Theatorium, later Red Mill – Toronto’s First Permanent Theatre

1913 - Looking southeast towards the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium and Toronto's first permanent moving pictures theatre, once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, "A Red Girl's Sacrifice," starring Mona Darkfeather, was playing and released in 1913
1913 – Looking southeast towards the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium and Toronto’s first permanent moving pictures theatre, once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 640)

Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St (north of Queen St on the east side) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto.

The Theatorium

In March 1906, The Theatorium was opened by John C Griffin. It was Toronto’s first permanent moving pictures theatre. The building was just 5 m or 17 ft wide and 30.5 m or 100 ft long; however, it was in a high-traffic area, directly across the street from Eaton’s. The exterior was covered in movie posters. A “barker,” a person who uses their voice to advertise and attract patrons, was at the theatre’s entrance. Inside, there was bench-style seating for 150 people, and the screen was simply a plain painted wall. Admission was 5¢ and was known as “the nickel show.” The opening film at The Theatorium was The Train Wreckers, an 11-minute short released in 1905. Along with showing movies, Vaudeville acts were added to the lineup.

1913 - Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located on Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, "Love and the Workman," was playing and released in 1913
1913 – Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located on Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 638)

Red Mill Theatre

Around 1911, the Griffin Amusement Company sold The Theatorium and the Crystal Palace to LJ Applegath, a Yonge Street hatter. The Theatorium was renamed Red Mill Theatre. That same year, the theatre showed a war film that offended the public. The story made it to the newspapers, which in turn established censorship at the provincial level. From then on, movies shown in Ontario had to be screened and censored by the Ontario Board of Censors. In a vintage photo below, a sign at the entrance of the Red Mill Theatre says, “Children under 15 not admitted unless accompanied by adults.” Before the Board, censorship was looked after by the neighbourhood police stations.

When Lowes’s Theatre, today’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, opened in 1913 just a few doors north, there was concern that the Red Mill Theatre, which had increased its seating capacity to 227, would go under; however, the Red Mill remained open until the early 1930s.

After the Theatre

When the theatre closed, the building became home to Peoples Credit Jewelers (Peoples Jewellers) and later Canada’s Gold Supermarket. The former theatre building was demolished and replaced with the present-day mixed-use tower.

Griffin Amusement Company

From the early 1900s to the early 1930s, the Griffin Amusement Company operated a chain of vaudeville and moving picture theatres in the city, including the Auditorium, Lyric, Majestic and the Maple Leaf, as well as theatres throughout Ontario, including in Ottawa, Belleville, Stratford, Sudbury and more. When Toronto-native John C Griffin passed away in 1931, he was considered a pioneer in Canada’s moving pictures industry and one of the country’s best-known showpeople.

Red Mill Theatre Photos

1913 - Looking southeast towards the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium and Toronto's first permanent moving pictures theatre, once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, "A Red Girl's Sacrifice," starring Mona Darkfeather, was playing and released in 1913
1913 – Looking southeast towards the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium and Toronto’s first permanent moving pictures theatre, once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, “A Red Girl’s Sacrifice,” starring Mona Darkfeather, was playing and released in 1913 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 640)
1914 - Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the posters, "A Singular Cynic," starring Florence Lawrence, Matt Moore and Jack Newton and "The Crash," starring Ford Sterling, were playing and both released in 1914
1914 – Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the posters, “A Singular Cynic,” starring Florence Lawrence, Matt Moore and Jack Newton and “The Crash,” starring Ford Sterling, were playing and both released in 1914 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 320A)
1913 - Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium,  was once located on Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, "Love and the Workman," was playing and released in 1913
1913 – Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located on Yonge St, north of Queen St on the east side. On the poster, “Love and the Workman,” was playing and released in 1913 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 638)
1913 - Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St. Notice the small censorship sign on the right of the photo that says, "Children under 15 not admitted unless accompanied by adults." Also, notice the clock with advertising and the weather forecast
1913 – Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St. Notice the small censorship sign on the right of the photo that says, “Children under 15 not admitted unless accompanied by adults.” Also, notice the clock with advertising and the weather forecast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 649)
November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day celebrations on Yonge St. Notice the Red Mill Theatre on the left
November 11, 1918 – Armistice Day celebrations on Yonge St. Notice the Red Mill Theatre on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 887)
1914 - A plan of the Red Mill showing the theatre's layout, including the entrance and exit, ticket office, location of the operating box, seating area, aisle, and stairwells. The Red Mill Theatre had 227 seats
1914 – A plan of the Red Mill showing the theatre’s layout, including the entrance and exit, ticket office, location of the operating box, seating area, aisle, and stairwells. The Red Mill Theatre had 227 seats (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 158)
1935 - Looking north on Yonge St, from south of Queen St. Notice Peoples Credit Jewelers on the right, two doors south of Loew's Theatre (today's Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre). The building that Peoples Credit Jewelers occupied at 183 Yonge St, was previously home to the Theatorium and Red Mill Theatre
1935 – Looking north on Yonge St, from south of Queen St. Notice Peoples Credit Jewelers on the right, two doors south of Loew’s Theatre (today’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre). The building that Peoples Credit Jewelers occupied at 183 Yonge St, was previously home to the Theatorium and Red Mill Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 11702)
2022 - Looking northeast towards the corner of Yonge St and Queen St E. The Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, just a few doors north of Queen St E. The former theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
2022 – Looking northeast towards the corner of Yonge St and Queen St E. The Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, just a few doors north of Queen St E. The former theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
1978 - Looking southeast on Yonge St, north of Queen St. Theatorium, later Red Mill Theatre, once occupied the building to the right of Diana Sweets, where Peoples Jewellers was
1978 – Looking southeast on Yonge St, north of Queen St. Theatorium, later Red Mill Theatre, once occupied the building to the right of Diana Sweets, where Peoples Jewellers was (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 4, Item 18)
2022 - Looking southeast towards where the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, once stood at 183 Yonge St, just north of Queen St E. The theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space. Notice on the left that the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre was just a few doors north of the Red Mill
2022 – Looking southeast towards where the Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, once stood at 183 Yonge St, just north of Queen St E. The theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space. Notice on the left that the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre was just a few doors north of the Red Mill
1980s - Theatorium, later Red Mill Theatre, was once at 183 Yonge St, where Canada's Gold Supermarket was located
1980s – Theatorium, later Red Mill Theatre, was once at 183 Yonge St, where Canada’s Gold Supermarket was located (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 158)
Between 1985 to 1987 - An aerial view looking southeast on Yonge St towards the Elgin Theatre, Diana Sweets, Canada's Gold Supermarket and Suit Master. Red Mill Theatre, originally Theatorium, was once located to the right of Diana Sweets
Between 1985 to 1987 – An aerial view looking southeast on Yonge St towards the Elgin Theatre, Diana Sweets, Canada’s Gold Supermarket and Suit Master. Red Mill Theatre, originally Theatorium, was once located to the right of Diana Sweets (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 25)
2020 - Looking northeast toward the corner of Yonge St and Queen St. Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St. The former theatre building was demolished, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
2020 – Looking northeast toward the corner of Yonge St and Queen St. Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St. The former theatre building was demolished, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
2022 - Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, just north of Queen St E. The former theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
2022 – Red Mill Theatre, originally The Theatorium, was once located at 183 Yonge St, just north of Queen St E. The former theatre building was torn down, and today, a mixed-use tower occupies the space
1920 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Red Mill Theatre
1920 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Red Mill Theatre (Toronto Public Library)
1909 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of The Theatorium listed under the owner John Griffin
1909 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of The Theatorium listed under the owner John Griffin (Toronto Public Library)
SOURCE
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Aug 23, 1910, pg 1
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: May 29, 1913, pg 3
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 20, 1913, pg 14
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 14, 1931, pg 11
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Feb 28, 1986, pg D5
  • Canadian Film Weekly: Dec 31, 1960s – Two Old-Timers
  • IMDB
  • Ontario Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery: Ontario Board of Censors
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives
  • Toronto City Directory by Might Directories Ltd 1909 & 1920 courtesy of Toronto Public Library