The Westwood Theatre

 
The Westwood Theatre opened on February 28, 1952, with Ontario Premier Leslie Frost in attendance for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Located at Bloor and Islington, the 1000-seat movie house was one of several new Toronto theatres built to serve the urban sprawl of the post-war years.

f1257_s1057_it84801-westwoodIt was a rather toned-down affair when compared to the opulence found in other new downtown theatres like the University and the Odeon Carlton, which had opened a few years earlier. Still, the 20th Century theatre, originally built as a single-screen house (later tripled) is an example of the later work of architects Kaplan & Sprachman, who designed the Eglinton and the Circle; it was the first in Canada to feature a floating screen; and one of the first to feature a front-end parking lot, later a common occurence in the age of the multiplex.

These innovations were typical of 20th Century Theatres. Nat Taylor, who founded the company in 1934, is credited with pioneering the multi-screen concept when he twinned Ottawa’s Elgin Theatre in 1957. Along with Garth Drabinsky, he founded Cineplex and opened the Eaton Centre Cineplex in 1979, then the world’s largest multiplex cinema.

The Westwood closed in 1998 and its interior was demolished during the shooting of Resident Evil 2 a few years later. The building, which served Toronto’s west-end residents for nearly fifty years, is slated for demolition to make way for a new provincial court house.

Sources: Toronto Star, February 29, 1952; Archives of Ontario Regulatory Files

COMMENTS

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  • John Wallington

    The Westwood was duelled around 1969 or 70. It was the first theatre in Toronto to have automation in the projection room. Not fancy platters like they have today but 6000 ft reels with automatic change-overs. The Company felt that only one projectionist was required to run 2 auditoriums. Of course as a projectionist I felt differently. They held a midnight screening for the Projectionist’s Union, I.A.T.S.E Local 173. I was in attendance at that screening along with many interested Union Members. It was the writing on the wall. The Union finally agreed to 1 man for 2 theatres, which eventually escalated into the megaplexes of today. I worked as a projectionist for another 15 years. Others stretched it out until the end in the late 90’s when Premier Harris introduced the “Red Tape Reduction Act” eliminating projectionist licenses and the need for trained, qualified people to operate projection equipment in Ontario. Few theatres today use qualified people. Two examples of theatres that do, are the Bloor and the new Bell Lightbox. I would be interested in hearing of any others. But the Westwood is where it all began in Toronto.

    John Wallington
    Retired Member of I.A.T.S.E. Local 173

  • John: Thanks for the insight. Did 173 put up a long fight?

    Shame about the lax regulations for todays projectionists. Nothing worse than seeing improperly built-up platters or bad switch-overs.

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