Royal Theatre, originally The Pylon in the Little Italy Neighbourhood

1939 - The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St in the Little Italy neighbourhood. On the marquee, "U-BOAT 29," starring Conrad Veidt and Sebastian Shaw and "Topper Takes a Trip," starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young and Billie Burke, were playing and released in 1939 and 1938, respectively
1939 – The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St in the Little Italy neighbourhood (Ontario Jewish Archives, Fonds 27, Series 1 File 20

The Royal, originally Pylon Theatre, is located at 608 College St (east of Clinton St on the north side) in the Little Italy neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Pylon Theatre & Ray Lewis

Built in 1938/39, architect Benjamin Swartz designed The Pylon Theatre for Ray Lewis. The Art Moderne style structure features a yellow-brick facade and initially had over 700 seats. Ms Lewis named it the Pylon after an airport’s beacon light so that her theatre would be “the guide to good entertainment.”

A good friend of hers was the famous British actress Anna Neagle. During the construction of The Pylon, Ms Neagle made a guest appearance and left her shoe prints and signature in the floor of the theatre. The Pylon’s opening night gala on October 26, 1939, featured the comedy-drama “This Man Is News” starring Barry Barnes, Alistar Sims and Valerie Hobson.

Born Rae Levinsky to a Jewish family in 1883, Ray Lewis was a pioneer in the Canadian film industry. Along with building The Pylon Theatre, Ms Lewis was the editor and publisher of the “Canadian Moving Picture Digest,” a trade journal for the country’s film exhibitors, from the late 1910s until her passing in 1954. Ray Lewis, whose married name was Mrs Joshua Smith, was also a writer and poet and an influential entrepreneur in Toronto theatre in a time when it was rare for a woman to own and operate a company.

1954 - Looking north towards the entrance of The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located at 608 College St. On the marquee, "Cenerentola," starring Vito De Taranto, Gino Del Signore and Afro Poli, was playing and released in 1949
1954 – Looking north towards the entrance of The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located at 608 College St. On the marquee, “Cenerentola,” starring Vito De Taranto, Gino Del Signore and Afro Poli, was playing and released in 1949 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC12909)

In 1948, the theatre added a candy stand and, in the 1950s, began showing Italian films. After four decades in operation, the Pylon closed in the early 1980s.

Golden Princess Theatre

From 1983 to 1992, the Toronto Yellow Pages show the theatre reopened as the Golden Princess and screened Chinese films.

The Royal Theatre

In the late 1990s, the owners of Festival Cinemas, which operated second-run movie houses in Toronto, including the Fox, Revue, Bloor, Paradise and the Kingsway, were contacted by residents in the Little Italy neighbourhood. They let the theatre chain know there were plans to tear down the College St theatre and replace it with a parking lot. So, Festival Cinemas purchased the building, spent $200,000 on renovations, reduced the number of seats to 500 (to give more leg room), and renamed it The Royal. Opening night was on December 6, 1997.

In 2005, the theatre building received heritage status from the City of Toronto.

2021 - Looking northwest towards The Royal, originally Pylon Theatre, located at 608 College St. Notice the CHIN Building in the background
2021 – Looking northwest towards The Royal, originally Pylon Theatre, located at 608 College St. Notice the CHIN Building in the background

The Royal Today

In June 2006, three of the five Festival Cinemas Group theatres closed, which included The Royal. A month later, the neighbourhood landmark was sold for $2.2 million. Its new owner, Theatre D Digital, restored the theatre at the cost of about $1 million to make it look as it did when it first opened in 1939. During the restoration, actress Anna Neagle’s footprints were discovered underneath terrazzo flooring. Along with fitting the auditorium with a state-of-the-art digital sound-mixing board, four digital editing suites were also added to the theatre. The Royal reopened in December of 2006.

Today, the completely renovated Royal Theatre is a multi-function facility. The 400-seat venue has been host to comedy shows, film festivals, concerts and more.

The Royal Photos

1939 - The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St in the Little Italy neighbourhood. On the marquee, "U-BOAT 29," starring Conrad Veidt and Sebastian Shaw and "Topper Takes a Trip," starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young and Billie Burke, were playing and released in 1939 and 1938, respectively
1939 – The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St in the Little Italy neighbourhood. On the marquee, “U-BOAT 29,” starring Conrad Veidt and Sebastian Shaw and “Topper Takes a Trip,” starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young and Billie Burke, were playing and released in 1939 and 1938, respectively (Ontario Jewish Archives, Fonds 27, Series 1 File 20
2021 - Looking northwest towards The Royal, originally Pylon Theatre, located at 608 College St. Notice the CHIN Building in the background
2021 – Looking northwest towards The Royal, originally Pylon Theatre, located at 608 College St. Notice the CHIN Building in the background
Early 1970s - Looking northwest on College St, east of Clinton St towards The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal. On the marquee, "Armiamoci e partite!," starring Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia anf Martine Brochard, was playing and released in 1971. Notice amongst the shops is Vesuvio Restaurant
Early 1970s – Looking northwest on College St, east of Clinton St towards The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal. On the marquee, “Armiamoci e partite!,” starring Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia anf Martine Brochard, was playing and released in 1971. Notice amongst the shops is Vesuvio Restaurant (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 137)
2021 - The Royal, originally The Pylon Theatre located at 608 College St in the Little Italy neighbourhood
2021 – The Royal, originally The Pylon Theatre located at 608 College St in the Little Italy neighbourhood
1955 - Looking east along the College St sidewalk in Little Italy, from underneath The Pylon Theatre's marquee
1955 – Looking east along the College St sidewalk in Little Italy, from underneath The Pylon Theatre’s marquee (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC12910)
2020 – Looking east along the College St sidewalk in Little Italy, from underneath The Royal Theatre's marquee
2020 – Looking east along the College St sidewalk in Little Italy, from underneath The Royal Theatre’s marquee
2022 - The marquee and sign at The Royal located at 608 College St in Little Italy
2022 – The marquee and sign at The Royal located at 608 College St in Little Italy
2022 – Looking north from College St towards The Royal Theatre, originally The Pylon, located in the Little Italy neighbourhood
2022 – Looking north from College St towards The Royal Theatre, originally The Pylon, located in the Little Italy neighbourhood
1954 - Looking north towards the entrance of The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located at 608 College St. On the marquee, "Cenerentola," starring Vito De Taranto, Gino Del Signore and Afro Poli, was playing and released in 1949
1954 – Looking north towards the entrance of The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located at 608 College St. On the marquee, “Cenerentola,” starring Vito De Taranto, Gino Del Signore and Afro Poli, was playing and released in 1949 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC12909)
2020 – The Royal Theatre is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St. On the marquee, "Barry Lyndon," starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson and Patrick Magee, was playing and released in 1975
2020 – The Royal Theatre is located at 608 College St, east of Clinton St. On the marquee, “Barry Lyndon,” starring Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson and Patrick Magee, was playing and released in 1975
1970s - The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located on College St, east of Clinton St
1970s – The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located on College St, east of Clinton St (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 137)
2020 – Looking east towards The Royal Theatre located at 608 College St
2020 – Looking east towards The Royal Theatre located at 608 College St
August 1, 1939 - British actress Anna Neagle (in the centre) was a friend of Ray Lewis (on the right), the owner of The Pylon Theatre. During the construction of The Pylon, Ms Neagle made a guest appearance at the theatre while on her Toronto tour promoting the movies "Victoria the Great," "60 Glorious Years," and "Nurse Edith Cavell"
August 1, 1939 – British actress Anna Neagle (in the centre) was a friend of Ray Lewis (on the right), the owner of The Pylon Theatre. During the construction of The Pylon, Ms Neagle made a guest appearance at the theatre while on her Toronto tour promoting the movies “Victoria the Great,” “60 Glorious Years,” and “Nurse Edith Cavell” (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3855)
August 1, 1939 - The Pylon, today The Royal Theatre, is located at 608 College St in the Little Italy neighbourhood. Anna Neagle, a famous British actress, is making shoe prints in cement as Herbert Wilcox and others look on. During a 2006 restoration, her shoe prints and signature were discovered underneath terrazzo flooring at The Royal
August 1, 1939 – The Pylon, today The Royal Theatre, is located at 608 College St in the Little Italy neighbourhood. Anna Neagle, a famous British actress, is making shoe prints in cement as Herbert Wilcox and others look on. During a 2006 restoration, her shoe prints and signature were discovered underneath terrazzo flooring at The Royal (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3849)
August 1, 1939 - The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located on College St, east of Clinton St. Famous British actress Anna Neagle signing her name in cement after making her shoe prints, as Herbert Wilcox and others look on. Ms Neagle was a friend of The Pylon Theatre's owner, Rae Levinsky
August 1, 1939 – The Pylon Theatre, today The Royal, located on College St, east of Clinton St. Famous British actress Anna Neagle signing her name in cement after making her shoe prints, as Herbert Wilcox and others look on. Ms Neagle was a friend of The Pylon Theatre’s owner, Rae Levinsky (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3852)
2021 - Looking northwest from College St towards The Royal Theatre located at 608 College St
2021 – Looking northwest from College St towards The Royal Theatre located at 608 College St
Early 1970s - The Pylon Theatre's marquee, "Noi Donne Siamo Fatte Così," starring Monica Vitti, Carlo Giuffrè and Enrico Maria Salerno and "I Giorni Dell'Ira," starring Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma and Walter Rilla, were playing and released in 1971 and 1969, respectively
Early 1970s – The Pylon Theatre’s marquee, “Noi Donne Siamo Fatte Così,” starring Monica Vitti, Carlo Giuffrè and Enrico Maria Salerno and “I Giorni Dell’Ira,” starring Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma and Walter Rilla, were playing and released in 1971 and 1969, respectively (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 137)
1969 - Vesuvio Restaurant and La Cicogna Italian Imports next to The Pylon Theatre's marquee. It looks as though the store at 610 College St is listed for sale
1969 – Vesuvio Restaurant and La Cicogna Italian Imports next to The Pylon Theatre’s marquee. It looks as though the store at 610 College St is listed for sale (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 137)
1940 – A letter from  Ray Lewis (also known as Miss Rae Levinsky and Mrs Joshua Smith), the owner of The Pylon Theatre
1940 – A letter from Ray Lewis (also known as Miss Rae Levinsky and Mrs Joshua Smith), the owner of The Pylon Theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Ken Webster Fonds, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 137)
1940 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address and phone number of The Pylon Theatre
1940 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address and phone number of The Pylon Theatre (Toronto Public Library)
1983 - The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Golden Princess Theatre
1983 – The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Golden Princess Theatre (Toronto Public Library)
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