The Ed Mirvish Theatre

The Toronto theatre at 244 Victoria Street was renamed The Ed Mirvish Theatre in December 2011.

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The Toronto theatre at 244 Victoria Street was renamed The Ed Mirvish Theatre in December 2011. It began life as the (Toronto) Pantages and was reincarnated through the years as the Imperial, the Imperial 6, and the Canon Theatre (2001-2011).

Pantages Theatres

Impresario Pericles Alexander Pantages owned or controlled an extensive chain of theatres across North America which operated under the Pantages name from 1904 until 1929, mainly staging vaudeville and burlesque shows. By 2012, only a handful of these theatres survived, all having undergone considerable transformation. In the USA, the Los Angeles Pantages (at Hollywood and Vine) and the Minneapolis, MN Pantages (owned by the Hennepin Theatre Trust), have remained active. In Canada, the Winnipeg Pantages Playhouse (built 1913) was restored in the early 2000s. Of two Vancouver Pantages, one was demolished in 1967, the other in 2011, and a similar fate met the Edmonton Pantages in 1979.

History 1920-1999

The original Toronto theatre, designed by Thomas Lamb and built by Nathan L Nathanson, opened in 1920 with 3373 seats and was the largest and most elegant in Canada. Famous Players owned the theatre, but it was managed by the Pantages consortia until that empire collapsed in 1929. In 1930 the Pantages, renamed the Imperial and later the Imperial 6, was exclusively a cinema. In 1973, it was sub-divided into a multiplex cinema presenting such films as James Bond and The Godfather. When Famous Players lost the building to Cineplex Odeon in 1986, the new arrangement barred its use for motion pictures.

Cineplex restored the lobby to resemble the original and rebuilt the venue as a live theatre. It re-opened in 1989 as the (new) Pantages with Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which ran for ten years and used mechanized scenic effects, trap doors, special lighting and some 100 sound speakers. Livent, a division of Cineplex Odeon headed by Garth Drabinsky owned and operated the Pantages until 1999.

Mirvish Ownership

Following Livent's bankruptcy, the theatre was acquired by Clear Channel/Live Nation, and in 2001 with support from Canon Canada, Inc., renamed the Canon Theatre. It was managed by Mirvish Productions who already owned the Princess of Wales and Royal Alexandra theatres. Key Brand Entertainment Ltd. purchased the theatre in early 2008, and Mirvish Productions acquired it later that year along with the Panasonic Theatre.

Ed Mirvish Theatre Ceiling
Interior of the Ed Mirvish Theatre (photo courtesy Mirvish Productions).
Ed Mirvish Theatre
Interior of the Ed Mirvish Theatre (photo courtesy Mirvish Productions).

The theatre has presented high quality musicals over the years including Chicago, Wicked, A Chorus Line, We Will Rock You (2007/8); Billy Elliot (2011) and Bring it on: The Musical (2012). In 2005 when New Orleans was incapacitated by hurricane Katrina, Les Miserables after its Toronto run at the Princess of Wales was accommodated temporarily by the (then) Canon Theatre.

The Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto's entertainment district seats 2300 on two levels: the orchestra and the mezzanine, approached by a gorgeous sweeping staircase. An infra-red listening system for the hearing impaired offers free headsets for patrons. Refreshments are available on both levels and the Yonge Street gallery.

Further Reading

  • Olsheski, Constance. Pantages Theatre: Rebirth of a Landmark (Toronto, 1989)