Loft Cinemas

373 Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M5B

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Big Nickel Theatre, 1913

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Big Nickel Theatre was opened in 1913 with a seating capacity for 524. By 1922 it had been renamed National Theatre and was renamed Rio Theatre in 1943. It closed in 1991.

By 2014 former rooms upstairs (including the former projection booth) had reopened as the Loft Cinemas, screening adult movies in six rooms. The former auditorium had been in retail use, but was unused in 2014.

Contributed by Christopher Walczak

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

Rio on January 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

My family owned and operated the Rio from 1949 until my grandmother finally closed it down in 1991. It’s no nice to read that people still remember it! I still have nearly all the movie posters that we kept when the building was sold. I’ve had them now for twenty years, but I have never done anything with them. I am now preparing our first public exhibit of some of that collection, which will be somewhere in downtown Toronto. I’ll have more details in the coming weeks, but if any of you have any movie poster requests, please e-mail me. Stay tuned!

William Mewes
William Mewes on July 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

Hi Rio ! Thank You for posting and please keep us updated.

Gergs on November 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Hey all, I’m currently writing a paper on some grindhouse cinemas in Toronto and am looking for detailed stories of experiences at the Rio in the 1980s. If this sounds up your alley, please email me at

Though certain cinemas are bringing this type of “trio at the Rio” back, I don’t know if I will ever experience a cinema like one must have experienced a grindhouse theatre in the 70s-80s.

Rio on November 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm

We’re posting shots of some of our amazing Rio posters here: There are still a few boxes we haven’t even catalogued yet!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 27, 2011 at 3:14 am

The architect of the Big Nickel Theatre was John Wilson Siddall. I will upload a photo of the facade as it originally appeared in 1913, from the trade journal Construction.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

This house had become the National Theatre by 1922, nine years after it had opened as the Big Nickel Theatre. Manager S. Garr’s promotional efforts on behalf of Universal’s feature Robinson Crusoe were noted in the July 29, 1922, issue of the studio’s house organ, Universal Weekly.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on December 10, 2014 at 11:21 am

OK – look at the current Street View. The entrance to the left of the main adult shop says “Loft Cinemas” which clearly are an adult movie theatre that is currently open with “six theatres” and “14 mini cinemas”.

Does anyone know how that works? Is the former auditorium all carved up, or maybe the former balcony? Or could it be former office space above the lobby?

If anyone lives in Toronto I’d love to know.

Rio on December 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

The former auditorium no longer exists. The small screens (“the Loft Cinemas”) are upstairs, where the projection booth and offices used to be. The main floor recently went up for rent again. It’s empty now.

truenorthstrongnfree on March 13, 2015 at 9:05 am

Article on the Loft Cinemas' most popular era, as the “Rio”.

DavidZornig on March 8, 2017 at 3:38 pm

1980’s photo added, photo credit City Of Toronto Archives, via the below article.

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