Regent Theatre


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Venue Type & Location


Site Name: Regent/Belsize/Crest
Location: Toronto
County: York
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location


Address: 551 Mount Pleasant Rd.

Also Known As: The Regent, The Belsize, The Crest

History of the Regent Theatre Toronto

The Regent Theatre at 551 Mount Pleasant Road is an old neighbourhood theatres that has survived into the modern era. The theatre opened in 1927 as an entertainment and movie venue. Its architect was Murray Brown, a Scotsman by birth who opened a practice in Toronto in 1914. He designed many theatres in the city, such at the Park Theatre (Bedford) on north Yonge Street. Murray Brown is not to be confused with Benjamin Brown, who was the architect of several Art Deco warehouse lofts on Spadina Avenue, as well as the Victory Theatre at Dundas and Spadina. The Victory was one of the city’s notorious burlesque theatres. 

In the 1920s, the city was expanding northward, and the empty fields and dirt roads of the Mount Pleasant/Eglinton area were disappearing due to a residential building boom. It soon became obvious that it was an ideal location for a neighbourhood theatre. When the Regent Theatre opened in 1927, it was a part of the Famous Players Chain. Its original name was the Belsize, likely after the well-known residential area in London. The theatre possessed an impressive lobby and a single screen, set amid an opulent interior that contained decorative arches, ornate plaster trim, and small Venetian-style balconies with box seats. The auditorium included a stage area to accommodate live theatre as well as movies. The Belsize had 726 leatherette seats and an additional 205 in the balcony. 

The facade of the Regent Theatre is symmetrical. On the second floor there are large windows, topped by Roman arches. Stone trim was added to the facade to create a formal but attractive appearance. In the middle of the pediment, below the peaked roof, there is a large stone crest. I was unable to discover its origin or meaning. The roof contains terracotta tiles. 

In 1953, the Belsize ceased screening movies. It was renovated and reopened as the Crest, a venue for live theatre. In the 1950s, the only theatre offering live stage performances was the Royal Alexandra, which featured plays and musicals from the American touring companies. Many people felt that a theatre that featured Canadian talent was needed in the city, and the Crest was renovated to fulfill this need. For a few years, during the 1960s, it was well known for a revival of the annual satirical  review—“Spring Thaw.” I attended “Spring Thaw” several times during that decade, and immensely enjoyed the shows. It was there that I saw Barbara Hamilton on stage. In 1968, I attended the play, “Jack Brel is Alive and Living in Paris,” on the stage at the Crest. At one time, only the Royal Alexandra Theatre surpassed the Crest in importance in Toronto’s live theatrical scene. 

In March of 1971, the theatre commenced screening films once more. In 1988, it was again extensively renovated and reopened as the Regent. The name Regent had been employed by two of Toronto’s earlier theatres. One of them was on the southwest corner of John and Adelaide Streets. However, it retained the name between the years 1884 and 1890 only, and then became the Majestic. It was demolished in 1930. Another Regent Theatre was at 225 Queen Street East, west of Sherbourne, but it too was demolished. 

Thankfully, the Regent on Mount Pleasant Avenue has survived into the modern era. The old Belsize Theatre lives on.

  Taylor, Doug. "Toronto's old movie theatres - the Regent (the Belsize, the Crest)". Historic Toronto.

Performer/Company at Regent Theatre

Performer/Company Patron Type # of events
George Vivian Musical Comedy Co. (-) 1

Events at Regent Theatre

Event Date Venue Location Troupe
Dramatic 1925-1925 Toronto, York George Vivian Musical Comedy Co.