When strolling on The Danforth, there’s an easily recognized fixture that is difficult to miss: the theatre-turned-entertainment-venue, Danforth Music Hall. One of Toronto’s longest-standing buildings and noted for its tumultuous history with shutting down and reopening on several occasions, The Music Hall has been a staple of Toronto’s entertainment scene since its opening in 1919. It has hosted a wide range of blockbuster acts, from James Brown to Arcade Fire.
Image courtesy of Amanda Fotes and AUX TV
While it’s had its ups and downs over the decades, it has lasted through periods of neglect, to emerge as a great-sounding live room with good sight lines for a range of events. It’s easy to forget that for the majority of its existence, the building’s primary purpose had very little to do with live music. When it was originally erected in 1919, it was called Allen’s Danforth, and was part of the rapidly growing Allen movie theatre chain. It was promoted as “Canada’s First Super-Suburban Photoplay Palace”. But the chain’s success was relatively short-lived, and in 1923 Famous Players began buying up most of their theatres, including the Danforth. It was known as The Century until the end of the ’60s, when it became a Greek-language movie palace named the Titania Theatre. (Lee’s Palace is the only other former Allen theatre still standing in Toronto.) -BlogTO
It wasn’t until the late ’70s that the Danforth became known for live music. In the early silent movie days, they’d featured live variety shows before the films, but music was definitely not the main attraction. After being renamed The Music Hall in 1978, the theatre began offering live performances, as well as continuing to show second-run films. This split-personality served it well, and that era saw it hosting big names like The Clash, and the Police.
It had become such an institution by 1985 that it was designated a property of historic interest under the Ontario Heritage Act. However, it was also steadily sliding into a sorry state of disrepair, and the roof was becoming infamously leaky. Few were surprised when the hall eventually closed in 2004. Then after two more failed openings, Impresario Inc. debuted the renovated and revamped theatre on December 1st, 2011. The acoustic issues with the space had been dealt with and the new flexibility of removable seating also helped it adapt to a wider variety of types of concerts, like Rihanna’s “surprise” 2012 appearance as part of her 777 promotional tour.
Image courtesy of BCG and Sticky Magazine
Images courtesy of The Torontoist and Jerry Abramowicz
Like most long-standing buildings in Toronto, The Danforth Music Hall has a tumultuous history during which it has been forced to reinvent itself to fit the times, but it is still as vital a social and cultural space as it was when the doors first opened close to a century ago.
Check out their Upcoming Events page to see who’s up next to play this historic venue!
147 Danforth Avenue
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