I had a great time covering Openfile Toronto‘s #citysigns project this week, including a look at Toronto’s remaining theatre marquees. The third and final story examines the curious history of the Matador Tavern’s neon sign dangling above 466 Dovercourt Rd.
Mere steps from the tavern, which began its storied career as a dance hall during World War I and a bowling alley in the 1950s, was Detroit architect C. Howard Crane’s majestic College Theatre. At 1588 seats, it was the only Toronto house in the once-mighty Allen chain to feature a curved, street-corner entrance.
Three years before the Allen chain of national theatres declared bankruptcy — selling most of its assets to the burgeoning Famous Players Canada Corporation — they opened the College Theatre on the north-west corner of College, at Dovercourt, on May 24, 1920 with the forgotten Tom Moore feature Duds. It was the last of their major theatres built in Toronto, which also included the Allen (later known as the Tivoli under FPC), the Bloor, the Parkdale, the Beach, the Danforth and the St-Clair.
Into the 1930s and 1940s, the College played the latest Hollywood hits after they’d premiered at the Imperial on Yonge St. Similar programming was often found at the Parkdale, Beach or St-Clair (example: this ad for Command Decision starring Clark Gable from June 25, 1949).
By the time the Elite Bowling Lanes became the Matador Ballroom in 1964, the College’s days were numbered; it closed in 1966 and the building was later demolished, making way for a strip of retail outlets now lining College St. [Streetview shot here]
Image source: Library & Archives Canada PA-111080