Tivoli Theatre

110 James Street North,
Hamilton, ON L8R

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Showing 26 - 50 of 67 comments

TivFan on November 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

No-No-No-No-NO!! The Tivoli Theatre auditorium and lobby are still standing. The building that partially collapsed and was later demolished only housed the theater entrance. The comments of Chad Irish and ScreenClassic are incorrect. Status should read: RESTORING…

ScreenClassic on November 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Status should read demolished. The current Google street view shows the entire theatre now gone, including the auditorium.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 13, 2011 at 3:24 am

The October 23, 1954, issue of Boxoffice featured a multi-page article about the remodeling of the Tivoli, beginning on this page. The entrance lobby was given a fairly sleek streamline modern style, but the other spaces retained much of the more traditional decor from the 1920s. Much of the Italian Renaissance detailing was stripped from the auditorium, but its basic outlines remained intact.

My impression from the photos is that the foyer and auditorium looked a bit cheesy after the remodeling, and the house would have been better served by a more thoughtful restoration of the original design, except for that spiffy moderne entrance lobby, which was quite an improvement. It’s too bad the entrance was in the part of the building that has been demolished.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 11, 2011 at 5:06 am

A photo of the entrance lobby of the Tivoli made the cover of Boxoffice, October 2, 1954.

mortonbg on August 29, 2009 at 8:41 am

There are also some excellent images of its current condition here


mortonbg on August 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

The Tivoli Theatre is closed, but only the lobby is demolished. And there is finally movement at last to save what is left of it.

From yesterday’s HAMILTON SPECTATOR.

$15m restoration campaign
August 28, 2009

Standing on the stage of the Tivoli Theatre, Belma Gurdil-Diamante closes her eyes to imagine the room filled with visitors from the past.

In one dust-covered seat, she sees the mother of her hairdresser, who came to the theatre to socialize with other Italian immigrants.

A few rows back, she envisions her husband sharing his first kiss.

“There’s so many people that are attached to this place,” says Gurdil-Diamante, rubbing goosebumps on her arms as she looks around the decayed but still opulent auditorium. “I want to bring those people back.”

In a few weeks, the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble will launch a $15-million capital campaign to restore the historic theatre, which has sat empty since its partial collapse five years ago.

Gurdil-Diamante, the group’s CEO, is waiting until the launch to reveal how much money has been committed to date, but says she’s confident the project will go ahead.

In the past few weeks, crews have been inside the James Street North theatre, removing mould and asbestos and installing a new electrical panel. The stabilization work, which cost $300,000, is to be funded one-quarter by the city.

Next week a parkette will be built in front of the theatre where part of the building was demolished after the initial collapse.

Once the park is complete, boarding along the street will be removed to allow passersby to see the property.

Wally Lanosky of Copper Cliff Metals and Wrecking Corp., which is doing the demolition work and donating the parkette, suspects the unveiling will be a reminder that the theatre is still standing.

“Everyone thinks the Tivoli is gone,” he said.

Originally built as a carriage factory in the 1870s, the Tivoli was converted to a theatre in 1924.

The ballet company bought the theatre for $1 in 2006 from the Sniderman family of Sam the Record Man fame. Since then, engineers and architects have combed the building, judging its condition and making plans for the future.

Though damaged by time and the elements, the theatre is structurally solid, said Gurdil-Diamante.

As capital donations come in, the ballet company plans to start construction, hopefully in January. Pace Credit Union has agreed to match donations with financing.

The city helped the ballet ensemble prepare an application for federal infrastructure funding, said Ron Marini, the city’s director of downtown and community renewal. He believes the theatre project will be a perfect addition to the arts revival on James North.

“Instead of buildings falling down, we’re starting to see them being reused,” said Marini.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger also sees potential in the project, both for downtown renewal and the arts community. But he notes it won’t be easy raising the needed capital.

“It will be a challenge … (but) certainly not an insurmountable one,” he said. “I think it’s got opportunity written on it.”

In addition to restoring the heritage elements, the ballet company plans to build a new lobby and a backstage in the basement.

The pace of fundraising and the architect’s plan will decide the timeline, but Gurdil-Diamante hopes to be done in two years. Once complete, the theatre would be a multi-use performing venue used by a range of arts groups, she said.

“We want to make sure this place belongs to the community.”

mortonbg on May 16, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Well.. I am glad to hear that the street person is gone.

We used to have a street person back in 1991, who used to urinate under the marquee all the time.. One night we surprised him with a bucket of water… so it stopped finally.

I am surprised at this because the offices of the owners (The Ballet) are in the Federal Building on James Street, just across the Wilson Street, but I guess someone has to tell them what’s going on.

If anyone else notices such abuses, perhaps a message left on their answering machine might do the trick…

bryan88 on May 12, 2008 at 8:26 am


I’m confident that I was one of the last “speulunkers” to gain access to the building prior to being sealed up (finally) by the owners.

Tivoli remained wide open for many months, allowing an incredibly disrespectful vagrant to call the theatre his home. He did diguisting amounts of damage.. including using the theatre as a safe haven to fuel his own drug addiction.

In the offices, he nailed up boards in the doorways, so if any intruders came in, they would be forced take the long way around to the only entrance.. where he could confront you, or hide. He destoyed Loren Liberman’s old office, and used that as his bedroom.. the place smelled disguisting, with rotten sheets, beer bottles and cigarette butts lying all over the place. He also drew on the walls with terrible graffitti.

He had a pair of bricks setup outside the side doors (which were unlocked).. they were leaned up against the door when he wasn’t home. That way, when he returned home and the bricks were out of place, he knew somebody was inside, and took any needed actions.

Finally, in mid-April, the theatre was sealed up by the owners. It’s closed, but still accessible by anyone who has enough desire to get in.

It’s quite depressing, and disguisting at the same time.

mortonbg on April 29, 2008 at 6:41 pm

I walked around the exterior of the Tivoli theatre today. She looks in good shape from an outside anyway.

mortonbg on March 5, 2008 at 2:09 pm

There is also an exterior photo of the Tivoli Theatre and its neighbor the Grand Opera House from 1923 at this site here


Picture is the black and white one second down

mortonbg on March 2, 2008 at 2:20 pm

According to the SPEC, they say they need $12 to restore the auditorium and to build an entirely new structure to replace what was lost in 2004. I have heard rumblings that the paperwork/feasibility studies are being done in order to access the funding.

I am hopeful! But I haven’t really heard much in a while.. That’s why I was pleased to see the recent (january 2008) pictures.

Perhaps someone else would know more?

mrchangeover on March 2, 2008 at 10:56 am

Brian: Great work! You have certainly done your bit to help keep the Tivoli going.
Do you think the Ballet group will be successful in raising the money to fix it up?

mortonbg on March 2, 2008 at 3:14 am

We formed a non profit theatre company called the Tivoli Theatre Foundation, and lasted about 14 months before we went broke.

A church group Crossfire moved in after us (covering up the statues!), they lasted until 1994. Then in 1995 Loren Lieberman moved in with the Tivoli Renaissance Project, later merged with Creative Arts Inc. They were running the building until the disaster with the front wall collapsing in 2004.

I wrote an impassioned article in the HAMILTON SPECTATOR arguing for the theatre’s preservation at the time. And I was absolutely delighted when the Ballet bought the theatre for $1 from the Sniderman Family, Because they want it to survive as a theatre venue.There is a wonderful TV series called SLINGS AND ARROWS that filmed at the Tivoli in 2003. There are great images of the theatre in it.

mortonbg on March 2, 2008 at 3:05 am

oops that should read NOT allowed in because of the adult films.. ;–)

In 1990 I was part of the group that reopened the Tivoli as a live venue for theatre productions and concerts. I literally got to take down the movie screen, which was on scaffolding and clear away a giant set of “voice of the theatre” speakers..

I re-rigged the 1924 hemp fly gallery with fresh rope, built a 16 foot fore-stage over what used to be the orchestra pit, and with plywood and Masonite covered over the footlight troughs. I hung lighting pipes in the auditorium being very careful not to damage the plasterwork… In short we proved that it could be a viable space for performance.

I produced a play by Douglas Rodger called HOW COULD YOU MRS DICK about the Evelyn Dick Murder case of the 1946. 30,000 people came to see the play over the next 3 months.

We opened the play 53 years to the night that Evelyn attended the Tivoli to see a film with her boyfiend Bill Bohozek

mortonbg on March 2, 2008 at 2:55 am


I was really excited to see these myself. Because it shows that the auditorium has survived and is in one piece barring some water damage to the plasterwork.I have a real history with this theatre myself.

First film I saw here was MESSAGE FROM SPACE a japanese version of STAR WARS in the spring of 1978. Before that it showed “adult” films, so I was allowed in.

This was the theatre when I was a kid where all of the big blockbusters… EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, STAR TREK 1, 2, 3, 2010: ODDESSY CONTINUES, BLADERUNNER, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE WALL.

I have really strong memories of attending to see movies. Often on the night the film premiered.

mrchangeover on March 1, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the photo’s. The last time I was in the Tivoli was in 1961. Back then it was decorated in some kind of salmon pink and cream colour with very old seats.
I like the way it was re-done. Too bad the building could not have been used longer.

hamiltonmark on December 20, 2006 at 4:29 am

The Hamilton Spectator states (Dec. 8 ) that years of neglect are showing on the old theatre. There are large holes in the ceiling from water leaks and the north wall may be bowed. The ballet company are raising money to pay architects to determine whether the building can be saved. They estimate it may cost upwards of 12M to complete the project. From the picture in the paper, the theatre still looks great. Just as I remembered it. Mark.

mrchangeover on November 2, 2006 at 1:12 am

Good luck and best wishes to the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble with their project. Maybe the old Tivoli is not dead yet.

ParticleMan on November 1, 2006 at 7:51 pm

I was fortunate enough to enter the theatre (or what’s left of it) last night and tonight. It is absolutely beautiful. One of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever gotten into. The main theatre area isn’t in bad condition, but the weather is starting to take it’s toll. The paint is starting to chip in places and there is some slight water damage, worsening in the basement. The basement is also severely moldy. The actual structure of what is left is most likely fine. It’s going to cost a LOT to restore this place though.

With all that said she is still beautiful.

DreamDealer on September 8, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Glass facade planned for Tivoli

The reborn Tivoli will be a mirage.

The Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble officially unveiled its plan yesterday to transform the dilapidated downtown theatre into a modern day performing arts academy.

The tentative design calls for the surviving auditorium to be restored and attached to a glass building.

A false facade or a digital projection of the old Tivoli will be built inside the glass wall on James Street North.

“(We will) bring the old and new together,” said Belma Diamante, president of the Hamilton-based ballet company.

“The Tivoli’s face is gone, but we want to bring back as much as we can.”

The ensemble bought the theatre, which was partly demolished in 2004 after a wall collapsed, for $1 from the Sniderman family of Sam the Record Man fame. Diamante said the ballet company also issued a $550,000 charitable tax receipt for the value of the property.

Few other specific details about how much the project will cost or where the money will come from were available yesterday.

Diamante would only say the project will cost “millions” and talks are ongoing with donors and financial institutions.

The ballet company is also preparing a capital campaign and has more press conferences scheduled.

Celebrated principal ballerina Evelyn Hart, who recently retired, has accepted a position as artistic adviser for the centre. ProArteDanza, a Torontobased dance company headed by choreographer Roberto Campanella, has also agreed to make the Tivoli its new home.

Diamante said the company will work immediately to preserve what’s left of the theatre and hopes construction will begin in late 2007. The new building could be finished in three to five years, she said.

The conceptual design would be the second proposed transformation for a heritage building on James Street North. The owners of the nearby Lister Block want to tear down the landmark to build an office building with a replicated facade. The plan, which is bitterly opposed by heritage advocates, is up in the air before a provincial stakeholders group.

News of the Tivoli’s promised rebirth is already prompting calls to the city about possible use of surrounding buildings, said Gord Moodie of the downtown renewal office, and who first suggested the Tivoli to Diamante.

The historic theatre was originally a carriage factory in the 1870s. The theatre was built in back in 1924 and was the first in Hamilton to show talking

AMC on December 2, 2005 at 4:19 pm

A great deal of this info is incorrect. In 1908, it was Wonderland, in 1909 it was the Colonial, It became the Princess in 1913, and opened as a theater/vaudeville in 1924 under the name of the Tivoli. Its very first movie played was a silent, The Rose of Paris (1924) (So sayeth the Hamilton Herald, September 27, 1924). I’ve found conflicting information, but it was allegedly either the first or third theater in Canada to show a Talkie, in 1926. So it was playing films long before 1950.

Famous Players owned them for a long time, like they did most of the important theaters in Canada. FP announced its intentions to sell the Tivoli in 1988, as they had a multiplex being renovated in the Jackson Square mall across the street that would house six theaters. Due to the fact that the building that was the Tivoli was attached to other structures and had been significantly enlarged since the carriage house/storefront in 1875, Sam Sniderman of the Sam the Record Man family had purchased the ownership of the Tivoli’s lobby when he bought the adjoining building to renovate as a large downtown record store (1988-1989). Famous Players still owned the auditorium, and two Thornhill men owned the entrance. Sam Sniderman’s brother, Sidney, allegedly played a large role in convincing Sam to purchase the auditorium in 1989 as well. In September of 1989, the Tivoli closed its doors as a movie theater. Its last film was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 48 people attended the screening in an auditorium built to hold 752. (Wilson, P. Hamilton Spectator, Sept. 30 1989).

As part of the purchase contract with Famous Players, the Tivoli Theater could show no films for 20 years. It appears that this restriction only applied to what might be considered English-speaking mainstream cinema. However, theater was a more profitable venue than experimental and foreign films.

Unfortunately for the Tivoli, Sam the Record Man was not interested in footing the bill for renovations to the Tivoli to turn it into a theater house, though he had promised to make them. He was also not interested in running the Tivoli. He spent a few years trying to develop a committee to get the city of Hamilton to foot the bill. More unfortunately for the Tivoli, the city of Hamilton had already given an interest-free $225k loan of taxpayer money trying unsuccessfully to bail out another local theater, the Theater Terra Nova, in 1990, and the city was not too terribly interested in throwing more money into a pit.

The Tivoli went unrepaired and unrenovated. In 1990, it was approved by the Ontario Heritage Act to recieve the (very) small protection afforded with the designation of a historical structure, that being that there can be delays and appeals on the owner’s movements to apply for demolition. Tragically, and unbeknownst to people at the time, an error was made in the paperwork (gotta love bureacracy) and at this time only the front part of the Tivoli was declared a landmark, possibly due to the expansions made on the building.

In 1992, Sniderman leased The Tivoli to CrossFire Assembly (a christian mission) for $1 a year to escape property taxes on the structure. In 1997, CrossFire’s lease was up, and they left, leaving The Tivoli empty.

In 1998, Loren Lieberman and Vision Productions leased The Tivoli. Loren, a good man who I met personally before the theater collapsed, sank a lot of his own personal fortune into fixing up the dream. His people were responsible for discovering the amazingly beautiful original vaulted ceiling left over from the Princess, when they were investigating a leaking roof (it had been hidden literally for generations under a dropdown ceiling. Maybe it had been covered up in the large 1954 renovation, perhaps it was buried as long ago as 1924).

At any rate, the leaking ceiling, despite the treasure they found, indicated there were some serious issues with the building’s structural integrity. Loren begged and pleaded with the Sniderman family to repair the building, but they weren’t interested in sinking money into the structure. Finally, in June of 2004, part of the southern wall collapsed near the roof, leaving a large hole. Long story short, the City of Hamilton moved in to deal with a threat to public safety, and stripped the roof and upper floor, the marquee and lighted sign, and gave the Sniderman family a bill for $560k. Sam, to put it simply, was really POed and last I had heard, was suing the city because he didn’t think it should have cost that much (and probably wouldn’t have, if they had not tried to save part of the structure) and should be paid for by taxpayer money. He applied for demol permits, and indeed got most of the structure destroyed, even though the city struggled to get the rest of the building reclassified as a heritage building due to that whole 13 year old blunder.

Links to be found at:
View link

The original page is gone, but you can find a cached report on google of the city’s report at
View link

Sorry for the book, but if you’re interested in the theater, there’s some real history in it and it’s demise.