Comments from Brian Morton

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Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Roxy Theatre on Jan 14, 2022 at 9:57 pm

About two years back, the former balcony and projection booth, of the Majestic, was gutted to become 5 apartments.

The upstairs of the cinema had survived intact since the building was converted into a health food store back circa 1981.

There was an article in the Hamilton Spectator, of the view looking out of the projection room window, looking at the ceiling, which was green and gold.

Sadly now gone.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about 1908 program cover showing the six theatres in the Bennett's vaudeville circuit. on Oct 23, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Clockwise from top left.

The Bennett’s Theatres in Montreal, Ottawa, London, Quebec City, Hamilton and the Savoy Theatre in Hamilton.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Reo Theatre on Oct 23, 2021 at 4:09 pm

This cinema building is almost identical to the Fox Theatre in Stoney Creek. Perhaps they shared the same architect?

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Loew's Theatre on Oct 23, 2021 at 3:48 pm

Television reports from April 2021, suggest that the demolition of the auditorium is planned, in order to build a 19 storey condo project.

Much of what has survived of Thomas Lamb’s decor, will certainly be destroyed. Some vague token promise to save part, and display it in an alley, seem like lip service to my ears.

I saw films at the Loew’s when I was a student in Montreal in 1987. It reminded me a great deal of the now demolished Uptown Theatre in Toronto.

I think it is a waste to tear down a mostly intact 104 year old theatre.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Palace Theatre on Oct 23, 2021 at 11:16 am

Opening night of the Pantages Theatre in Hamilton was October 31, 1921.

It changes its name to the Palace around 1927.

Final films are shown in the fall of 1972.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Red Mill Theatre on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:35 pm

I just added the Red Mill Theatre’s listing in the 1921 Julius Cahn / Gus Hill guide.

I would find it surprising if there were actually 800 seats!

I will be adding the Imperial Theatre and Temple Theatre next, which are also on this list. Both are not yet in the Cinema Treasures database.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Red Mill Theatre on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:20 pm

I have add an image of the fire insurance map from February 1911, showing the Red Mill Theatre.

I have since discovered that the Red Mill theatre was operating as late as 1930, at least it is still in the Vernon’s City Directory. The small nickelodeons typically did not advertise their bills in the local newspapers, but I did find ads for this theatre in the Labour News, demonstrating that their audience was working class.

Also some confusion in the name of the manager. Dave Stewart indeed managed the Red Mill Theatre in the 1920s, but he was not the Jack Stewart that managed the Unique Theatre, and ran a sheet music business, called “The Song Shop”, next door to it. It was Jack Stewart that went on to manage the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, not Dave.

I have no idea if they were related!

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Princess Theatre on Oct 22, 2021 at 4:35 pm

Okay, I have spent some time going through the Vernon’s Hamilton city directory, and I have solved one mystery.

The image of the “New Princess Theatre” is the former Unique Theatre at 8 Market Square.

It goes from the Unique Theatre 1911 to 1923 to the Little Theatre in 1925, and finally becomes the New Princess between 1927 to 1930.

By 1932 it is gone, likely converted to retail?? By the 1940s the address is the Majestic Restaurant.

And to reply to Joe Vogel from a few years back, the 1911 auditorium, stage and fly gallery, still stands in 2021.

In 1924 the Princess Theatre’s auditorium, became the “Tivoli lounge” which is where the concession area was built from the late 1940s onwards.

It was the 1873 Prongelay block, which became a store front nickelodeon, the Colonial Theatre, that was demolished in June of 2004.

I will share the fire insurance map from 1911 that shows the two parts of the building.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Lyric Theatre on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:42 pm

While I wish the owner of this building well, in their desire to reopen the former Kenmore Theatre as a live performance venue, I do wish that they had not used the name “Lyric Theatre” to describe it.

The Lyric Theatre, later renamed the Century Theatre, stood between August 1913 and January 2010, on Mary Street. It had a rich theatrical history, with performers like the Marx Brothers on its large stage, in September 1919.

Now, when one googles “Lyric Theatre, Hamilton, Ontario”, you get this building, which has had a rather short history, mostly as a small neighborhood cinema, compared with the 1800 seat Keith / Albee circuit vaudeville house, downtown.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Delta Theatre on Oct 21, 2021 at 4:33 pm

Joe, I know that the Delta Theatre was planned as far back as 1921, but did not actually attract investors with the necessary funding until 1924.

The original corner building went up in 1919, but it was only one story, I have seen pictures of it before the Main Street auditorium, and the entrences on King and Main were added.

It original building was enlarged, and at second story added, when the theatre began construction circa 1924.

Fred Guest, as he already owned several cinemas in Hamilton, was the key player who made the project feasible. He certainly made money enough to reinvest in new theatre construction.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Griffin's Theatre on Oct 21, 2021 at 8:21 am

The architect’s drawing is the only place that I have seen this building referred to as the Griffin Opera House.

Contemporary newspaper listings always refer to it as Griffin’s Theatre.

John J. Griffin, was a early cinema pioneer who was involved with the circus and carnival circuit, at the turn of the century. By 1905 he was the manager of the Sells Brother’s Circus.

With his son, Peter Griffin he formed the Griffin Amusement Company, which opened a string of nickelodeon storefront cinemas, beginning in Toronto in 1906.

By 1914, he had leased existing theatre buildings or built new ones, in Chatham, Brockville, Owen Sound, St. Thomas, Guelph, St Catherines, Woodstock, and Kingston.

The Hamilton Griffin’s Theatre opened in September of 1913, about a month after the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street.

Because Griffin had made his fortune by partnering with Ambrose Small’s legitimate theatre circuit providing “small time” vaudeville on typically early week dark nights, he was able to attract investment which allowed him to lease and control more than thirty theatres across Ontario by 1920, the year in which he retired.

The Hamilton Theatre was short lived. By 1917, the same year that the Loews Corporation opened its new theatre on King Street, his consortium of local investors, sold the building to the Arcade Department store, immediately adjacent to the south.

The interior of the theatre was gutted to become retail space. By 1930, both the former Griffin Theatre, and the Arcade department store, were demolished to build the Eaton’s Department store.

Ironically, the Arcade Department store building had been constructed in the 1870s, as the Mechanic’s Institute, and the third floor hall, the Academy of Music, was one of Hamilton’s earliest live performance venues.

Griffin died in Toronto on August 13, 1931, at the age of 77.

Further info, and his connection with the Brockville Opera House, can be found at the link below.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Tivoli Theatre on Oct 19, 2021 at 8:06 pm

The Tivoli Theatre is certainly not open! It was last used in the spring of 2004, as a live performance venue. Since then, other then brief opportunities to tour the building, the public has had no access to it.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Kenilworth Theatre on Oct 19, 2021 at 6:56 pm

From approximately 1967 on-wards the Kenilworth Theatre became a Ukrainian Cultural Centre. It had closed as a cinema in the mid 1960s.

You could still see the ladder on the side of the building that led to the projection booth, and the ticket booth survived in the lobby area.

About ten years ago, the marquee was finally removed.

The building operated as a facility for banquets, weddings, meetings, music and community theatre, until sadly, it was completely destroyed by a fire in April 2019.

The status should now be updated to demolished.

Further information and some additonal images are at this link.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Playhouse Cinema on Oct 19, 2021 at 6:07 pm

Wonderful news! About two years back the Playhouse Theatre was restored and has reopened after a brief renovation. It now features a restored 35mm film projector, as well as the industry standard digital projection.

Brand new seating has reduced the seating capacity down to about 300, but the seats are modern and comfortable. I have seen a dozen or so films so far and have enjoyed the film ever so more seeing it in a vintage hundred and and sevsn year old cinema.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Cinema on Apr 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm

The Gregory was a different Theatre on the east side of Kenilworth just North of Main. Also known as the Cinderella in the late teens it is currently being gutted for apartments.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Chuck there is a You tube video here..

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Chuck there are almost 400 images of the demolition on the facebook page.. The most recent were taken today

View link

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

Alas, as of today the Lyric / Century is completely gone…

RIP old girl…

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 17, 2010 at 8:34 am


All of this stuff is in the Ontario archives in the RG11 – RG10 files.

Seating capacity when it opened was 2000 seats IN ALL ADVERTISING.. (This does not mean that there were really 2000 seats – Just that the management wanted every one to know that the Lyric was the biggest new theatre in town.)

In the 1921 Gus Hill Moving Picture Directory the Lyric Theatre is listed as having 1820 seats (Which was likely the real figure all a long). Both the Loews (1917) and the Pantages (1920) had opened by then, and they had given up on being the biggest in town.

According to the RG 11 files at the ONT archives:

Nov 8/1938 Construction report – Lyric Theatre – Lic: Ross T Stewart. 722 seats (no balcony) (This is the seating capacity since the theatre reopened in 1930 I believe).

June 25/1940 – Seating plan Century Theatre – 866 seats – Kaplan and Sprachman

March 9/1967 – Century Theatre reseating – 705 seats – Canadian seating company.

The final seating count was its capacity till Famous Players clsoed it in Sept 1989.

Demolition has started BTW…. Sad to lose the old girl.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm


It was I who talked to Paul Wilson Monday for today’s article eulogizing the theatre. The image which I directed them to from the January 3rd issue of the SPECTATOR clearly shows the interior of the Lyric Theatre with ONE balcony.

I think many Hamiltonians are only now waking up to the history that this building represents… Sadly none of it will prevent the destruction which will begin early next week.

BTW we have started a facebook group to remember the grand old girl… How join us!

View link

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

City issues order to demolish Century Theatre

Owner says timeline too tight to save facade
January 11, 2010
Nicole O’Reilly
The Hamilton Spectator
The city’s chief building official has issued an order requiring the owners of the Century Theatre to demolish every part of the historic building.

The order came late this afternoon, following John Spolnik’s examination of an engineering report funded by the building’s owner.

Under the name Lyric Century Apartments Inc., Zoran Cocov will have to mobilize a demolition crew immediately. Work is expected to begin as early as Tuesday.

Because of the building’s stability issues, it will likely take weeks to demolish, said Spolnik, who is also director of building services for the city.

He recommends crews work from the north end of the building and use “cherry picking equipment” to pull the building apart piece by piece.

Cocov had hoped to save the facade of the building, which was deemed heritage, for his pending 59-unit condominium development at the Mary Street site.

But the engineering report found that stabilizing the facade would take more time than the city is allowing.

Many Hamiltonians, including Councillor Bob Bratina, members of the arts community and downtown property owners have accused the city of being lax on property standards and have accused Cocov of “demolition by neglect.”

But Cocov says there is more to the story.

From the outside it may look like nothing has happened since he purchased the building 10 years ago, he said.

But Cocov contends that he has been working to secure funding, multiple permits and to keep up with changing regulations.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Century poised to fall
One last engineering report could save the day, but not likely

The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 9, 2010)

Barring a last-minute miracle, the entire Century Theatre will come down as early as Monday, the city’s chief building official says.

John Spolnik, who is also director of building services for the city, said he spoke with the engineer hired by the historic buildings' owner after the engineer’s inspection yesterday.

To save the facade, which was the owners' development plan, would require an extensive design and stabilization process, he said. This would take too much time — time the city does not have because of safety concerns.

The city ordered owner Zoran Cocov, of Lyric Century Apartments, to have an engineer with heritage background inspect the site immediately, following an independent engineering report that led the city to deem the property unsafe on Thursday.

Spolnik said he won’t officially order the building be torn down until the new engineer’s report is on his desk Monday.

But he said from what he’s been told, he can’t foresee any reason to change his mind.

The entire front section of the roof is collapsed from the facade to almost 40 feet back, he said.

Like dominos, the fifth, fourth, third and second floors are collapsed.

There is no lateral support for the building, Spolnik said. Stability will only deteriorate with snow and winds.

The first the city heard of the roof being collapsed was Thursday, he said.

However, Cocov said the roof was partially collapsed when Cocov and his business partner purchased the building nearly 10 years ago. Since then there has been more deterioration.

“It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen,” he said. In hindsight, there are things we could have done better, he added.

He requested the heritage designation in 2000 and it was approved in 2001. It was later amended to protect only the facade.

If the city orders the building demolished, Cocov said the planned 59-unit condominium will mimic the building’s architecture.

Certain elements will be saved, including the original sign.

Hamilton Fringe Festival president Brian Morton called the events “classic demolition by neglect.”

When the theatre opened in 1913 and was still called the Lyric, it saw all the big acts, including the Marx Brothers, he said. The stage was blocked with bricks and re-opened for cinema in the 1930s.

It closed 20 years ago and has sat empty since.

Hamilton once had the most theatres per capita in the country, Morton said. It will be a shame to see another one bite the dust.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Seems like end of next week before the demolition crews start at it. The city has commissioned am independent surveyors report according to CHCH news tonight.

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Century Theatre on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:13 am

Tragic news! Looks like the Century is coming down tomorrow!

Century Theatre structurally unstable, in jeopardy
January 08, 2010
Nicole O'Reilly
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 8, 2010)

The facade of the heritage- designated Century Theatre is in jeopardy after the city issued an order that it is unsafe and blocked access to the historic downtown building yesterday afternoon.

City of Hamilton public works staff began closing Mary Street and its sidewalks from King Street East to the northeast edge of the property around 4 p.m. as the building’s owner, Zoran Cocov, of Lyric Century Apartments, looked on. The neighbouring parking lot will also be closed.

The order calls for immediate action because the building’s inside on the upper floors are structurally unstable, said city spokesperson Debbie Spence.

Cars were towed off the street and neighbours were warned of the problem, though they were not told to evacuate. Police patrolled the area on foot to ward off any pedestrians.

Spence said the owner must have an engineer with heritage knowledge on site today to determine the immediate next steps. The area will remain closed until action is taken.

Lyric Century Apartments, which has owned the property for almost 10 years, obtained a heritage permit for the historic building’s facade in 2007 and a demolition permit to tear down the rear of the building in March 2009, she said.

Plans were in the works to build a 59-unit condominium building, Cocov said.

The plan was to preserve the facade and first bay of side walls to stand as the condo entrance, he said. But the instability may mean the facade is too dangerous to save.

“Health and safety has to be the main concern right now,” Cocov said.

In a Spectator article in September, Cocov said the preservation of the heritage feature was proving very expensive.

It is unclear when construction might have begun, as no site design had been submitted to the city, Spence said.

The city was alerted to the problem through an engineering company that had examined the site to provide the owners with a quote for its services, she said.

The state of the theatre, which is on the city’s list of vacant buildings, caused many complaints from residents, Spence said. The last property standards complaint was on June 5, claiming the building was open to trespassers.

The historic building was the biggest of its kind in Hamilton when it opened 1913. With 2,000 seats it was a prime location on the vaudeville circuit and later showed movies.

It closed 20 years ago. Its last movie was Lethal Weapon 2.

Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina remembers seeing movies there. He said he is very sad to see how far a building with such value and presence has deteriorated.

“I had high hopes to reinstate it as a music theatre,” he said.

Bratina said the city should have been able to preserve the building.

“It shows we still have a long way to go on our property standards,” he said.

Bratina initiated the bylaw for proactive inspections. He said he plans to review it for holes, including what he called a lack of roof inspections.

“We continually have buildings falling down before our eyes.”

Brian Morton
Brian Morton commented about Delta Theatre on Nov 15, 2009 at 9:31 am

Delta Theatre building (apartments now) is for sale.

Pizza Pizza operates a phone centre out of what used to be the lobby.