Farewell to the Royal, the Paradise, the Kingsway and the Revue (Updated)

NOW magazine reports that the Royal will be taken over by the company now operating the Regent theatre up on Mt. Pleasant Road.  Read about it here.

Although the Kingsway will close, there are no plans to sell the building, and this leaves the theatre intact.  We will have to wait and see.

My original post from last Sunday, the 25th, follows below.

Over the next week, I will be spending a last evening in four of our movie theatres, long-standing members of the Festival cinema chain, that are closing on June 30.

Tonight, I’m off to the Royal to see The Notorious Bettie Page.  I’ve seen it before, at last year’s Film Festival, but somehow it seems appropriate for the evening of Pride Day after a great march down Yonge Street carrying the Leather Pride flag.  The Royal is a nice old cinema, and it may get a new life as it is the most central and is a large house.  It would be a shame to lose this landmark in one of Toronto’s hottest districts.

Tuesday evening, I will be at the Kingsway to see Thank You for Smoking, another film I first saw at least year’s Festival.  The Kingsway always seemed out of the way to me, way out there at Bloor and Royal York, but the distance was more psychological than physical (it’s a short hop by subway).  Years ago, before they put in a new, bigger screen, the Kingsway won me over with a showing of Lawrence of Arabia.  This theatre has lights down both sides and across the bottom of the screen (which had a curtain in those days).  Lawrence has a 10-minute long overture, and the projectionist was having fun that evening.  The lights went down slowly, with each colour (all on manual dimmers in the booth) taken down a notch at a time.  Just as the overture ended, the “Columbia” logo came up, projected on the curtain in best grand cinema style, the house lights went all the way down, the curtain opened, and the film began.  Magic!  You don’t get that in a multiplex with stadium seating, I’m afraid.

Thursday night will see me at the Paradise for Tristram Shandy:  A Cock and Bull Story.  I missed that one at the Festival, and will get my chance at it as my farewell to the Paradise.  It’s a little neighbourhood cinema, and when it opened, the neighbourhood was a bit run down.  The Paradise was part of the rejuvenation of Bloor West, and it’s sad to see it closing even if the seats are a tad too small for me, especially with winter clothes.

Finally, on Friday, I will be at the Revue.  This cinema has been open continuously for 90 years, one of the originals.  Back before we had a Festival Cinema chain or the Cinematheque Ontario, I spent many evenings at the Revue learning all about European films.  Yes, like so many of my era, I saw much Bergman there, but also had the revelation, through his early comedies, that he was not just the maker of dour films where relationships were always askew and psychic, if not physical, violence always lurked under the surface.  In later years, the Revue’s fare became mainstream, they put in a bigger screen and new seats.  Sitting in plush seats at the Revue seemed almost sinful.

The Revue will close out with Lawrence of Arabia.  There’s hope that it will be revived as a neighbourhood cinema.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, this is a week to say goodbye to four old friends, and with them a good chunk of the old style movie theatres that made Toronto such a movie town.

4 thoughts on “Farewell to the Royal, the Paradise, the Kingsway and the Revue (Updated)

  1. Sob.  These four sisters were, along with the New Yorker, the main reasons TO has been such a great movie-going town.  The economics of movie exhibiting have really skewed in favor of the all-blockbusters-all-the-time system.  I don’t think the crowds that I see at the Revue and Kingsway are smaller than the ones 20 and 30 years ago at the Revue and Cinema Lumiere, yet with a Rogers Video store across the street from the Revue and Kingsway . . .

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  2. God I love those old school movies theatres.  Why can’t they be historical sites like Maple Leaf Gardens?  I guess we will never know, but look at the bright side, Bloor cinema is still busy.  They do all kinds of cool things that I personally enjoy.  The Rue Morgue Cinemacabre Movie Nights are the best, and nothing beats a classic horror flick in a classic theatre!  Popcorn Anyone?

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  3. I attended the final showing at the Revue last night, and it was kind of sad.  It was the oldest surviving theatre in Toronto (1911).  A neighbourhood group is trying to “save” it, but I think it will be a real challenge to do so.

    We now have four of these left: Mt. Pleasant, Regent, Bloor, and Fox. Patronize them!

    Steve:  Here’s hoping the Royal is reborn under its new owners, the same folks who are running the Regent.

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  4. For a short while in the 70s, I managed Cinema Lumiere on College Street.  I now live in Los Angeles, and I’m curious about the history of that old theatre.  When did it close?  Do you know if anything has been written about it?

    Steve:  The building that once was Cinema Lumiere still stands, but it is a computer parts store, one of many clustered around the U of T campus.  The building is mentioned in its original incarnation, the Garden (1912), in a few books on old Toronto theatres (notably “Magic Moments” by Robert W. Gutteridge).  It was a classy place in its time.

    Cinema Lumiere closed in 1978, although there was an attempted renovation as a theatre, but part way through the roof caved in during a rainstorm.  End of theatre.  I suspect that was sometime in the 80s, but I’m not sure of the date and cannot locate a reference.

    On a brighter note, the Royal is reopening with state of the art digital projection equipment.  It will be a post-production house by day, a cinema by night.

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