Hamilton Halton Construction Association   Ontario Architecture  
resources
home
Contact Building Terms Building Styles Building Terms

Building Types

Theatre and Cinema

History of Cinemas --- --- History of Theatres

Cinemas----- Thunder Bay- ---- Picton -----Toronto----- Hamilton----- Ancaster--- London

Theatres--- Elgin - Wintergarden---Stratford--Hickson- Shakespeare ---- Stratford---- Tavistock--

Drive Ins ---- Picton--- Stoney Creek--- --

Theatre Layout -- Procenium--- Thrust---

Maquettes--Stratford---

Cinemas

The first motion picture in Canada was in June1896 in Montreal. Toronto was not far behind, showing a motion picture in August 1896 in Robinson's Musee. Destroyed by fire in 1905.

The first films were shown in manor houses, the cinema proper didn't come along until the 1930s.

Up the street from Robinson's Musee on Yonge Street just north of Queen St. are a pair of theatres that we know of today as The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, with the latter stacked seven floors above the former. Originally built in 1913, this double-decker theatre was intended as the Canadian flagship of the American Loews theatre chain. Both venues functioned as vaudeville houses and showed silent films. In 1928 the Winter Garden was closed and the lower theatre was then wired up to show sound movies. Films continued to be screened there despite the theatre slowly falling into disrepair, until it was finally closed in 1981. Since then the Ontario Heritage Trust has restored both theatres to their original grandeur and beyond; you can catch live shows there regularly or even movies once a year during the Toronto Film Festival. The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre is the only fully-functioning double-decker theatre left in the world.

By 1930, the American Loews theatre and the British Odeon were making their way into Ontario. Many theatres exist in the larger cities. In smaller towns, large houses were renovated to be used as cinemas before actual theatres could be built.

http://www.blogto.com/city/2011/02/the_

lost_movie_theatres_of_toronto/

Theatres

Theatres for the production of plays can be traced back to the Greek times. Many Roman theatres are still almost intact. The theatre at Orange is still used for live performances.

 

Cinemas

Films were shown in opera houses and theatres with the odd magnificent cinema/theatre being built in the 1910s and early 1920s. The elgin/Wintergarden is an example of this.

It was in the 1920s and 1930s that the Art Deco style took over. It was the 'entertainment style of architecture and it was used in everything from cinemas and footbal stadiums to houses and retail stores. It was the style of the retail empire and cinemas were often linked to retail even in the early 1930s.

Thunder Bay

1948

This classic Art Deco theatre is solidly built with a steel frame and brick veneer. Glass brick is used along the sides of the streamlined exterior. The curves and use of glass are remeniscent of ship design.

Kings College Cambrige

Marquee Thunder Bay

Marquees were given prominence in the Art Deco style. Used on cinemas, hotels and retail chains, the marquee was always studded with lights and either ornate Art Nouveau carvings or streamlined colourful glitz.

 

Today the Paramont is a venue for films, live performances and parties.

The Art Deco look of Ontario cinemas comes from Oscar Deutch - as in 'Oscar Deutch Entertains our nation'. He started building cinemas in the Art Deco style in Birmingham Englad in 1928. That styyle was adopted by most cinema owners very quickly.

Pugin Church

Regent - Picton

1918

The Regent theatre in Picton is the only indoor film venue in The County. It is used for live performances and'gaming days' as well as films.

The facade has a fortresslike feel to it with a large marquee and sign.

Many Ontario cinemas of the time have names linked to the royals: Regent is very popular possibly because the Prince Regent was known for excess, fun and frivolity.

 

Pugin Church

Picton

Neon signs were often rented to establishments. The company maintained them. Picton has very wisely left its neon sign intact.

The Regent is built on the foundation of a former ware house. Toronto architects Warrington and Page designed the building as an Edwardian Opera house, the Art Nouveau detailing being part of the Edwardian Classical vocabulary.

George Cook was the patron of the building. He and his family ran The Regent for almost 70 years until in 1994 a community based foundation bought the property and have restored it to much of its original splendor. This is one of many community based projects that have helped local theatres and cinemas to survive. Well done.

Kings College Cambrige

Picton

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock decreed that no one could enter his new movie, Psycho, after it had started. Prior to that, audiences could come and go as they liked, similar to a vaudeville show.

As a result, cinemas then needed a lobby where patrons could wait for the next show in inclement weather.

This entrance is quite large with two double doors.

Kings College Cambrige

Picton

The ceiling of the entrance hall indicates the year of the building. This is a painted tin ceiling with a frieze of dancing putti and wreaths in the Art Nouveau style.

Kings College Cambrige

Toronto - Eglinton

1936

Toronto's Eglinton theatre is a stunning example of Depression Era Art Deco. It's clean lines and tall elegant form with bright pastel colours are indicators of the style.

 

Pugin Church

Bloomfield

The Eglinton is now used for large parties and weddings.

Kings College Cambrige

Mount Pleasant

1930s?

There are three theatres within three block on Mount Pleasant Avenue.

Pugin Church

Mount Pleasant

The Regent still shows currrent movies as well as being available for game nights.

 

Pugin Church

Mount Pleasant

The Mount Pleasant theatre also shows current movies.

 

Pugin Church

Mount Pleasant

Further down the street this old theatre is now a retail establishment. The gay colours and tragedy/comedy masks symbol in the fractable indicate its original use as a theatre.

 

Pugin Church

Royal

1939

The Royal cinema on College Street is also still running strong. The original neon sign and marquee are in place.

 

Pugin Church

Royal

The clean, streamlined lines of the theatre indicate the Art Deco style.

 

Pugin Church

Standard - Toronto

1921

The Standard theatre in Toronto is still intact, but it is now a retail establishment. It was once a theatre for Yiddish films. Then when the local population changed it was used for Chinese films. Now it is retail.

 

Pugin Church

Standard - Toronto

The detailing on the side of the theatre show two ornate capitals in the Art Nouveau style.

 

Pugin Church

Runnymede

1927

The Runnymede building is just gorgeous with a central tower with a large cornice. The cornice has an Art Deco variation on the acanthus leaf. The central blind window has a mosaic of the tragedy/comedy masks.

 

Pugin Church

Runnymede

Like many fabulous Art Deco buildings, it has been taken over by a modern retail establishment. Shoppers drug Mart has left most of the facade intact.

Pugin Church

Roncesvales

Roncesvales is another cinema that is alive and well due to an active and interesting community group. The theatre thrives with rotating movies, theme nights and live performances. Like Mount Pleasant, there were originally more cinemas on the street. This is the only one still running.

Pugin Church

Roncesvales

Even the decoration on the ceiling shows the Art Deco design.

Pugin Church

Scotiabank Theatre

1999

Called the Scotiabank theatre, this building is a Post Modern conglomerate with retails stores and a cinema.

Pugin Church

Roncesvales

It is interesting that the signage, while Post Modern in it's essential chunkiness, is still remeniscent of the clean lines of the Art Deceo, almost 100 years earlier.

Pugin Church

Hamilton

1930s?

The Westdale theatre in Hamilton is a fixture in Westdale village by McMaster University. The building is largely unchanged since it first opened.

Pugin Church

Westdale

The marquee has a wonderful Art Deco fractable above it.

Pugin Church

Westdale

The ticket booth or kiosk is classic.

Pugin Church

Ancaster

Large box store cinemas have taken over. The popcorn has 'golden topping'. That says it all really.

The seats are comfortable.

Pugin Church

London

to be continued.

Pugin Church

Theatres

Victorians were great drinkers, thus a proliferation of ornate pubs can be found from the Victorian and into the Edwardian era. Similarly, Victorian were great theatre goers. France and Italy subsidised their theatres so the facades are quite rich dating from the 1800s. IN England, however, it wasn't until the High Victorian period in the 1880s that theatres started to have ornate facades, and once they got started they went whole hog.

Ontario boasts some of the best Rep theatre in the world. Between the Stratford Festival and the Shaw festival you can see everything from musicals to heavy drama.

Stratford

This very tall bank barn has a hipped gable roof. The classic black and white is unusually attractive.

Gothic Revival in Picton

Alberton Ontario

Elgin - Wintergarden

1913

The Elgin and Winter Garden theatres downtown Toronto are a pair of stacked theatres that have variously been live theatre and film. The design is Edwardian Classicism, note the paired Corinthian columns, the roundels and the balusters.

The marquee and kiosk are more Art Nouveau as is the interior.

Gothic Revival in Picton

Toronto Ontario

Elgin/Winter Garden

Beautiful Art Glass decorates the roof of the kiosk. Gilded wreaths, bases and capitals decorate the main body of the kiosk. Engaged columns along the front and more decorative Art Glass or stained glass in the door transoms are indicative of the style.

 

The Opera Atellier can be found in this theatre.

Gothic Revival

Toronto Ontario

Elgin - Wintergarden

The harp is a universal symbol of theatre and music. Here the harp is found beautifully rendered in staind glass.

Gothic Revival

Elgin - Winter Garden Toronto Ontario

Elgin - Wintergarden

The cornice is a mix of egg-and-dart, acanthus, bead, folorettes and foliage, typical of the very ornate Edwardian period.

Gothic Revival

Elgin - Winter Garden, Toronto Ontario

Drive Ins

Picton

This gorgeous 19th century bank barn has been restored and supported by concrete abutments to ensure its continued use. Lightning rods have also been added. Many a fine barn disappeared in fire as a result of a strike of lightning.

Gothic Revival Cottage

Picton Ontario

Picton

The original foundation is in great shape and will continue to be so.

Georgian House in Dundas

Picton

To be continued

To be continued

Theatre Layout

Live theatre has not changed greatly since the Greek and Roman times. The stage is either a flat area with the action taking place behind a curtained partiction, or a stage that extends into the audience.

 

Many of the words used in stage design are taken from the Roman as well. For example, both in modern and in Roman theatres, the under ground area where the actors wait for their entrance and then come up onto the stage is called a vomitorium.

Proscenium Theatre Style

The proscenium theatre has two separate and distinct areas: the stage is for the performers, the auditorium is for the audience. These are separated by the proscenium arch .

The word "proscenium is derived from the Greek proskenion, in front of the skene. The "skene" was a building with doors that served as the backdrop for ancient Greek theatre.

The proscenium theatre developed along with illusionistic scenery and was the norm for most 18th and 19th century theatres. The actors need only focus in one direction, and the scenery can be quite ornate and complicated.

 

Thrust theatre

Precenium Theatre Style

Thrust Style

In a thrust stage the audience encircles the stage on three sides, leaving the fourth side as a backstage area. The audience feels more intimately connected to the action taking place, but the set has more constraints than a proscenium due to large props or walls blocking views and creating blind spots.

Most entrances and exits are from backstage or from "vomitory" entrances within the audience.

 

Thrust theatre

Thrust Theatre Style

Larger Thrust Style

There are no rules concerning the "thrust" of a thrust stage. In the Patterson Theatre the thrust of the stage presents many difficulties. The axes of the stage are exaggerated, and the set design is more dependent on lighting and other visual effects as opposed to illusionary sets and elaborate screens.

The proscenium stage is considered old fashioned by most "modern" theatre experts who prefer the intimacy of a thrust or arena stage.

 

Thrust theatre

Thrust Theatre Style

Maquettes

MAQUETTE - A maquette is a small scale model for a finished sculpture. It is used to visualize and test shapes and ideas without incurring the cost and effort of producing a full scale sculpture. It is the analogue of the painter's cartoon or sketch. For commissioned sculptures, especially monu- mental public sculptures, a maquette may be used to show the client how the finished work will fit in the proposed site.

 

In theatre, maquettes are used as scale models of the final set. Many of the following images are maquettes of the 2006 season of the Stratford Festival.

Maquettes incorporate many architectural features and are similar to architectural scale models.

 

Much Ado A bout Nothing

Michael Gianfrancesco

The set for Much Ado About Nothing is a minimalist set composed of nine potted plants. Lemons, a symbol of abundance and exotic beauty.The stage is the Festival Theatre stage, the greatest stage in Canada, and, arguably, the world.

The backstage area is a muted country house.

Much Ado 2006

Much Ado - Festival Theatre

Ghosts

Charlotte Dean

The setting for ghosts relies on a somber colour scheme and effective lighting. The props are relatively small and unobtrusive.

The backstage area is quite ornate with large doors and a natural forest-like area.

Ghosts

Ghosts - Patterson

Duchess of Malfi Carolyn M. Smith

Similarly the major design components of the set for the Duchess of Malfi are around the backstage. The central axis is covered by a wide, shining black mass that provides a floor area for the many changing furniture arrangements and doubles as a dark, menacing river along which the heroine tries to escape.

Smith's costumes in black Holland linen provide a final unifying touch to a menacing design.

There is nothing cleansing or purifying about the water imagery of the floor, but it makes a good, smooth surface across which dead bodies can be dragged .......

Duchess of Amalfi

Duchess of Malfi - Patterson Theatre

Glass Menagerie

Peter Hartwell

Peter Hartwell's set for Glass Menagerie is a lower middle-class apartment in St. Louis, 1944. The walls are lace curtaining, some solid, some not, and there are various light boxes around the room - the menagerie, the portrait of the father - that bring the set some more texture. Hartwell also provided the costume designs which compliment the set perfectly.

Glass menagerie

Glass Menagerie - Avon Theatre

London Assurance

Desmond Heeley

Belgrave Square

" Now, I would insist especially on the fact, of which I doubt not that farther illustrations will occur to the mind of every reader, that all most lovely forms and thoughts are taken directly from natural objects; because I would fain be allowed to assume also the converse of this, namely, that forms which are not taken from natural objects must be ugly."

John Ruskin, Seven Lamps of Architecture, Chapter IV, III.

Courtly Residence - London Assurance - Avon=

Courtly Residence - London Assurance - Avon Theatre

London Assurance

Desmond Heeley

Belgrave Square, the setting for Courtly's residence, is one of the grandest 19th century squares in London. It is a centerpiece of Belgravia, and was laid out by the property contractor Thomas Cubitt for the 2nd Earl Grosvenor in the 1820s.

Wheatley's London Past and Present (1891) locates it as "the fashionable region of somewhat indefinite limits, which has Belgrave Square for its centre, and may be understood broadly to extend westward from Buckingham Palace Gardens to Lowndes Square, and southwards from Knightsbridge to Chester Square (1: 153). In addition to housing the Austrian ambassador the Square boasted no fewer than eight earls, along with various dowagers, lords, dukes, duchesses, and marquises, among its inhabitants.

Country Residence - London Assurance - Avon

Country Residence - London Assurance - Avon Theatre

contact - shannon@ontarioarchitecture.com

 

 

 

 

Theatres Extra Reading and Films

Books

Bromfield, Louis. Pleasant Valley, Harper and Brothers, New York. 1943

Rempel, John I . Building with Wood. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1967.

For information on where to get barn materials, chack Historic Lumber and other suppliers in the Resources page

Films

It Happened One Night - Clark Gable, Collette Colbert

Cider House Rules -

 

Murder on the Orient Express ,

Cranford

Trains, Planes and Automobiles , (1995) (2008)

 

 

Agraffe Transom reveal Quoins Shutter railing Chimney Keystone Transom Balcony Pediment Sash Shutter Veranda Chimney Transom Shutter Sash Arch Transom Sash Windows Voussoirs Band Flat Arch Door Surround Shutters Chimney Stairs Sash Window Shutters Veranda Sash Quoins Roof sash Transom Shutters Cornice dripmold or hoodmold scalloping finial scalloping vergeboard dripmold or hoodmold