Downtown Theatre – Once in the Heart of Yonge St

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The Downtown Theatre was once located at 285 Yonge St (at Dundas Sq on the northeast corner) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto.

Built in 1947/48, architects Kaplan & Sprachman designed the theatre. Opening night was in October 1948, and the first movie screened was “Let’s Live a Little,” starring Robert Cummings and Hedy Lamarr.

Downtown Theatre closed in 1972. The building became home to retail shops, including Helmsley’s Jewellers, Classic Bookshop and Croissant House, to name a few.

The theatre building was later demolished to make way for a new public park. In 2003, Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square) opened and has been the site of concerts, festivals and events.

Downtown Theatre Photos

1949 - Downtown Theatre was once located on the northeast corner at 285 Yonge St and Dundas Sq. On the marquee, “Kid from Cleveland,” starring George Brent and “Massacre River,” starring Guy Madison, were playing
1949 – Downtown Theatre was once located on the northeast corner at 285 Yonge St and Dundas Sq. On the marquee, “Kid from Cleveland,” starring George Brent and “Massacre River,” starring Guy Madison, were playing (Archives of Ontario I0020595)
2022 – The northeast corner of Yonge St and Dundas Sq was once the site of the Downtown Theatre. Today, the area is home to Yonge-Dundas Square
2022 – The northeast corner of Yonge St and Dundas Sq was once the site of the Downtown Theatre. Today, the area is home to Yonge-Dundas Square
1972 - Looking northeast towards the Downtown Theatre once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq. On the marquee, “Death Master,” starring Robert Quarry and “Dr Phibes Rises Again,” starring Vincent Price, were playing
1972 – Looking northeast towards the Downtown Theatre once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq. On the marquee, “Death Master,” starring Robert Quarry and “Dr Phibes Rises Again,” starring Vincent Price, were playing (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 3)
1950 - During the construction of the subway. Looking south on Yonge St and Dundas St towards the Downtown Theatre once located at 285 Yonge St. On the marquee, “Rock Island Trail,” starring Forrest Tucker, was playing. Notice the Imperial Theatre in the distance. Also, on the right will be the future site of Toronto Eaton Centre
1950 – During the construction of the subway. Looking south on Yonge St and Dundas St towards the Downtown Theatre once located at 285 Yonge St. On the marquee, “Rock Island Trail,” starring Forrest Tucker, was playing. Notice the Imperial Theatre in the distance. Also, on the right will be the future site of Toronto Eaton Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 31, ID 49528)
Between 1970 and 1972 - Looking north on Yonge St, north of Shuter St towards Imperial Theatre and the Downtown Theatre
Between 1970 and 1972 – Looking north on Yonge St, north of Shuter St towards Imperial Theatre and the Downtown Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 312, Item 81)
1950s - Looking north on Yonge St from south of Dundas Sq towards Downtown Theatre, once located at 285 Yonge St. on the left is the future site of Toronto Eaton Centre
1950s – Looking north on Yonge St from south of Dundas Sq towards Downtown Theatre, once located at 285 Yonge St. on the left is the future site of Toronto Eaton Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, ID 8943)
1950 - Looking south on Yonge St from north of Dundas St during subway construction. Notice a portion of the Brown Derby, the Downtown Theatre, and in the distance, the Imperial Theatre
1950 – Looking south on Yonge St from north of Dundas St during subway construction. Notice a portion of the Brown Derby, the Downtown Theatre, and in the distance, the Imperial Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 30, ID 49516)
1950 - Looking north towards the east side of Yonge St from north Shuter St
1950 – Looking north towards the east side of Yonge St from north Shuter St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 28, ID 49495)
1955 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Downtown Theatre
1955 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Downtown Theatre (Toronto Public Library)
1975 - Hemsley’s Jewellers occupied the space of the former Downtown Theatre, once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq
1975 – Hemsley’s Jewellers occupied the space of the former Downtown Theatre, once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1526, File 4, ID 5)
Between 1978 and 1980 - Downtown Theatre was once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq. The building was later occupied by Classic Bookshop and De Franco’s Foods
Between 1978 and 1980 – Downtown Theatre was once located at 285 Yonge St at Dundas Sq. The building was later occupied by Classic Bookshop and De Franco’s Foods (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 308, ID 6)
1987 - Once occupied by the Downtown Theatre, 285 Yonge St was later home to other businesses including the Croissant House
1987 – Once occupied by the Downtown Theatre, 285 Yonge St was later home to other businesses including the Croissant House (City of Toronto Archives, Series 124, File 3, ID 135)
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