The Allenby Theatre (also re-named the 99cent Roxy) opened in 1935 and was designed by the well-known Toronto architectural firm Kaplan and Sprachman. Kaplan and Sprachman were responsible for the design of roughly seventy-five percent of all movie theatres in Canada between the years of 1921 and 1950. At the time of the Great Depression, the Allenby stood as a landmark building on Danforth Avenue because of its level of Art Moderne detailing and scale in relation to the adjacent commercial properties. Effectively the Allenby was a stimulus building in the economic development of the Danforth near Greenwood Avenue. It was chosen for designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act as a representative example of the style of theatre constructed between the Wars.
ERA has been working on the adaptive re-use and conservation of the Allenby since 2006. The adaptive reuse approach includes replacing the auditorium of the original theatre and retaining the original two storey volume. The combined former gas station and theatre accommodates both the drive thru convenience service (ESSO’s On The Run and Tim Horton’s) and the active pedestrian foot traffic along Danforth.
The conservation work was challenging as the theatre was built quickly during the early 1930’s, as well the building was unoccupied for several years. As a result the conservation scope included significant masonry restoration of the façade, structural reinforcement and repair of the marquee’s structure, restoration of the vitrolite glass at the ground floor windows and exterior lobby, repair to the terrazzo floors and intricate scalloped ceiling of the exterior lobby. The ticket booth was also restored and much of the sign boxes were re-built based on historic photographs.
The conservation of the Allenby Theatre has brought about a much needed re-investment to a slightly neglected section of Danforth Avenue. The restored theatre has provided a more lively street edge that pays tribute to the collective memory of the community both past and present.