Toronto Entertainment District

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Entertainment District
The Princess of Wales Theatre, one of a number of venues in the Entertainment District
The Princess of Wales Theatre, one of a number of venues in the Entertainment District
Toronto Entertainment District is located in Toronto
Toronto Entertainment District
Location within Toronto
Coordinates: 43°38′50″N 79°23′13″W / 43.64726°N 79.38704°W / 43.64726; -79.38704Coordinates: 43°38′50″N 79°23′13″W / 43.64726°N 79.38704°W / 43.64726; -79.38704
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto Flag.svg Toronto
 • MP Adam Vaughan (Trinity—Spadina)
 • MPP Han Dong (Trinity—Spadina)
 • Councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh (Ward 20 Trinity—Spadina)

The Toronto Entertainment District is an area in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is concentrated around King Street West between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue. It is home to theatres and performing arts centres, Toronto's four major-league sports teams, and an array of cultural and family attractions. The area is also home to most of the nightclubs in Toronto. The officially designated district does not include Yonge Street, where the Elgin/Wintergarden Theatres, Ed Mirvish Theatre, Panasonic Theatre and Massey Hall are located, nor does it include the St. Lawrence Centre or the Sony Centre.


In the first half of the 20th century the area original name of the neighbourhood was the Garment District and was almost wholly industrial. The railways controlled a huge amount of land along the waterfront, and to the north many firms took advantage of the easy access to rail and the harbour. The most important industry was textiles and fashion, and the area had few residents.

Manufacturing industry began to vacate the area in the 1970s, leaving behind an array of historic warehouses and factories that began to be converted to other uses. Meanwhile from 1976, the newly-opened CN Tower brought many tourists to the neighbourhood. Still, the most notable arrival were nightclubs that began opening sporadically in the early 1980s before becoming the area's staple and most recognizable feature from early 1990s onward.

In 1981 the Assoon brothers (David, Albert, Tony and Michael), Luis Collaco, and Bromely Vassell opened the Twilight Zone, Toronto's first large dance nightclub, at 185 Richmond Street West between Simcoe and Duncan Streets.[1] In 1982 Roy Thomson Hall opened at King and Simcoe, becoming the new home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra thus expanding entertainment options in the neighbourhood beyond nightlife. It wasn't until late 1987 that the still mostly deserted area got another nightclub — Stilife was opened by 25-year-old Charles Khabouth at the corner of Richmond West and Duncan.[2] Its young owner quickly managed to monetize it by attracting affluent Toronto crowds, a business success that would soon bring many new nightclubs to the area.[2]

The railway lands to the south were also converted to other uses. The SkyDome sports arena opened in 1989, bringing thousands of fans of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts as well as fans of big musical acts to the area. Khabouth's success with Stilife made other entrepreneurs take notice and despite the Twilight Zone's 1989 closure, numerous new clubs began appearing from 1990 onward, attracted by the developing nightlife scene and still relatively cheap rent. This trend continued at such a rate that the area by mid-1990s became home to one of the largest concentrations of nightclubs in North America.[3] Along with the nightclubs many bars and restaurants opened to serve these crowds.

The Mirvish family had bought the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962. It proved a considerable success and in 1993 they built the new 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre a block over. Independent theatre also moved into the area with the Theatre Passe Muraille taking over a former warehouse and the Factory Theatre in a former manse. Toronto has emerged as the world's third-largest centre for English-language theatre, behind only London (West End theatre) and New York (Broadway theatre)."[4]

In 1999, Festival Hall opened, which contains the flagship Scotiabank Theatre.

The Toronto condo boom of the early 21st century began to transform the area in the early 2000s. The abandoned warehouses began to be transformed into lofts, or demolished to make way for condominium towers. The core of the Entertainment District had only 750 residents in 1996, but this had gone up to 7,500 by 2005.[5] The crowds, noise, and occasional crime especially associated with the clubs caused conflict with the new homeowners. Greater restrictions on venues in the area resulted in loss of jobs[citation needed]; by 2011, the number of clubs had decreased substantially[citation needed].


  1. ^ Benson, Denise (5 October 2011). "Then & Now: Twilight Zone". The Grid. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Benson, Denise (17 November 2014). "Then & Now: Stilife". Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Benjamin Boles. "What killed the club district?" Now Magazine. January 13–20, 2011
  4. ^ David Gardner, "Theatre, English-Language — Current Trends" in The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2009, retrieved 6 July 2009.
  5. ^ Benjamin Boles. "A breakdown of the clubland numbers" Now Magazine. January 13–20, 2011

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