saw a film in an evening, it remained profitable. To further reduce costs, the theatre dealt directly with foreign producers or distributors to get Canadian rights. Films that were popular were shown in more than one auditorium.   

Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre opened at a time when movie theatres were struggling, since home video players were becoming popular. Another difficulty was that two major movie chains monopolized film distribution rights in Canada. Cineplex Odeon Corporation threatened to sue under the anti-combine laws, and succeeded is loosening their strangle hold. Thus, in the 1980s, Cineplex Odeon Corp. was able to offer major Hollywood releases, similar to the theatres in malls of today. Having gained success, Cineplex Odeon expanded its theatre chain across Canada and into the United States.

In its glory days, the complex in the Eaton Centre allowed patrons a wide range of movies, all in one building. Teenagers took great delight in trying to slip into another auditorium after they had seen the movie they had first paid to view. Movie buffs viewed films not available in larger theatres, as well as the current Hollywood hits. At the confection stand, popcorn and other treats were available.  According to a documentary film about Drabinsky, which was screened several years ago at TIFF, this was the first time that buttered popcorn had been available in theatres—a “Toronto-first.”

During the 1990s, viewing films on small screens became less popular as television sets increased in size and the quality of home videos improved. With the decrease in revenues, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre slowly deteriorated. The seats and carpets became tattered and the auditoriums appeared shabby. To attract customers, films were offered at bargain prices and special deals were advertised. However, these attempts failed and the theatres began to attract the street crowd, such as those who attended the Rio Theatre on Yonge Street. They were seeking a warm place in winter, and in summer, a place that was air-conditioned. In their eyes, the multiplex theatre was a twenty-one room hotel, each room having many seats in which to sleep and a huge TV screen to watch movies. The price of entrance and the location made it ideal for their purposes. 

Attendance continued to dwindle. Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre closed on March 12, 2001 and was demolished shortly after.

 

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Lobby of the Cineplex Eaton Centre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 fl.251

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A ticket for the Cineplex Eaton Centre on opening day, Tuesday April 17, 1979. City of Toronto Archives.

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The Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas in 2014 (originally the AMC), built on the same concept as the Cineplex Eaton Centre. Suburban movie complexes have followed the same concept of design for the past few decades.

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.  

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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 .

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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