Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres
|Address||189 Yonge Street|
|Owner||Ontario Heritage Trust|
|Type||Edwardian stacked theatres|
|Capacity||2,149 (Elgin Theatre)|
1,410 (Winter Garden Theatre)
|Production||Plays, opera, music, film|
|Architect||Thomas W. Lamb|
The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are a pair of stacked theatres in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Winter Garden Theatre is seven storeys above the Elgin Theatre. They are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world.
The pair of theatres were originally built as the flagship of Marcus Loew's theatre chain in 1913. The building was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, who also designed the Ed Mirvish Theatre nearby.
Both theatres were built to show vaudeville acts and the short silent movies of the time. Each theatre was intended for a different class of patron. The gold-and-marble, domed, 'hard-top' lower theatre (originally called Loew's Yonge Street Theatre) was home to continuous vaudeville and movies. The upper-level Winter Garden is an 'atmospheric' country garden under the stars, painted with murals of plants and garden trellises, with tree trunk columns and lantern lights. The upper theatre was built for the 'Big Time' vaudeville market and had reserved seats at premium prices, catering to affluent patrons. As well as competing in a different market, the upper theatre could be used for experimentation with acts, without the risk of closing the lower theatre.
By 1928, feature-length silent films were popular, but sound films were just coming into their own. In 1928, the lower theatre was converted to show sound films and the upper theatre was closed. The Winter Garden remained shuttered for about sixty years. Left inside it was a large collection of vaudeville flats and scenery, now the world's largest surviving collection. In 1969, Loews sold the Elgin to Famous Players. By the 1970s, the Elgin was showing mainly B movies and soft-core pornography.
In 1981, the Ontario Heritage Foundation bought the structure from Famous Players. From March 1985 through March 1987 the musical Cats was very successfully presented in the essentially unrestored Elgin, showing the viability of the theatre. The building closed in 1987 for a full restoration and reopened in 1989.
In 1991, Dr. David Griesinger and Steve Barbar of Lexicon, Inc., at the request of acousticians Neil Muncy and Robert Tanner, installed the first production LARES system, an electroacoustic enhancement system that augments architectural acoustics, in the Elgin Theatre. This initial LARES system used two microphones placed at the balcony's front edge to pick up sound from the stage. The microphone signals were digitized and processed in two mainframe computers, and the resulting signals were sent to 56 loudspeakers in the main ceiling and 60 under the balcony, for the purpose of providing additional intelligibility and ambience.
The Elgin Theatre housed the world premiere of the Napoleon musical in 1994, which later transferred to London's West End in 2000. In 1995, it was home to The Who's Tommy musical. Since 1996, Ross Petty Productions has staged pantomimes at the Elgin Theatre each Christmas season.
From February 10 to 14, 2004, Conan O'Brien taped four episodes of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien from the Elgin Theatre. The visit came about via the Toronto City Council's CDN$1 million (~US$750,000 at the time) payment to NBC to have the American television program visit Toronto for a week worth of shows, part of the overall council-funded PR effort of promoting Toronto as a tourist destination for Americans in the wake of the widely publicized summer 2003 Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic which adversely impacted the city's tourism industry.
In popular culture
A pivotal scene in the 1973 made for TV film She Cried Murder takes place in the (then shuttered) Winter Garden.
The Winter Garden is seen in the 1994 film Camilla. The location is also featured in the 2017 movie The Shape of Water and receives an acknowledgement in the closing credits. The music video for "Changes" by the Montreal band Stars is also set there.
Other Thomas Lamb theatres in Canada
- Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
- Uptown Theatre, Toronto
- Capitol Cinema, Ottawa
- The Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, Brantford
- Pound, Richard W. (2005). Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
- Davey, Laura. "Winter Garden Theatre: A botanically themed auditorium blooms within the world's last operating double-decker theater". Atlas Obscura-Places. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
- De Freitas, Kate. "A Winter Wonderland". Attractions Ontario Staff Blogs. Attractions Ontario. Archived from the original on 23 July 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
... hand painted walls and ceiling canopy of real beech leaves & lanterns.
- "Ontario Heritage Trust - The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre - About us". heritagetrust.on.ca. 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
- Russell, Hillary (1989). Double Take: The Story of The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. Dundurn Press Limited.
- Adilman, Sid (September 12, 1979). "Strong Opening For Toronto Festival". Variety. p. 7.
- Griesinger, David (February 19–22, 1991). "Improving Room Acoustics Through Time-Variant Synthetic Reverberation (AES 90th Convention)" (PDF). Lexicon, Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2020.CS1 maint: date format (link)
- "The Elgin Theatre". E-coustic Systems. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011.
- Flowers, Ellen; Pim, Gordon (September 2013). "The Evolution of the Panto" (PDF). Heritage Matters. Ontario Heritage Trust, Volume 11, Issue 3. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2015.
- Zinman, Dan. "Late Night with Conan O'Brien in Toronto". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
- Vlessing, Etan (17 February 2004). "Why is Conan O'Brien so high on Toronto?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- "Bryan Adams in Concert: Preview". Great Performances. 1 March 2015. PBS. WNET. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres.|
- Ontario Heritage Trust: The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
- Toronto's Historical Plaques - Loew's Yonge Street and Winter Garden Theatres
- Toronto's Historical Plaques -Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres
- Heritage Property Detail for 189 Yonge Street