Glendale Theatre

1661 Avenue Road,
Toronto, ON M5M 3Y4

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OCRon
OCRon on December 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Neil Young in his new book, Special Deluxe A Memoir of Life & Cars, has fond memories of the Glendale Theatre.

He particularly remembers The Blob and other films.

Coate
Coate on November 12, 2014 at 10:26 am

Here’s an article from a few days ago published in the Toronto Star that some may find of interest. The Glendale and other Toronto cinemas are mentioned (and some might recognize a Cinema Treasures contributor quoted in the piece).

Find Toronto’s favourite movies

We Torontonians like to think of ourselves as visionary sophisticates, the kind of people who would prefer to boldly reach for the stars, rather than doggedly climb every mountain.

Our choice of favourite movies suggests otherwise. I thought I was on safe ground last week when I declared 2001: A Space Odyssey to be T.O.’s all-time most popular cinematic experience, going by what two sources (and personal memory) indicated was a four-year run at the old Glendale theatre on Avenue Rd. I believed that to be the longest a movie has ever played in one theatre in the city for a continuous run.

Tim Elliott, a Toronto movie buff and collector, contacted me with a contrary assertion: The Sound of Music edged 2001for popularity honours. The Sound of Music, a musical in which Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer climb every mountain that love, geography and the Nazis hurl at them, played for 144 weeks at the Eglinton Theatre, which still stands but no longer operates as a movie house. The film made toes tap and tugged at heartstrings at the Eglinton from March 10, 1965 to Dec. 21, 1967.

A few months after The Sound of Music closed, 2001: A Space Odyssey opened at the Glendale theatre on Avenue Rd. The outer space adventure billed as “the ultimate trip” seared eyeballs and dazzled brains there for a total of 127 weeks, roughly 2.5 years, from May 30, 1968 to Nov. 3, 1970 — and it screened in the widescreen marvel known as Cinerama, no less. The Glendale no longer exists, sadly, having been demolished in the 1970s and replaced by a car dealership.

“These were both the longest single engagements in the city, as far as I know,” Elliott, 62, told me via email.

He bases this on his study of movie ads in the Toronto Star and other newspapers, “a hobby of mine since seeing my first grown-up film Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 as a kid and falling in love with Audrey Hepburn and the movies and movie theatres.

“In my basement I have file drawers filled with the movie ads from all of the Toronto newspapers from the ’60s on. I also used to keep lists of most of the theatres of Toronto and write down each movie that played in each one and how long they played. Unfortunately, I misplaced those lists during a move and haven’t seen them in years.”

But he managed to keep a lot of stats on movie engagements, including these other long runs in Toronto:

Ben-Hur (77 weeks): Dec. 23, 1959 to May 4, 1961 at the University.

Funny Girl (68 weeks): Oct. 3, 1968 to Jan. 22, 1970 at the Odeon Fairlawn.

Doctor Zhivago (61 weeks): Oct. 16, 1966 to Dec. 21, 1967 at the Nortown (it followed a 28-week run at the University, for a total of 89 weeks).

My Fair Lady (60 weeks): Oct. 28, 1964 to Dec. 21, 1965 at the University (it moved to the Nortown on Dec. 25 for a seven-week run that continued to Feb. 9, 1966).

Fiddler on the Roof (57 weeks): Nov. 10, 1971 until Dec. 12, 1972 at the University.

MAS*H (53 weeks): March 27, 1970 to April 8, 1971 at the Hollywood.

There have also been long engagements of close to a year or more for the original Star Wars, Oliver!, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, The Gods Must Be Crazy and La Cage Aux Folles, among others. Note that these achievements were all notched mainly during the 1960s and ’70s, before the widespread adoption of colour TV, multiplex theatres and home video. Then came the Internet and VOD (video on demand), which changed things further still. Most of these records also precede the blockbuster era, where it became commonplace to open a movie at many theatres at once, rather than have it take up residence in a single prestigious theatre for a “road show” run. It’s almost impossible now to think of movies having a lengthy run in a single Toronto theatre, although there are exceptions. Avatar ran in the Scotiabank theatre for nearly six months, from Dec. 18, 2009 to May 27, 2010, and it remained in the Toronto market at least until June of that year, says Cineplex spokesman Mike Langdon. He adds there’s nothing to stop a film from setting a record. “For us, we will leave a film on screen as long as there is demand from the guests to see it. Our guests determine how long a run actually is.” I recall that Titanic also had a very lengthy run in Toronto, perhaps as long as Avatar, both films having been directed by Ontario-born James Cameron. Cineplex doesn’t have ready access to screening stats, and neither does Paramount, the studio that released Titanic. But the intrepid Astrid Lange in the Star’s library found that it played at the Uptown theatre from Dec. 19, 1997 to June 30, 1998. It moved from the Uptown to the Uptown Backstage on July 1 for another few weeks. Sad to think that most of the single-screen theatres where records were set are now demolished or otherwise unavailable: Uptown, University, Odeon Fairlawn, Nortown, Hollywood, Eglinton. All gone. It comes as no surprise that all of these movies are mainstream crowd-pleasers, although 2001: A Space Odyssey also qualifies as an art house head-scratcher. But three of Toronto’s all-time favourites are space movies: 2001, Avatar and Stars Wars. So maybe we’re visionaries after all.

Torontonian
Torontonian on October 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

The film 2001 A Space Odyssey had a more than 4-year run at the Glendale. One evening, the film started coming out of the projection booth and into the last row of the audience! Perhaps a projectionist could explain how that occurs, particularly with the take-up reel. Shouldn’t there have been a warning that the film isn’t being taken up in the proper manner?

laserboyTO
laserboyTO on July 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

The Don Mills cinema was in the Don Mills Centre (built 1955) just east of Don Mills Rd., south of Lawrence Ave. It was a big 700 or 800 seat cinema built in the mid 1960’s. They built a second smaller cinema (perhaps 500 seats) in the early to mid-70’s. The complex closed around 1984-1985 when the new Fairview cinema complex was built and the cinema complex (which was separate from the mall) was demolished shortly afterward for more parking. The Don Mills Centre was enclosed in 1978 but eventually fell into disrepair and was mostly demolished in 2006. The whole area has since been re-developed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

The Glendale Theatre opened on December 1, 1947, according to this page at Silent Toronto. The opening day ad credits the companies involved in the design and construction of the theater, including architects Kaplan & Sprachman.

Mandel Sprachman also designed a house in the area which Boxoffice of October 25, 1965, mentioned only in passing as the Don Mills Theatre. It was leased to Odeon and opened about 1963. I don’t think it’s listed here yet. Another Sprachman design apparently not yet listed was the Odeon Albion, which I believe was also in the northern part of Toronto.

Oldemike
Oldemike on April 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Does anyone remember how long the movie Grand Prix. played at the Glendale. As a teenager I must have seen that movie 5 times. It’s still one my favorites.

telliott
telliott on January 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

The first dealership on that site after demolishing that lovely theatre was called Glendale Ford. As far as I know, the Glendale still did good business back then so why Famous Players wanted to sell to a car dearler is beyond me. The nearby Odeon Fairlawn lasted to 1985 so I’m sure the Glendale could have lasted at least until the end of the 70s if not longer.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

The former location at 1661 Avenue Road is now a car dealership.

telliott
telliott on January 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

The Glendale was actually demolished in 1975, not 1973. The last film I saw there was “The Godfather Part 2” which was a Christmas release in 1974 and stayed at the Glendale until spring 1975.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 21, 2010 at 7:27 am

This house was mentioned in passing in an item datelined Toronto in Boxoffice of January 3, 1948, which referred to the “…newly-opened Glendale Theatre here….”

Jon Lidolt
Jon Lidolt on January 21, 2010 at 7:02 am

Newspaper ads produced by 20th Century Theatre’s art department for Cinerama presentations at the Glendale can be found on Roland Lataille’s informative website:

http://cinerama.topcities.com/glendale.htm

scruffywilber
scruffywilber on January 21, 2010 at 6:46 am

According to my 1969 Telephone book the actual address of the “Glendale” was 1661 Avenue Road.

My apologizes if this has been stated before but I don’t beleive it has.

telliott
telliott on January 12, 2010 at 9:23 am

What a fabulous photo CW. So nice to see it with “2001” showing!

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on January 6, 2010 at 3:02 am

Cleveland’s Cinerama history and 70mm was a bit like Toronto’s in that 3-strip Cinerama films played downtown at the Palace which also played the first few of the 70mm films. After the Palace stopped showing Cinerama films, Cinerama moved out to the western suburb of North Olmsted at a purpose-built Cinerama theater called the Great Northern (although the older Vogue in the eastern suburb of Shaker Heights was considered as plans were drawn up but not executed). Cinerama then returned to downtown at Loew’s State for ‘2001’ and ‘Grand Prix’. A number of former neighborhood theaters became roadshow houses after the grand downtown theaters closed (the Colony and the Mayland, for instance) and a few new suburban theaters in the 60s also began life as roadshow venues such as the original Severance.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on January 6, 2010 at 1:09 am

Night shot of the Glendale showing “2001:” View link

telliott
telliott on November 25, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Thanks Jon, i’ve always wondered about that. I find it fascinating that Toronto seems to be one of the only cities in North America where all of the reserved sead roadshow films did not play right in the downtown core (such as Chicago, Detroit, etc…) but chose theatres far from the core such as the Glendale, Odeon Fairlawn, Capitol and of course the Eglinton. It obviously worked because each one of these theatres had many long runs with roadshow films, just interesting that they gambled with theatres so far away from downtown. In New York city for example they were all right around Times Square and in Chicago they were all in the Loop. Here there were so many roadshows in the late 60s they had to use theatres that never had them such as the Vaughan and the Odeon Danforth.

Jon Lidolt
Jon Lidolt on November 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

The Eglinton took out their slightly curved Cinemiracle screen and triple projection setup to concentrate on standard, flat-screen 70mm roadshows because Cinerama was switching over to their single-lens 70mm projection system. This would have required extensive renovations to the theatre. First of all, the projection booth needed to be relocated to the ground floor and secondly the auditorium couldn’t handle a deeply curved screen without extensive changes being made. Since it was available, Odeon decided to spend the money and install the new Cinerama at the wonderful Odeon-Carlton. They gladly moved the projection booth to the ground floor and had the space to install a massive, deeply curved screen. Unfortunately, except for Mad World, the other 2 films they showed (Circus World & Greatest Story) didn’t do very well at the boxoffice. And keep in mind that they had to do fairly hefty business to pay the weekly expenses. As you undoubtedly remember, it was a very big building. 20th Century Theatres, who I worked for, decided to take the plunge next and installed Cinerama at their Glendale Theatre. It was small, fairly inexpensive to operate, was close to an ideal space to handle a deeply curved screen and had a large parking lot which made it really convenient for people travelling from out of town to attend a Cinerama presentation in Toronto. It may have been a gamble for the company, but it paid off in spades. Hope this answers your question.

I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments in Cinema Treasures. It would be fun to meet one of these days.

telliott
telliott on November 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Jon, in those days, how did they decide what theatre was going to show Cinerama films? I mean that Cinerama moved from the University to the Eglinton to the Odeon Carlton and finally the Glendale. Some cities had all Cinerama films at one theatre in that city as we’ve seen on the wonderful Cinerama series here at Cinema Treasures. I’ve always wondered how and why it moved around so much here in Toronto.

Jon Lidolt
Jon Lidolt on November 25, 2009 at 10:40 am

The Glendale’s seating capacity was reduced to 708 seats when they remodelled the theatre to accommodate a louvered Cinerama screen.

Interesting anecdote about 2001 A Space Odyssey at the Glendale: not long before the picture opened, one of the bookers complained to me that they were contractually obligated to play this piece of crap for a minimum of 3 months. He was convinced that the weekly gross wouldn’t even cover the house nut. Little did he know that the picture would have the world’s longest run at the Glendale… 127 continuous weeks. Not just that, but it eventually came back and played the there for many more profitable months.

Jon Lidolt
Jon Lidolt on May 13, 2007 at 5:36 am

I agree with Mr. Elliott. The Glendale was a great place to see a film and should never have been torn down. I was the art director for 20th Century theatres who operated it as a Cinerama venue. Famous Players eventually bought 20th and are the culprits who destroyed this cinema treasure.

telliott
telliott on March 7, 2005 at 7:39 am

Sorry Doug, but this was the last Cinerama theatre in Toronto. The first was the University on Bloor St and from there it moved to the Eglinton where “Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” and “How the West Was Won” played. Then at Christmas 1963, Cinerama films moved to the Odeon Carlton and premiered with “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”. Then “Circus World” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told” played there before Cinerama moved once again to the Glendale. It’s first movie in Cinerama was “The Halleujah Trail” beginning in July 1965. All subsequent Cinerama movies played here ending with the 2 year plus record breaking run of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. After that other big movies played there such as the long run of “Cabaret” and “Sleuth”. The last movie I saw there was “The Godfather Part 2” and shortly after the theatre was replaced by a Ford dealership. It was a lovely theatre and could have had several more years before multiplex mania swepped in.