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October 22nd, 2014

What is the name fo the longest continually running neighbourhood movie house in Toronto?

"NABES" - Entertained Generations of Beachers

In the days before television, the neighbourhood movie theatre or "nabe" was a popular place to go for entertainment. The Beaches area was well served by four movie houses.

The best known is the Fox, at 2236 Queen St. East. This 550-seat theatre opened in October 1913 as the "theatre without a name". After several name changes it became the Fox in 1938. TV's arrival in the early 1950s spelled the end for many small movie houses, but the Fox managed to survive. This much-loved theatre shows first-run movies and classics every night of the week.

Another early nabe, the Family, entertained moviegoers in the central part of the Beaches. The Family "Home of Ideal Entertainment" was built in 1914 and renamed the Lake in the 1940s. This cosy-looking theatre with its modest marquee was a favourite haunt of Norman Jewison, who went on to become a famous film maker. The building at 2173 Queen St. East later became a Royal Bank and now houses a number of small businesses.

The 1300-seat Beach Theatre to the west opened its doors in December 1919. Built by the Allen family, it was the largest and most elaborate movie house in the area. The theatre was made to impress. The long side of the building fronted the street, which was unusual at the time, and the interior was lavishly decorated with rose and ivory wallpaper, French windows and immense chandeliers. The theatre closed in the late 1960s.

Kingston Road had the 700-seat Scarboro, built in 1936. Although the theatre no longer exists, the building as MR. Slate Sports Bar at 960 Kingston Road has kept its original Art Deco façade. Soon it will become a modern condo.

Toronto's small movie houses could not compete with the multiplex theatres that came along in the 1970s. Most of them closed down and the buildings where people had enjoyed hours of entertainment became places of business.

If you are interested in old Toronto movie theaters, you can pick up a copy of The "Nabes" Toronto's wonderful neighbourhood movie houses, by John Sebert.

Image reference:
Family: City of Toronto Archives. SC488-2782
Scarboro: City of Toronto Archives. SC488-1128
Beach: National Archives of Canada. PA111060


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