Jarvis Street @ Carlton: a Toronto artist remembers the Uptown Theatre

Visual artist MICHAEL BROWN is spending part of his summer painting a utility box at Jarvis & Carlton Streets commemorating TORONTO’s former Uptown movie palace.

The theatre, which opened in 1920 with 3,000 seats, met an unfortunate end.  It collapsed inward, while being demolished – killing one young man and wounding fourteen others.

The Uptown was built for vaudeville and cinema during the Roaring Twenties.  Until 1969 it was one single auditorium.  After shutting down for three months, it reopened as one of North America’s first multiplexes.

The Uptown 1,2 and 3 played major Hollywood releases, and the Backstage 1 and 2 regularly played art films.  The Toronto International Film Festival rented the cinemas for several years in a row.

In 2001, new regulations required wheelchair access to all theatres.  The Uptown’s owners refused to lay our $700,000 for an upgrade, and sold the building to developers who planned to demolish it and put up condos.

During demolition, a large section of the theatre collapsed after a vital steel support beam on a roof truss was cut.  The Uptown collapsed in on itself, taking an adjacent language school with it.

<Cinema One, created from the original Uptown balcony, ca1969, Roger Jowell photo>

<One of the Backstage cinemas, ca1969, Roger Jowell photo, City of Toronto Archives>

<Uptown condos on the site today>

*** To see more of MICHAEL BROWN’s work, check his website: http://www.michaeljeremybrown.ca

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One thought on “Jarvis Street @ Carlton: a Toronto artist remembers the Uptown Theatre

  1. Thanks David for bringing this story to your blog and to your readers. It was great to read the background on the Uptown in your post.

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