Why I Loved Toronto
The Runnymede Theatre Chapters is closing.
From memorable dates to a high school hang out, it is with heartbreak that I must report that the Chapters located in the former Runnymede Theatre will close in February of 2014. The thing that is most upsetting is the new retailer that will be occupying the space - Shoppers Drug Mart.
Now the former Runnymede Theatre is a heritage property so it has to be maintained to some extent under heritage law. Reports from the Toronto Star say that the interior and exterior of the building will be preserved when Shoppers Drug Mart moves in. However, I’ll believe it when I see it because it is hard to imagine a Shoppers Drug Mart with character since most of their locations are so sterile and cold. How can you maintain something so warm and cozy when none of your stores embody that quality? The move could work though now that Shoppers Drug Mart has been taken over by the Weston family who recently restored and won an award for their work on the historic Maple Leaf Gardens.
Before I go any further I must ad that this feels like déjà vu – oh right, because it is. In the late 90’s when it was announced that the Runnymede Theatre was to close and that Chapters would be moving in, many couldn’t imagine a bookstores in that space. However, after seeing the restoration of the theatre which included the walls, sconces, cherubs, stage, periwinkle ceiling, balcony and the retention of a few of the theatre chairs and a projector, the community fell in love with the Chapters and it became, in my opinion, the heart of Bloor West Village. For me it was a place to go on a date, hang out with friends, or clear my mind for a moment after a breakup or big exam. For many in the community it was a meeting place for the elderly, new mothers and book lovers. I think that the real upset the community has goes far beyond the possible demise of the heritage building and is more that they are losing gathering space.
So why is Chapters leaving the historic theatre after 15 years? Simple – the newly proposed rent is too high. As previously mentioned the store will be closing in February and Shoppers Drug Mart will hopefully be opened in the Summer of 2014.
We will have to wait and see what the Shoppers Drug Mart has in store for the heritage property and until then the Runnymede Theatre will soon be added to my Why I Loved Toronto list.
The Runnymede Theatre or as many called it The Runny is located in the Bloor West Village area. It was opened in 1927 and closed in the late 90’s. It opened as a vaudeville theatre, which is defined as a theatrical genre of variety entertainment. The building was designed by Alfred Chapman who was the architect of the Royal Ontario Museum and Palais Royale. Chapman’s father was also a filmmaker, which made this project very fitting.
The theatre became so popular for its music and stage shows that large crowds would form outside. The large crowds at time got out of control and therefore there a police presence was required around the theatre.
However, the most famous thing about the theatre had to be its interior which represented Atmospheric style, the first of its kind in Toronto. This style of theatre was noted for its blue ceilings that represented the sky and murals that gave the theatre patron the illusion they were outside. The building was dubbed Canada’s Beautiful Theatre in its peak.
The theatres first two shows were the Fire Brigade and Rookies. When the genre Vaudeville died sometime in the 1930’s the theatre was converted into the movie theatre, then a BINGO hall in the 70’s and in the 80’s was re-opened as a two screen theatre.
When the theatre faced closure there was a large public outcry from residents in the area. However, the public lost this battle and the Runnymede Theatre closed. The last film to be played at the venue was You’ve Got Mail. When Chapters bought the theatre, the company restored the interior to its 1920’s grandeur - winning over the community and architecture lovers all around the world.
- Bloor West Village
- Chapman and Oxley
- Dating on a Budget: The University Students Guide to Dating in Toronto - Bookstores
- Maple Leaf Gardens
- Maple Leaf Gardens (Restoration)
- The Runnymede Theatre