by Eric Veillette
In today’s Saturday Star, I write about the Danforth Music Hall’s upcoming 90th anniversary. On Tuesday, August 18, Heritage Toronto and the Riverdale Historical Society will be celebrating this milestone by unveiling a plaque in its honour. By recreating the events from nearly a century ago, the evening will also feature a silent film, Dollars and Sense, with live accompaniment.
The Music Hall, originally known as Allen’s Danforth, remains one of the best examples of this former theatre empire. Other Toronto Allen survivors are the Bloor and Parkdale. The former – a popular midtown cinema until the late 1950s – now operates as Lee’s Palace; the latter as an antique mall where Queen St. meets Triller Ave. The Tivoli, the first Toronto Allen theatre at the corner of Richmond and Victoria Sts., was demolished in 1965 due to the the ever-changing cinematic landscape and the expanding infrastructure of the downtown core.
The Music Hall was my first nabe. When I moved to Toronto nearly a decade ago, I settled into a great apartment across from Broadview station. Having better things to do than unpack boxes, I ventured east on Danforth and got a membership at the dearly departed Revue Video, then walked into the Music Hall for a matinee screening of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom. I missed most of the opening nightclub scene, but I’d seen it enough times. I was just amazed that I lived kiddie-corner to such a grand movie palace.
Throughout the years, I’ve managed to live near a variety of cinemas: the Royal, the former Eglinton, and while living in Montreal, the former Snowdon, arguably one of the best art-nouveau cinemas in North America. But the Music Hall came first; although my love for cinema goes back to my childhood, munching on popcorn in the Victory Theatre in Timmins, I credit this grand building on the edge of Riverdale for later inspiring me to unearth the histories of our old movie-houses.
See! The Allen’s Danforth opening night ad. Source: Toronto Telegram, August 18, 1919. Courtesy of Paul Moore.
See! An ad for a Mid-Nite Horror Show from 1972. As the Titania, it featured Greek films, but on weekends, it was a haven for cult and horror fans. Source: Toronto Star, Jul.2, 1972.
Top photo: the Music Hall as the Century, late 1939. Source: the Archives of Ontario.