Runnymede Theatre – The Historic Theatre is Now a Drug Store

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2021 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart and formerly Chapters bookstore
2021 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart and formerly Chapters bookstore

The Runnymede Theatre was located at ‪2223 Bloor St W‬ (on the south side, west of Runnymede Rd) in Toronto’s Bloor West Village neighbourhood.

The Architecture of the Runnymede Theatre

Opening in 1927, the Runnymede Theatre was both a vaudeville theatre and a moving picture palace. Designed by the prominent Toronto architectural firm Chapman & Oxley, Famous Players built the historic 1,550-seat theatre. Dubbed “Canada’s Theatre Beautiful,” it cost $250,000 to construct and was one of the first Atmospheric-style theatres in the country.

On the exterior of the 2½-storey building, there’s an impressive red brick facade. The taller centre section of the facade features a decorative front panel and is crowned with an elaborate cornice. Other exterior elements include a ticket booth, stone trim and fancy brickwork around the windows.

1989 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
1989 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 169, Item 106)

Inside, the magnificent Runnymede Theatre whisked flicker fans to far-off lands under a starry night sky. The auditorium walls featured beautiful large murals of building facades, garden foliage and trees. The treetops met the ceiling, painted to look like an azure blue sky. Tiny lights in the ceiling made it appear like guests were under a starry sky while cloud effects were projected across it. There is also ornate plasterwork throughout the auditorium, including on the proscenium arch, the twisted columns, the clamshell wall sconces and the decorative ornamentation at the top of the pilasters.

Opening Night

The June 2, 1927 evening brought an enthusiastic crowd of thousands to see the grand Moorish-style theatre. Bloor St West was decorated with banners and the Union Jack. Many of those who lined the streets were turned away due to the sell-out show. After a speech by the theatre’s manager, there was an on-screen presentation showing familiar faces of the business district. This was followed by the movies “Fire Brigade” and a side-splitting comedy called “Rookies.” There was also a stage performance by Harvey Doney called “On the Road to Mandalay.” At 9:30 pm on that premier evening, the Lieutenant-Governor, The Honorable William D Ross, entered the theatre, and the audience gasped with delight.

Through the Years

In the 1930s, as interest in vaudeville theatre began to dwindle, The Runnymede became a movie house only.

1942 - Runnymede Theatre on Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd
1942 – Runnymede Theatre on Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 147)

In 1972, the theatre was converted into a bingo hall. Eight years later, the landmark was restored back to a cozy nabe theatre and renovated to feature two screens.

In 1998, Alliance Cinemas took over the management of the Runnymede Theatre; however, just a year later, the neighbourhood theatre closed down as the rent was $35,000 per month.

Chapters & Shoppers Drug Mart

That same year, Chapters bookstore took over the building. The company spent over $3.5 million renovating the theatre for its own use and restoration work.

In 2014 when Chapters lease expired, the beloved landmark became home to Shoppers Drug Mart.

From the preserved walls and ceiling to the medallion and stage, it’s pretty impressive. Red velvet curtains frame the theatre’s wooden stage while vintage neighbourhood images are shown on a large screen.

Haunted Tales

The building is rumoured to be haunted by a young female spirit who, many years ago, died on stage when a sandbag fell on her. There have been reports from former theatre and bookstore employees and customers of uneasy feelings and odd occurrences. Click for more haunted tales.

Did You Know?

  • Architects’ Chapman & Oxley designed many buildings and structures in Toronto, including Danforth Theatre & the Princes’ Gates.
  • The Runnymede Theatre was designated a heritage property by the City in 1990.
  • When the theatre closed in February 1999, the last movie shown (by no coincidence) was You’ve Got Mail.
  • How did Runnymede Rd get its name? In the early to mid-1800s, a businessman named John Scarlett owned a large swath of land north of Bloor St W and west of Keele St. In 1838, he built a home on the land near Dundas St W and Keele St. He named the house Runnymede after the famous meadows on the River Thames, just southwest of London, England, were in 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta.

Runnymede Theatre Photos

1942 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
1942 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
1942 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart 1942 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 251, Series 1278, File 147)
2021 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart and formerly Chapters bookstore
2021 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart and formerly Chapters bookstore
1989 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
1989 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd – now Shoppers Drug Mart (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 169, Item 106)
Undated photo - Auditorium and stage at the Runnymede Theatre
Undated photo – Auditorium and stage at the Runnymede Theatre (Swansea Historical Society Archives)
2020 - View of the restoration and former auditorium from the balcony level of Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – View of the restoration and former auditorium from the balcony level of Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 - Decorative "RUNNYMEDE" sign over the stage
2020 – Decorative “RUNNYMEDE” sign over the stage
2020 - Beautiful restoration and plasterwork at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Beautiful restoration and plasterwork at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 - Ornate plasterwork and bulb-lit clamshell sconces at the Runnymede, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Ornate plasterwork and bulb-lit clamshell sconces at the Runnymede, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 - Preserved projector and tiny ceiling lights at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Preserved projector and tiny ceiling lights at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 - Medallion at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Medallion at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 - Employee entrance for the ticket booth at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Employee entrance for the ticket booth at the Runnymede Theatre, now Shoppers Drug Mart
Undated photo - Runnymede Theatre on Bloor St W, looking southeast towards Runnymede Rd
Undated photo – Runnymede Theatre on Bloor St W, looking southeast towards Runnymede Rd (Swansea Historical Society Archives)
2021 - Ornamental front panel and windows on the exterior of the Runnymede Theatre
2021 – Ornamental front panel and windows on the exterior of the Runnymede Theatre
2020 - The ticket booth of the former Runnymede Theatre
2020 – The ticket booth of the former Runnymede Theatre
2021 - Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd, looking south - now Shoppers Drug Mart
2021 – Runnymede Theatre, once at 2223 Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd, looking south – now Shoppers Drug Mart
1920/26 - Future site of the "Runnymede" Suburban Theatre on Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd
1920/26 – Future site of the “Runnymede” Suburban Theatre on Bloor St W, just west of Runnymede Rd (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 2711)
2022 - The heritage plaque reads:

Runnymede Theatre 1927 

“Originally a Famous Players theatre for both vaudeville performances and movies, the Runnymede Theatre was designed in the Classical style by the architectural firm Chapman and Oxley. The tall centre section of the brick building is capped by a decorative cornice and features a distinctive ornamental panel. The windows of the building's flanking two-storey sections duplicate the round-arch detail of the centre panel. Marketed as "Canada's Theatre Beautiful", the 1,400-seat theatre was one of the first Atmospheric-style auditoriums in the country. Elaborate murals and a ceiling painted to resemble the sky gave patrons the illusion of sitting outdoors.
As interest in vaudeville declined in the 1930s, the Runnymede became a movie theatre only, films being so popular that additional seats were added. In 1972, the building was converted for use as a bingo hall. Movies returned to a renovated, two-screen Runnymede Theatre from 1980 until 1999, after which it was adapted for retail use.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1990

Heritage Toronto 2014
2022 – The heritage plaque reads:

Runnymede Theatre 1927

“Originally a Famous Players theatre for both vaudeville performances and movies, the Runnymede Theatre was designed in the Classical style by the architectural firm Chapman and Oxley. The tall centre section of the brick building is capped by a decorative cornice and features a distinctive ornamental panel. The windows of the building’s flanking two-storey sections duplicate the round-arch detail of the centre panel. Marketed as “Canada’s Theatre Beautiful”, the 1,400-seat theatre was one of the first Atmospheric-style auditoriums in the country. Elaborate murals and a ceiling painted to resemble the sky gave patrons the illusion of sitting outdoors.

As interest in vaudeville declined in the 1930s, the Runnymede became a movie theatre only, films being so popular that additional seats were added. In 1972, the building was converted for use as a bingo hall. Movies returned to a renovated, two-screen Runnymede Theatre from 1980 until 1999, after which it was adapted for retail use.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act 1990
Heritage Toronto 2014
1928 - Toronto City Directory showing the Runnymede Theatre; however, the address is 2227 Bloor St W
1928 – Toronto City Directory showing the Runnymede Theatre; however, the address is 2227 Bloor St W (Toronto Public Library)
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