Runnymede Theatre – One of Toronto’s Most Spectacular Drug Stores

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 (south side, west of Runnymede Rd), in the Bloor West Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Architecture of the Runnymede Theatre

Opening in 1927, the Runnymede Theatre was both a vaudeville theatre and moving picture palace. Designed by prominent Toronto architectural firm of Chapman & Oxley, the historic 1,550-seat theatre was built by Famous Players. 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 as though 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 evening of June 2nd in 1927 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 audience gasped with delight.

Through the Years

In the 1930’s, 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 to a bingo hall. Eight years later, the landmark was converted 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 in both renovating the theatre for its own use as well as 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 quite impressive. Red velvet curtains frame the theatre’s wooden stage while vintage images of the neighbourhood are shown on a large screen.

Did You Know?

  • 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.
  • 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 1800’s, 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 where 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 (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 - Runnymede Theatre's ticket booth, now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020 – Runnymede Theatre’s ticket booth, now Shoppers Drug Mart
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)
2020/1989 - Runnymede Theatre once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020/1989 – 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)
2020/1942 - Runnymede Theatre once at 2223 Bloor St W, south side west of Runnymede Rd - now Shoppers Drug Mart
2020/1942 – 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)
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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