regent theatre toronto

Major transformation just around the corner for vintage Toronto movie theatre

An almost century-old Toronto movie theatre will soon be revived after decades of neglect, and locals have reason to get excited about the forthcoming project that promises to transform the derelict Regent Theatre into one of the hottest venues in town.

In January 2022, the aging theatre was purchased by Terra Bruce Productions for $7.4 million with a promise of impressive changes on the horizon. The company has a notable tie to the Canadian entertainment scene through its COO Bob Hallet, who is one of the founding members of famous rock act Great Big Sea.

Initial renderings of the Regent Revival project first emerged in 2022, generating excitement about the design from the team of NORR Architects with Harriri Pontarini Architects.

In the lead-up to the design's reveal and amid swirling rumours, it was announced that the closed theatre would reopen within two years, a window that has since passed. More than two years later, locals are still waiting for the 97-year-old movie house to even begin its long-awaited glow-up.

So, what gives? Well, first, a bit of quick history on this diamond in the rough.

Constructed in 1927 as a vaudeville theatre and cinema for Famous Players Canada, the Regent — originally known as The Belsize — was designed by architect Murray Brown. Its style has changed over the years, most notably with a 1950 modernization by leading theatre architects Harold Kaplan and Abraham, reopening that year as The Crest Theatre.

Following news of the theatre's redevelopment, the City moved to have the building designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would succeed with the theatre's designation enacted in November 2022.

Meanwhile, documents filed with the City in 2023 and further details uploaded to the project's website include updated renderings of the project's landmark main facade and marquee, as well as glimpses at other details like back-of-house areas and a first fleshed-out look at the theatre interior.

Current plans call for the existing main facade over Mount Pleasant to be retained, while the interior would be fitted out with a new excavated basement, the north, east, and south walls would be replaced, a new roof added, and a top-to-bottom interior renovation. A small addition planned atop the main theatre facade would introduce new third-floor seating and a lobby area.

regent theatre toronto

A new 1,076-square-metre three-storey addition is planned at the rear of the property. It would take a house form to blend in with its surroundings, obscuring its use as a new back-of-house and loading area for the theatre.

regent theatre torontoA rendering shared on the project website offers a first glimpse at how the restored auditorium would appear post-renovation, with warm wood finishes and sweeping curves.

regent theatre toronto

Terra Bruce Productions promises to use the theatre as a base to premiere new Canadian musical theatre productions, doubling as a venue hosting what the project team boasts as "a year-round program including concerts, cabaret, films, circus and children’s programming," while stressing that "It will not be a nightclub."

The project has been warmly received by City staff, though there are still a few remaining steps before shovels can hit the ground.

A Notice of Complete Application was issued for the project in March 2023, stating that the submission met the City's minimum application requirements. However, over one year later, things remain in a holding pattern as a Notice of Approval Conditions and Statement of Approval are both pending from City planners.

A post shared to the Weird Toronto Facebook group over the weekend shows how the theatre's owners are keeping the community in the loop on plans with a humorous touch, its marquee reading, "Coming Soon: Not a Condo."

Lead photo by

NORR/Hariri Pontarini via City of Toronto

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