Welcome to the Theatre….
One of the wonderful things about being a member of a photography club is the opportunity to shoot places that you wouldn’t normally have access to. One of these opportunities came about last month. I’m on the board of my club, The Toronto Digital Photography Club and I made mention that it would be great to be able to shoot at the Winter Garden Theatre here in Toronto. The answer came back…”that’s great Edith can you arrange an outing for us.” So after months of coordinating with the management of the theatre we were able to schedule a date when the theatre was dark, for our members to come in and shoot.
The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre complex was built in 1913 as the Canadian flagship of the Marcus Loew’s theatre chain. It was built as a double-decker complex with the Winter Garden seven stories above the Elgin Theatre. It was originally known as the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre.
The two theatres were so dramatically different in style (as you’ll see in the images that I’ll post over the next little while). The Elgin was the more traditional of the two theatres, filled with gold leaf, rich fabrics and ornate opera boxes. The Winter Garden on the other hand was a botanical fantasy. The walls were painted to resemble a garden and its ceiling was adorned with branches, leaves and lanterns. “The theatres played host to such greats as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.”
With the decline of vaudeville the Winter Garden closed in 1928. The Elgin continued to function as a movie house but it continue to decline into disrepair with each passing decade. In 1981 the Ontario Heritage Trust purchased the building and in 1987 a $29 million restoration project began. The walls of the Winter Garden were painstakingly hand cleaned to avoid damaging the original hand painted watercolors. In 1989 the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre reopened and has once again become one of Canada’s finest theatre houses. Hits such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Rent, Tommy, Avenue Q has graced the stage and every year it now serves as one of the venues for gala screens for the Toronto International Film Festival.
Click on the image to enlarge (trust me it really looks better) or to Purchase a Print.