Toronto cinema history

What cinemas used to look like in Toronto

Tracking the history of cinemas in Toronto is no small task. There are well over 100 movie theatres to account for, some of which have left little recorded history. I've already taken a small stab at presenting some of our city's cinematic history with a look at some of Toronto's more significant lost theatres, but given that I've devoted time to shopping malls, grocery stores, butcher shops, gas stations, etc. it seems only right to include a more thoroughgoing visual account of movie theatres.

The gallery below is still far from complete, of course, but provides a decent overview of the city's cinematic legacy. Some of the noteworthy theatres not included below include the Runnymede (now a Chapters bookstore), Mies Movie House, the Brighton (Roncesvalles & Galley), The Mount Pleasant and Regent theatres, The Hollywood and Hyland near Yonge and St. Clair, The Cinema, the Yonge/Elgin, The Royal and a host of others.

It's actually quite amazing how many of these buildings are still standing, if not in use as theatres. Once one knows where to look, evidence of Toronto's former movie theatres is quite widespread. Toward that end, a great basic resource is this list of cinemas past and present that have graced our city streets, though the cinema treasures archives are also a valuable resource. For a more in depth look at the history of movie theatres in Toronto, the best resource is surely Silent Toronto, which has images and accounts of many of the theatres not pictured below. Also worth a look is this exhibit summary from the Ontario Archives, which has extensive holdings featuring the province's lost movie theatres.

Enjoy the images below, and share your memories of Toronto's cinematic history.


Comique Theatre

Comique Theatre (Yonge & Dundas area), 1910

Auditorium Theatre

Auditorium Theatre (Queen & Spadina), 1910

Rialto Theatre

Rialto Theatre (Yonge & Shuter), 1916

Odeon Theatre

Odeon Theatre (1558 Queen West), 1918

Madison Theatre

Madison Theatre (Bathurst and Bloor, site of current Bloor Cinema), 1919

Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre (Yonge & Castelfield), 1921

Colonial Theatre

Colonial Theatre (Queen & Bay), 1921


The Fox (Beaches), 1934

University Theatre

University Theatre (now a Pottery Barn), 1940s

Tivoli Theatre

Tivoli Theatre (Yonge & Richmond), 1940s

Midtown Bloor 1941

Midtown (where the Bloor Cinema is now), 1941


The Revue (Roncesvalles, interior), 1941 via Ontario Archives

Joy Theatre

Joy Theatre (Queen & Jones), 1946

Fairlawn Theatre

Fairlawn Theatre (Yonge & Fairlawn), 1947

Eglinton Theatre

Eglinton Theatre (Eglinton & Avenue area), 1947

Nortown Theatre

Nortown Theatre (Eglinton & Bathurst area), 1948

Shea's Theatre

Shea's Hippodrome (Queen & Bay), 1954

Shea's Theatre

Towne Cinema (Yonge & Bloor), 1950s

Willow Theare

Willow Theatre (Yonge & Ellerslie), 1950s (source unknown)

Kingsway Theatre

Kingsway Theatre, 1958


Alhambra Theatre (Bloor & Bathurst), 1960

Odeon Theatre

Odeon Theatre (Yonge & Carlton), 1960s

Bay Theatre

Bay Theatre (Bay & Queen), 1962


The Uptown (Yonge & Bloor), 1970

Broadway Theatre

Broadway Theatre (Queen & Bay), 1972

Westwood Theatre

Westwood Theatre (Bloor & Kipling), 1974

Imperial Six

Imperial Six ad via Silent Toronto

Coronet Theatre

Coronet Theatre (Yonge & Gerrard), 1979

Rio Theatre

Rio Theatre (Yonge & Gerrard), 1980

Photos from the Toronto Archives unless otherwise noted

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