The West Hill Roxy Theatre on Kingston Rd. had a short existence. It was built in 1949 and demolished in 1967.
Scarborough Historical Society and Archives
The West Hill Roxy Theatre was the first purpose-built theatre in Scarborough and it opened its doors to the public on July 4, 1949. It was constructed on the north side of Kingston Road between Galloway Rd. and Lawrence Ave. The first movie played was “My Dream is Yours,” starring Doris Day.
Reeve Oliver E. Crockford along with two deputy reeves and two councillors represented the Scarborough Township Council. Mr. Crockford complimented the management on the beautiful building and expressed his happiness that a theatre had finally located in Scarborough.
The doors opened at 6:30 p.m. with the movies starting at 7 p.m. After the movie, they would usually run the first reel again for the benefit of any patrons who arrived late. The building was used for many different functions and the small stage in front of the screen saw events like Christmas sing-alongs, charity benefits such as the Manitoba Flood Relief in the early 1950s, and fundraisers to help with the building of the Scarborough General Hospital.
In 1951, radio station CKLB Oshawa broadcast from the lobby of the Roxy every Monday evening, and the Johns-Manville Concert Group performed many times. During the first year of operation, more than 130,000 patrons attended the various shows. At this time, West Hill had a population of approximately 5,000.
Two years after opening, another 100 seats were added to the theatre with a smoking section at the rear. During the summer months, a Wednesday matinee was added. In January 1953, the Roxy started having two complete showings a night: the first viewing was at 6 p.m. and the second around 9 p.m.
In July 1953, there was a special two-day showing of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth ll narrated by Laurence Olivier. November of that year saw the installation of a Wide Vision Screen and the following summer new equipment was installed so that Cinemascope Pictures could be shown.
The Roxy was very active in trying to entertain the children; there were comic book exchanges and best costume themes where the first 250 kids could win prizes and autographed pictures of Roy Rogers. Family Nights were introduced in January 1955, where an entire family could enter the show for $1.
in March 1956, the Roxy was purchased by the Regional Theatre Circuit, which was a subsidiary of Odeon Theatres of Canada. As a promotion, new dishes were given out during September 1957. Not sure that would work nowadays – 600 kids in a dark theatre holding china dishes?
By the late 1950s, the Roxy, along with many other theatres and “night out” activities, started to suffer from the new television era. In an address to the Rouge Hills Lions Club in 1958, Roxy manager Sam Berman stated the importance of the theatre: “A closed theatre generally has a deteriorating effect on the economy of the neighbourhood.”
The theatre was also becoming a bit of a target because of its isolated location. It had been robbed several times previously and in April 1958, more than 200 seats were slashed in what was said to be the worst case of vandalism in Scarborough up to that time.
In May 1958, the Roxy was taken over by Odeon Theatres of Canada Limited. In March 1963, the admission price was lowered to attract more patrons: 75 cents for adults, 50 cents for students and 25 cents for children. There was even an Easter show where the kids could win real bunnies. (I’m sure the parents must have loved this idea!)
The mid-1960s saw numerous changes along with new owners and managers trying to boost interest. During the Saturday matinée intermission, local rock and folk bands, along with go-go girls, entertained the kids with live music. The Roxy was closed for a brief time for renovations but all their efforts were in vain, with new theatres opening such as the Bijou, Elaine, and multi-show theatres like Cedarbrae. The Roxy had always had water problems because of an underground spring that flooded the lower front portion of the theatre each spring and summer. With an estimated repair bill of $150,000 to correct the problem, the Roxy was no longer able to compete for the entertainment dollars required to stay viable.
Any of us who were children living in or around the West Hill area will remember the fun times and the Saturday matinees, the 10-cent popcorn that tasted the way popcorn should taste, the 5-cent slab of Mackintosh Toffee that used to last through the singing of God Save the Queen, two movies and three cartoons.
Sadly, after a brief 18 years of existence, the Roxy closed its doors forever on Saturday, May 13, 1967. Shortly after that the building was demolished to make way for a new car wash and gas bar, and a few decades later the car wash was cleared to make way for the townhouses that now occupy the site. Most people driving past the area today would never know of the hundreds of thousands of people who crowded the Roxy in days gone by. Those simple days of fun brought a pleasure that is now but a wonderful memory.