The Revue has occupied its Roncesvalles Avenue location since 1912, and until June, 2006, never closed its doors. That gave it the distinction of being one of the oldest continuously running movie theatres in the country.
Built by an outfit called the Suburban Amusement Company Ltd., the cinema had a name change and became the Revue Theatre by 1917, according to the City of Toronto tax assessment rolls. It also had a change of address at one point: to the present 400 Roncesvalles from 320 Roncesvalles, when properties along the street were renumbered.
In 2006, at the urging of the Revue Film Society, the Toronto Preservation Board recognized the heritage value of elements of the Revue’s façade, recommending historic designation. The building is described as having classical Edwardian details, typical of the World War 1 era.
The distinctive Art Deco marquee was a later addition but became the feature everyone associated with the slightly shabby but endearing neighbourhood theatre. It came crashing down one night in February, 2007, when a weakened supporting chain snapped under the weight of ice and snow. The metal lettering that graced the canopy was saved.
The Revue, which was part of the Festival Cinemas group, had been owned by Etobicoke resident, accountant and film buff Peter McQuillan. He passed away in 2004 and his children decided to sell The Revue after continuing to operate it and two other theatres–the Royal and the Kingsway–for almost two years. They closed The Revue on June 30, 2006.
The Revue Film Society, formed by residents and cinephiles upset that their much-loved cinema was closing, raised close to $130,000 to support a rescue effort. In 2007, the community-based organization negotiated a lease for The Revue with local residents Danny and Letty Mullin, who bought the property from the McQuillans.
In August, 2007, the lease was put into effect and an army of volunteers scrubbed, fixed plaster, painted and scraped gum from under the seats. Neighbourhood sign maker Lee Newman crafted Revue Cinema letters to mount where the marquee had been. New carpets were also installed. Many supplies were donated by local businesses, such as paint from High Park Paint and Wallpaper.
Early in October, 2007, The Revue re-opened with a gala screening of Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot and a post-screening celebration. The next chapter in the theatre’s history has now begun, using the new motto: Reel Diversity, Real Community.
Cinelux photo © Mike Charbonneau