Eglinton Theatre

The Eglinton Theatre, designed for cinema by Kaplan & Sprachman, architects, Toronto (1935-36), is one of the fullest interpretations of Art Deco styling in the mid-1930s in Canada.

Eglinton Theatre, The

The Eglinton Theatre, designed for cinema by Kaplan & Sprachman, architects, Toronto (1935-36), is one of the fullest interpretations of Art Deco styling in the mid-1930s in Canada. Generously funded during the Great Depression, when budgets were tight, it provided the architect with an opportunity to explore new design trends. Still visible are elements of streamlining, details recalling the earlier zigzag phase of Art Deco, and features drawn from the classical "moderne" interpretation of the style. Synthetic materials and new lighting effects also played a significant role in the design.

Located in the Forest Hill area of Toronto, opened for development in 1924, the Eglinton was built as a suburban attraction. The theatre's styling, which reflects delight in the aesthetics of sleek synthetic materials, aerodynamic lines, and the possibilities of lighting as a design element, celebrates the age of the machine. Many of these concepts had been introduced at the 1933-34 Century of Progress exposition in Chicago, which Sprachman is known to have attended.

The Eglinton's exterior is characterized by its attention to signage as an integral part of a theatre's facade. The vertical letters of the name appear on a rounded, split tower. Looking like a constructivist sculpture, the tower is an assemblage of contrasting volumes, textures and materials, including vitrolite. Crowning the tower is a 3-stage futuristic pylon topped with a flashing neon ball. The outdoor ticket booth, beneath a rounded marquee with hundreds of travelling lights and underside bulbs, is faced with shiny red catalin panels and trimmed with stainless steel - a rare survivor of its type.

The interior of the Eglinton is remarkable for a striking use of coloured neon and indirect incandescent lighting set in shades or recesses that also reflect colour, all of which dramatically highlight the bold, simple forms on the ceiling and walls. A dropped ceiling panel blatantly expresses the mechanical function of the air conditioning ducts - here emphasized with recessed neon tubing that diffuses outward red and blue light. Streamlining is evident in the roundness of forms and in painted bands that sweep across walls, ceiling, and around corners. A modest zigzag effect is created by lines that are broken and stepped up, as in the sidewall dados and the proscenium arch. Glowing columns of light boxes above the cross-aisle exits add drama, as do the 7 large helium tubes wrapping the front and underside of the projection booth at the rear. Classical "moderne" touches include the female nude statuary set above the front exits and stylized pilasters and friezes in some sections.

The vestibule and lobby areas are the most changed from the original, though enough remains to convincingly carry the Art Deco theme from the exterior facade to the auditorium interior. In the vestibule, for example, there are remnant areas of flexwood treatment, black vitrolite facings, chrome finials, terrazzo flooring in a coloured pattern of squares and chevrons, and pink neon lighting above the mirrored dado. In the lobby and lounge areas there remains a simple fireplace mantel with rounded corners and a large round mirror above. Oversize torcheres still throw indirect light at the ceiling.