Tivoli Theatre

110 James Street N,
Hamilton, ON L8R

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ParticleMan on November 2, 2006 at 3:51 am

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 9, 2006 at 12:31 am

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 3, 2005 at 12:19 am

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.

mrchangeover on October 10, 2005 at 11:54 am

I agree its too bad the Tivoli is being left to rot. Perhaps there is a way someone can get in with some floodlights and take some pictures before it is demolished. A pictorial record of the interior in the Hamilton Public Library would be one way to preserve the Tivoli’s history.
Unfortunately its contribution to Hamilton’s history as a building has long been over. Its in a badly run down part of town and it is very old so it would take a miracle to find someone with money to invest to keep it open. Better theatres in the downtown area eg the Palace and Capitol were lost many years ago. I think the Palace would have made a great concert hall and should have been kept.

hamiltonmark on October 8, 2005 at 12:15 pm

Nothing has change from the outside since they demolished the front section. When they were tearing down the front section, I managed to see inside the back stage doors which were open. The gentlemen that was inside clearing out the balance of his stage equipment (using flashlights)said time will only tell it’s fate. With no heat or hydro in the auditotium, winter my seal it,s future of another lost theatre of Hamilton’s past.

mrchangeover on October 8, 2005 at 11:00 am

I was in Hamilton over the summer and took some photo’s of the demolished front part and the auditorium which was still standing.
Is it still like this?
If anyone wants a picture let me know and I will e mail it to you.

hamiltonmark on October 8, 2005 at 1:21 am

Has anyone heard any new of what is going on with what is left of the Tivoli(Auditorium)?

hamiltonmark on February 22, 2005 at 8:18 pm

The Tivoli theatre made the top 10 list of the most endangered heritage properties in Canada which was is listed by Heritage Canada Founadion. The auditorium, which was saved by the wreaking ball was saved under the Heritage Act for six months while the front section was torn down. This protection lasted for six months and now unless someone can buy the theatre including the cost of demolishing the front section, Hamilton will say goodbye to the last working theatre still standing in Hamilton. The Century is still standing but it is very unlikly it will ever be a theatre again. mark

mrchangeover on December 10, 2004 at 6:17 pm

The Tivoli theatre opened in 1908 in the carriage factory which was built in 1875. When the Princess Theatre, part of the same site, was closed in 1923 it became part of the lobby of the Tivoli. The front of the Tivoli today is the old front of the carriage factory.
This information comes from an August 20/2004 report from the city’s Planning and Development Dept.

hamiltonmark on November 3, 2004 at 1:26 pm


What is left of the front portion of the Tivoli theatre is set to be demolished november 4. there is nothing left of any historic value . The former Princess theatre and main auditorium portion will not be touched. New owners are still be looked for. Utilities are also to be reconected to the remaining two sections.

Misfit on October 27, 2004 at 4:04 am

Thanks, I will. You have been given proper credit in the paper, I’ll add more later when I’ve recovered from this research.

mrcinema on October 26, 2004 at 10:45 pm

Your welcome Misfit. Make sure you add my name under the photo of the Tivoli. All the best on your research paper, let me know how it turns out.

Misfit on October 25, 2004 at 10:45 pm

Thanks a lot! This is really helpful; as its the only recent photo I’ve been able to find.

mrcinema on October 25, 2004 at 6:04 pm

Hi Misfit, Sure you can use my picture of the Tivoli.
I wish I could email you some more photos of the Tivoli but right now I have them locked away for safe keeping. :–)

Misfit on October 24, 2004 at 4:13 am

Hi I am currently doing a research paper on the Tivoli Theatre, and I was wondering if I could use the photo by Chad Irish. Please let me know, thanks.

hamiltonmark on October 21, 2004 at 4:49 am

You are correct Warren. I am not sure how to submit information to change this site and to change the status from open to closed. Mark

hamiltonmark on October 20, 2004 at 3:27 pm

180 Days. A permit to demolish what is left of the Tivoli theatre (The lobby which was the original Princess theatre and the auditorium) is expected to be denied to the Sniderman family. This gives any groups interested in saving the last theare of it’s kind in Hamilton some time to buy the theatre. A new entrance would have to be build since the front portion was demolished as was stated in my previous comments. Let’s hope this happens.

mrcinema on October 20, 2004 at 5:33 am

You can cheak out some pictures of what the old Tivoli used to look inside back in the 1940’s. Just click the link…
View link

hamiltonmark on September 25, 2004 at 7:59 pm

In August of 2004, a section of the wall of the main entrance (Proonguey) collapes. Under inspection by the city it was found that the sign and all the working lights was pulling away from the building (which was taken down and it’s where abouts is unknown at this time) and that the building was unsafe. The City demolished the Pronnguey block stating it could not be saved. The princess portion and the main auditorium remain standing but their condition are unknown. Unfortunatly the City only designated the Prognuey block under the HERITAGE ACT because under city listings the main auditorium has a separate adress and is not protected. (what a oversight that was) The Sniderman family have applied for a permit to tear down what is left ( Princess addition and main auditorium) unless someone is willing to take over the theatre which the city cannot afford to do. The city is also planning to send the Sniderman family the bill to date as was reported in the Hamilton Spectator.

ChadIrish on October 22, 2002 at 6:43 pm

Go check out The Tivoli Theatre Web Site @ http://www.tivolitheatre.ca
There is more information about the Tivoli on there web site.