The Elgin & Winter Garden

Entertainment & Arts

North America, Canada, Toronto

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are a pair of stacked theatres in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world. The pair were originally built as the centrepiece of Marcus Loew's theatre chain in 1913. The building was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, who also built The Canon Theatre. The ornate lower theatre, then named Loew's Yonge Street Theatre, was home to plays and vaudeville productions that attracted some of the world's top talent. The upper level Winter Garden, which is decorated to resemble a forest, also housed vaudeville productions. In 1928, the decline of vaudeville forced the Winter Garden to close, and it remained shuttered for several decades. Left inside it was a large collection of vaudeville props and scenery, now the world's largest surviving collection. The lower theatre was eventually transformed into a cinema. Over time the building gradually deteriorated, as did the theatre. In 1969, Loews sold the Elgin to Famous Players. By the 1970s, the Elgin was showing mainly B movies and soft core pornography. In 1981 the Ontario Heritage Foundation bought the structure from Famous Players and set about restoring the two theatres. Since then, the theatres have been at the heart of Toronto's thriving theatre scene, home to major productions and musicals with Cats being the first performance at the Elgin. The building was closed in 1987 to be fully restored and then reopened in 1989. In 1991, Dr. David Griesinger and Steve Barbar of Lexicon, Inc., at the request of acousticians Neil Muncy and Robert Tanner, installed the first production LARES system in the Elgin Theatre. LARES is an electroacoustic enhancement system that augments architectural acoustics. This initial LARES system used two microphones placed at the balcony's front edge to pick up sound from the stage. The microphone signals were digitized and processed in two mainframe computers, and the resulting signals were sent to 56 loudspeakers in the main ceiling and 60 under the balcony, for the purpose of providing additional intelligibility and ambience. The Elgin Theatre was home to The Who's Tommy musical in the mid-1990s. It also housed the world premiere of Napoleon (musical) in 1994. The musical transferred to the West End in 2000. From February 10–14, 2004, Conan O'Brien taped 4 episodes of Late Night with Conan O'Brien from the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. The Elgin Theatre also serves as one of the hosts to the annual Toronto International Film Festival. The location is the setting for the music video for the song "Changes" by Montreal band Stars.