General Evans Above Archive for Dec 08, 2003

Uptown Theatre collapses

Dec 08, 2003permalink

I was attending a 10 a.m. screening of Fox’s Stuck on You, when the assembled reporters felt a large rumble and shake in the cinema. We looked around for a second, but as the comedy continued to unspool, I’m sure we chalked it up to one of the small earth tremors that hits the Toronto area every few years. It wasn’t until after the film that I learned that the Uptown Theatre across the street had collapsed, killing one and injuring seventeen.

The streets were filled with a variety of emergency vehicles: air trucks, HazMat crews, Forensic Identification vehicles.

The Uptown, which was undergoing demolition, had collapsed on the building next to it, which housed, among other things, an ESL school for children and adults.

The Uptown had been built in the 1920s as a vaudeville house. Years later it was converted into a three screen cinema and operated by Viacom-owned Famous Players. Much like the Canon (formerly the Pantages) and the Elgin, it was an entertainment venue from a past era. Famous had been ordered to make the site accessible and decided to close it and sell it to a condo developer. Our company actually ran the cinema for the last three days of the Toronto International Film Festival after Famous pulled out.

The demolition of this beautiful theatre was already considered a tragedy by many in the city. The deadly aftermath of its demolition only makes it more so.