The shuttered Music Hall at 147 Danforth Avenue.
In hindsight, when you’re a year away from being locked out by the bailiff on account of being forty-four thousand dollars and change in the hole, charging patrons a buck admission to attend a film at the Music Hall probably wasn’t sound business practice.
But hey, it was a community event, so what the heck.
Since around about the time of the dollar admission charge back in August of 2009, things have gone off the rails for Ellipsis Leisure Retail Inc., the Music Hall’s tenant for the past five years. In the summer of 2010, Ellipsis was evicted from the premises by the Music Hall’s owner, Electra Films Ltd.
Electra is a family-run business, headed by Mike Andrikopoulos. According to Andrikopoulos, the former tenant and their eventual eviction is all in the past (as well as in the courts), and Andrikopoulos doesn’t wish to dwell there, insisting the Music Hall is moving forward.
If, however, you’re the type who actually enjoys dwelling in the past, here’s a (condensed) historical timeline of the Music Hall, from its opening ninety-one years ago, through to its current uncertain status.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Thomas Edison is credited with ushering in the birth of modern cinema with the invention of the Vitascope. Buttered popcorn and sticky floors soon followed. Fast-forward to 1919, when Toronto brothers Jule and Jay J. Allen open Allen’s Danforth Theatre, at 147 Danforth Avenue. Upon opening, the austere cinema house bills itself as Canada’s “First Super Suburban Photoplay Palace.” All would go well for the Brothers Allen—that is, until 1923 when their theatre chain, including Allen’s Danforth, fell on hard times.
That same year, 1923, Famous Players swooped in, acquiring Allen’s Danforth and renaming it The Century. The Century remained The Century for less than a century, or until 1970, when the theatre was rechristened The Titania.
For most of the following decade, the screen featured Greek-language cinema. By 1978, the Greeks were sacked in favour of live performances by such bands as The Ramones and The Clash. That same year, the theatre experienced another name change, gaining its current moniker, the Music Hall. Unfortunately for music lovers, the Music Hall’s days as a live venue were limited. The Music Hall eventually became part of Toronto’s Festival Chain of repertory theatres, showing second-run films.
The theatre had begun to show its age, however, and closed to the public in ill health in 2004. It would remain locked until Ellipsis Leisure Retail Inc. signed a lease and set up shop on the premises.
With Ellipsis booking the stage and the screen, the future of the historic theatre brightened. The interior was spruced up and, to the delight of music fans, 147 Danforth Avenue once again became a venue for live performances. In the following five years, the likes of Sam Roberts, The Tragically Hip, and Tegan and Sara all performed on the Music Hall’s stage.
In 2008, the Music Hall received the Canadian Music Industry’s Performance Art Centre of the Year award, in the under–1500 seat capacity category. Heritage Toronto also presented a plaque to the Music Hall in August of 2009, and in October of the same year, Dancap Productions’ version of Toxic Avenger opened.
By all appearances, things were looking up—but they weren’t.
Toxic Avenger proved toxic to ticket sales, and only a month and ten days after opening, it was announced that production would be halted on January 2, 2010. The last big, live musical performance at the Music Hall was Arcade Fire’s concert this past June.
Eviction notice at 147 Danforth Avenue.
On August 16, 2010, a bailiff’s notice was posted, serving notice to Ellipsis Leisure Retail Inc. that they were being booted off the property. (Repeated attempts on Torontoist’s part to reach Glyn Laverick, who headed up Ellipsis, were unsuccessful.) The Notice to Terminate posted on the theatre doors stated the rent was past due: Electra Films Ltd. was owed $44,857.86. [ : Shortly after this article was published, Ellipsis Entertainment forwarded a statement that they said they’d sent out to media outlets after the Danforth’s closure; they maintain that, in part because of a 70% increase in rent, running the Danforth Music Hall was “no longer sustainable.” Ellipsis also claims to have “fulfilled all legal obligations to the property and is looking forward to future endeavors.”]
After all this, Electra’s top man, Mike Andrikopoulos, remains optimistic. He insists the Music Hall’s stage will once again be lit. He also pledged to never entertain the idea of selling out to condo developers or a grocery store chain; instead, he says, Electra Films Ltd. is in negotiations with a prospective, yet to be identified, tenant.
Photos by Harry Choi/Torontoist.