The undated photo of the Orpheum is from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library
The building that once housed the old Orpheum Theatre, at 600-602 Queen Street West, remains in existence today (2014). The marquee above the doorway still protects customers who enter the premises from rain or snow and in summer shields them from the afternoon sun. The two bank building on the corner of Bathurst and Queen are visible in the photo and remain in commercial use. However, since the area along Queen West is expanding and changing rapidly, I fear for the future of the building where the Orpheum was located.
This building began its life in 1912, when it contained the George Dodds Amusement Arcade. In 1930, it was renovated to house the Orpheum Theatre, as the large space occupied by the amusement arcade was ideal for a theatre. The year before the theatre opened, the Great Depression had descended on Toronto, and attending the movies remained highly popular as it was one of the few entertainment venues that people were able to afford to escape the dire economic times.
The theatre contained two aisles, with almost 500 plush seats with well padded backs. In the balcony, there were another 146 seats. The ladies washroom was accessed from the right-hand side of the lobby, but the men’s was in the basement. A candy bar was installed in December 1950, placed behind the back row of the centre section of seats.
The following quote is from an e-mail I received from Larry Rittenberg: “The Orpheum Theatre was opened by my Grandfather Norman, and subsequently owned by my Father Morris and his Brother-in-law Percy (also the projectionist) until it closed. I helped out there on the candy bar on Saturday matinees.”
Orpheum Theatre continued to screen films from its inaugural year in 1930, for over forty years. During its later years, patrons were able to call the number EM 8-5752 to discover the starting times of the films. However, as business declined with the advent of television, in 1977 the theatre closed its doors, and was vacant for two years. In 1980, it reopened as the Rosemary Theatre, but it lasted for only two years. In 1983, it was renamed the Golden Dragon, screening Asia movies. The theatre was closed permanently in 1987 and became a jewellery store. It has since been occupied by various companies, but the marquee over the door remains to this day.
Site of the old Orpheum Theatre at 600-602 Queen West, a short distance west of Bathurst Street.
Empty light sockets under the marquee that at one time contained bulbs that flashed brightly in the night to attract patrons on Queen Street.
The building that housed the Orpheum, Rosemary, and Golden Dragon Theatres.
To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/
To view previous blogs about other old movie houses of Toronto
To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings
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.
To place an order for this book: