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Tag Archives: Paradise Theatre Toronto

Paradise Regained –the restoration of the Paradise Theatre

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                      Paradise Theatre c. 1946. Ontario Archives

Paradise, OA 2308

Borrowing titles from the 17th-century poet John Milton, “Paradise Lost,” is a more frequent occurrence than “Paradise Regained.” However, in Toronto this week (December 1-7, 2019) Paradise was indeed regained when the Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street West reopened after 13 years of sitting empty and neglected. The photo on the left depicts the theatre’s auditorium in the 1940s.

Thanks to the effort of  Moray Tawse, this grand old theatre from the era of the Golden Age of movies houses, has been carefully restored. Mr. Tawse purchased the derelict building in 2013, and despite many setbacks and numerous seemingly insurmountable difficulties, the movie house officially reopened this week. In earlier decades, it had been operated exclusively for screening films, but it is now a multi-purpose cultural centre.

In its new life it has an Italian restaurant on the first floor and a balcony where the seats fold back to create a space that is able to accommodate different types of events. The seating capacity of the auditorium has been reduced from over 600 to 183 plush leather seats, in an auditorium that has the most up-to-date theatre technology.

The newly reopened Paradise provides an opportunity to watch a film on a large screen, a unique experience that cannot be duplicated by smaller formats in the privacy of your home. On a large screen, the action is viewed by everyone at the same moment, meaning that  all who are present share the tears and pain as well as the joys and laughter along with the actors on the screen and also with those seated around them. Similarly, a comedy film is much funnier when viewed in a theatre with many people, as opposed to when the theatre is nearly empty?

It is the human connection, the interaction with others, made possible by the large screen, that enables this unique experience to occur. It is something that is rare today, as social media has reduced our connection to others to the size of the small screens on IPhones and IPads.

Treat yourself. Indulge in a shared experience that leaves you with a memory that will last a life time. Those of us who grew up with the large silver screens remember forever the time they watched films such as “Gone with the Wind” or “Quo Vadis” at our local theatres or downtown movie palaces. Are you of an age to remember the Saturday afternoon matinees and how you yelled and screamed with the other kids to encourage the cowboys with the white hats and booed at those with the black hats? Films watched on small screens are easily forgotten. It is the shared moment in life, whether with family, lover, pets or watching a film, that last forever (end of the commercial part of this post).  

For those who are interested in the history of the Paradise Theatre, I have republished information that I provided in a post on my blog on January 12, 2014.   However, there are new photos included from the Ontario Archives that were not in that post so they have not previously appeared on the internet. 

Paradise, OA 2305

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.

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 appeared reasonably 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, its architect being the Lithuanian-born Benjamin Brown, one of the city’s most famous architects. He had previously designed 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

             Paradise 1150N-147

This photo of the Paradise Theatre was likely taken in 1937, the year it opened, as the film starring Sonja Henie was released in 1936. Ontario Archives, 1150 N-147.

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

Paradise, OA Seies 1278, File 127, Item 2306

Interior view of the auditorium, looking southward from the stage. Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 127, Item 2306.

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            Lobby of the Paradise. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

Paradise, Real Estate Photo

Toronto Real Estate Board ad for the theatre. It was screening Italian films at the time so it was likely in the 1980s.. 

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In 1943, this letter was sent to the Motion Picture Censorship and Theatre Inspection Branch. Letter now in the Ontario Archives. 

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

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                 Marquee and the sign of the Paradise (2014).

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                             Brick designs on the facade of the theatre.

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

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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/

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

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ 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.

 

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

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)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

“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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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.

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

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.

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

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                        Marquee and the sign of the Paradise.

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                             Brick designs on the facade of the theatre.

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    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/

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

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ 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.

 

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

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)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

“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

 

Tags: ,

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.

Paradise, OA 2307

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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