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Tag Archives: Roxy Theatre Toronto

Toronto’s old Allenby (Roxy, Apollo) Theatre on the Danforth

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           The Allenby Theatre in 1936, City of Toronto Archives, 1113-116

The Allenby Theatre was at 1219 Danforth Avenue, near Greenwood Avenue. Because I knew that the building where this venerable theatre was located still  existed, on a hot summer day in 2013, I travelled on the subway to find it. Having always resided in the west end of Toronto, I had rarely ventured any great distance to the east of Yonge Street.

After exiting the subway at the Greenwood Station, I walked west along the Danforth. I was intrigued and delighted with the streetscape, as the shops, cafes and restaurants were interesting and inviting. However, I must admit that locating the old theatre was the highlight of my trip. When I saw the theatre, I was amazed to discover that its facade and box office remained attractive and in excellent condition. They appeared not to have changed since as the day they were built.

The Allenby commenced its life in 1936. It was designed by Kaplan and Sprachman, the prolific architects who created about 75 percent of the theatres constructed in Canada between 1921 and 1950. The Allenby is one of the finest theatres that they designed in the Art Deco style. The symmetrical yellow-brick facade has strong vertical lines, employing raised bricks to divide the facade into sections. In the cornice at the top, the sections are capped with stone. In typical Art Deco style, the cornice has rounded shapes and corners. A central column of stone rises from the canopy and extends up to the cornice. The overall effect is that of simple elegance. The canopy over the entrance is large, but it does not obscure the facade and detract from the over-all design. The entrance contains an attractive box office, and on either side of it are shops that in their day were rented to offset the costs of operating the theatre.

The  auditorium of the Allenby contained 775 seats, in a pattern of eight on either side and fifteen in the centre section. There was no balcony. In 1942, the theatre received permission to allow 25 patrons to stand at the rear of the theatre, behind the centre section. The air-conditioning consisted of water-washed air, typical of the era.

In the late-1930s, the theatre inaugurated a children’s movie club—the Pop Eye Club. For the price of 10 cents, children saw two feature films, a newsreel, and two “Popeye the Sailor” cartoons. In the cartoons, Popeye attained magical strength after gulping a tin of spinach. The Pop Eye Club commenced at 1 p.m. each Saturday. At these matinees, children were able to purchase a soda pop and a big bag of candy for 5 cents. Surely this deal was enough to make any kid swallow a tin of spinach. 

I located only one complaint against the theatre in the files at the Toronto Archives. In 1947, someone observed that the matrons on duty were not in uniform. This infraction of the rules was officially investigated.

The name of the Allenby was eventually changed to the Roxy. The movie “The Rocky Horror Show’ was screened there before it moved to the Bloor Theatre. For a brief period, the theatre enjoyed considerable success. Unfortunately, the Roxy was unable to compete with the popularity of TV and it eventually was closed. For a few years it was named the Apollo and screened Greek films. But this too was unsuccessful.

The building was vacant for a few years and in danger of being demolished. However, it was declared a heritage site in 2007. The building was finally became the location of a coffee shop. Today, to enter the shop, customers pass under the magnificent canopy of the old Allenby and view the box office, where in former decades, eager patrons purchased theatre tickets.

1278-15  SC 488-1117   dated 1935

The Allenby in 1935. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278-15, SC 488-1117.

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Lobby of the Allenby, its Art Deco designs evident in the ceiling. City of Toronto Archives, 1119-116.

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Auditorium of the Allenby, City of Toronto Archives,1278-15 (AO 2259)

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Entrance and box office of the Allenby. The film “Up Goes Maisie” is displayed on the marquee. The movie was released in 1946. Photo from the Ontario Archives, AO 2258.

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The former box office and entrance to the coffee shop in 2013.

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Details on the theatre’s facade (photo taken in 2013).

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Centre column of stone that rises from above the marquee, upward to the cornice. (Photo, 2013)

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The canopy on the north facade, facing Danforth Avenue, and a portion of the west facade that reveals the original yellow colour of the bricks.

May 21, 2013

The restored Allenby, which now contains a coffee shop, during the summer of 2013. Similar to when the theatre opened, there is a gasoline station on the west side of the theatre.

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

   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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Toronto’s Broadway Theatre (Globe, Roxy) on Queen St. West

Fonds 124, Fl0124, Id.0017  Broadway, Queen and Bay, 1960s

The above photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, file 0124, It. 0017) shows the Broadway Theatre at 75 Queen Street West c.1960. To the east of the theatre (to the left of it in the photo) is the low-budget White Hotel, one of several economy hotels along the strip where the Broadway was located. In the photo, the land on the north side of Queen Street has already been cleared of buildings to construct the New City Hall. The street in the foreground of the photo is Bay Street, where it intersects with Queen Street West. The traffic lane for cars to negotiate a right turn on Queen Street is evident. The Casino was five doors to the west of the Broadway, its marquee visible in the above photo.

The Broadway opened in 1919 as the Globe Theatre, with almost 500 seats. Around the year 1933, it changed its name to the Roxy and commenced offering “Girlie Shows” as well as vaudeville and B-movies. In February of that year, two eighteen-year olds decided to be married on the stage of the theatre. The event attracted a large audience as the ceremony had been advertised as part of the show. A Baptist minister was hired, the bride was on stage in her bridal gown, and the groom was in his tuxedo. The jazz band in the orchestra pit was preparing to play the wedding march when the police crashed into the theatre. The parents of the teenagers claimed that their children were under age. However, the marriage was performed the following afternoon, after the participants proved to the police that they were of sufficient age. The event gave the theatre much free publicity, although many people in Toronto frowned upon the entire affair.

In 1935, the manager of the Broadway was found murdered in his office, shot twice in the head, sprawled in a pool of blood. It was found that $378 was missing from the safe, but the police did not believe that robbery was the motive. A friend had talked with the manager two days prior to the murder, and told the police that his friend had appeared worried. He had enquired, “What’s the matter? Business no good?” He received no reply. The manger’s son-in-law said at the inquest that there were problems among the actors in the burlesque show and that several of them had threatened to quit. The murder was never solved.

In 1937, the name of the theatre was changed to the Broadway, which conjured images of the fashionable theatre district of New York City. However, it did not reflect the glamour of its namesake. In 1938, the theatre was purchased by Ben Ulster, the son of Sam Ulster. It then showed mainly western and action movies.

When the city expropriated the land for the New City Hall, civic officials decided that the row of buildings on the south side of Queen Street was not compatible with the image that they wished to project. In 1965, the land was expropriated and the buildings were demolished. The Broadway Theatre disappeared, only memories and a few photographs remain of a theatre that was both infamous and famous. The Sheraton Hotel is now on the site. 

Note: I am grateful to Mildred Ulster, wife of Ben Ulster, for some of the information in this post. 

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The front of the theatre when it was the Roxy, c. 1932-34. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, Fl. 176.

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The Roxy Theatre in the mid-1930s. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, file 176. The lad on the bicycle seems fascinated by the display at the theatre entrance.

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View of the marque of the Broadway, in the upper left-hand side of the photo, the view looking west from the Old City Hall.

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The entrance of the Broadway Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1143, File 140)

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The Broadway Theatre, likely during the 1930s. (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1145, It. 142 (2))

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A penny (front and reverse sides) handed out by the Broadway Theatre as a promotional stunt for a war movie during the 1950s. Cardboard was glued to the back of the penny. The movie was playing on December 10, 11, and 12, but does not indicate the year. Penny from the collection of Walter Godfrey, Toronto.

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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

                 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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