University Theatre (Toronto)
The University Theatre was for several decades one of the premier movie cinemas in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was located at 100 Bloor Street West along the Mink Mile, just west of Bay Street in an area that was once home to a number of cinemas, most notably the Uptown Theatre, and was a centre for the Toronto International Film Festival. At the time of its closing it was the largest movie house in Canada.
The University Theatre opened in 1949, and aimed to be the premier cinema in the city. It was a single screen theatre that sat some 1300 people. The first film shown was Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc. The cinema would host many of the most important films, and for major productions would use reserved seating where patrons would buy specific seats well ahead of time. The cinema also helped introduce new technologies to Toronto such as CinemaScope and 70 mm film.
In 1981 owner Famous Players announced plans to demolish the theatre. One screen cinemas were no longer economic in the era of the multiplex. For several years a campaign was waged by film aficionados and heritage groups to keep the cinema open. Among those who voiced their opposition to its closing was mayor Art Eggleton and local city councillor Ron Kanter. This delayed its closing, but did not prevent it. It shuttered soon after the 1986 film festival, where it hosted the gala opening screening of The Decline of the American Empire. One of the prime reasons for its demise was that the property owners thought they could get far more value from the land at one of the most exclusive sites in Toronto. However, soon after the theatre was demolished, the 1980s property boom collapsed.
Despite the closure, it was agreed that the unique façade of the building would be preserved. Thus when the theatre was torn down the front wall was left standing with a scaffolding at the rear supporting it. This arrangement was meant to be a temporary measure but was left in place for well over a decade due to the early 1990s recession and property bust, and the facade was allowed to deteriorate over the years. Once redevelopment of the property began, it was deemed necessary to pull down the original facade due to its poor condition, and replace it with a reproduction (albeit a picturesque and very accurate reproduction).
With the revival of the property market in the late 1990s, developments were again proposed for the site. The first plan called for a new nine screen cinema to be topped with a 26 floor condominium. However, the cinema plans were abandoned and the building was constructed with retail along Bloor Street. The rebuilt façade of the University Theatre serves as an entrance to a two-level store space, which was a Pottery Barn from 2001-2017.
- Doug Taylor (2016). Toronto's Local Movie Theatres of Yesteryear: Brought Back to Thrill You Again. Dundurn Press. pp. 14, 15, 25, 27, 40, 104, 166, 167, 168, 183, 190, 207. ISBN 9781459733428.[permanent dead link]
- "Is University Theatre really worth saving?." Christopher Hume. Toronto Star.May 29, 1987. pg. E.14
- "Movie theatres ordered to close at festival's end." Sid Adilman. Toronto Star.Aug 26, 1986. pg. F.1
- "Condo closes curtain on plan for theatre ; Famous Players loses hope for Bloor St. revival." Bruce DeMara. Toronto Star. Jul 27, 1999. pg. 1
- The University Theatre
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