A Look Back at Toronto’s Old Movie Theatres

Back from the Dead... Oh, and some Cinema Stuff

Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
The Revue on Roncesvalles Ave, with its marquee still intact, 1935.

So, I’ve just returned from being chased through a suburban mall parking lot by some angry people in a Westphalia van (armed with an RPG), craving the plutonium in my possession. That may actually be the plot to Back to the Future, and has absolutely nothing to do with old movie theatres in Toronto.

Or maybe it does? Having spent some time living in Etobicoke in high school, the only place to watch a movie was at the mall’s “Multiplex/Cineplex” etc… which over the years, seemed to gradually expand in proportion, lighting, and noise (though sadly, not in Deloreans).

*The Wurlitzer formerly belonging to Shea’s Hippodrome (Bay and Teraulay Streets) now resides at Casa Loma, and is still used for silent film screenings.

Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
Colonial Theatre, Bay and Queen Streets, 1923. This was directly opposite City Hall.

The experience leaves me overwhelmed now (perhaps due to my advanced age). The whole ordeal is a mess of fast food, coffee, cocktails, games, lights, teenage antics and SUPER AVX (cue head explosions). Being the “luddite” that I am, I yearn for simpler times; The Humber, The Westwood, and the Revue Cinema. During the silent era (and long after), the city boasted a plethora of inner city theatres.

Many of those grand theatres have been torn down, converted, and some even still reside underneath parking lots (Shea’s Victoria Theatre, Victoria and Richmond Streets). So feast your eyes on Toronto’s forgotten cinematic past: when the movies were silent and the Wurlitzer organ was king*.

Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
Front of the Red Mill Theatre, 183 Yonge St. “The Singular Cynic” is playing, and judging by the attire, this photo was likely taken in the summer of 1914.
Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
The Rialto Theatre, Yonge and Shuter., October 5, 1916. Just left of center, a soldier chats with passers-by. “The Eye of God” starring Tyrone Power Sr. is playing.
Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
Front of The Standard Theatre, 482 Queen West, c.1914.
Toronto's Movie Theatres Past - old movie theatres
The Allen (Tivoli) Theatre. SW Corner, Victoria and Richmond Streets, 1919.


See more photos of old movie theatres in the Toronto Archives.



About Christopher Butters 6 Articles
Born and raised in Toronto, Christopher Butters is a contributor with a strong passion for history, art, and anything motorcycle related. When he's not writing, he's often taking motorcycle trips to parts unknown, camping, or working on an oil paint sketch in a messy studio.