The golden era of Toronto’s movie houses
Doug Taylor first visited a movie theatre when he was six years old, in the mid-1940s. At the time, a kid’s tickets cost 10 cents. The experience felt sinful—his grandma described cinemas as “dens of iniquity”—and he couldn’t wait to do it again. Soon, Saturday matinées became a weekly ritual. “The world of film was my form of escapism, long before I had ever heard of the term,” he says. “It allowed me to visit exciting foreign lands and exotic climes.”
Taylor, now a historian, blogger and retired teacher, recently set out to preserve the memories of the shuttered theatres of his youth. He combed the city’s and province’s archives, and collected his and other moviegoers’ memories. The result is Toronto’s Local Movie Theatres of Yesteryear, a charming catalogue of the city’s oldest cinemas. Here, Taylor recounts fascinating stories from some of his favourite theatres, adapted from his book.
vaughan Theatre St. Clair Avenue West
“when i was 10 years old, i had a newspaper delivery route. Papers sold for three cents, and in my eyes, the profits from my business enterprise were immense, though it meant i had to keep regular hours. However, after i had attended a matinée at the vaughan, my customers sometimes waited longer than usual for their papers. i never explained to them why i was late. visiting the vaughan was worth the risk of losing a customer.”
Parkdale Theatre Queen Street West
“as a child in the 1940s, i often gazed at the Parkdale Theatre’s showy marquee from the windows of the Queen streetcar. as the years progressed, the Parkdale slowly lost in the competition with television, despite its original opulence. The theatre closed on July 6, 1970. The building is still standing today, but has been converted into vintage and antique furniture shops.”