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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                              Location of the Paradise Theatre  

Paradise, OA 2308

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

Paradise, OA 2307

            Lobby of the Paradise. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

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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.

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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/

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

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

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

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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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.

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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