Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres

The Elgin and Winter Gardens Theatres are the world's last functioning double-decker theatres. Built in 1913, the complex was the Canadian flagship of Marcus Loew's legendary theatre chain.

The two theatres were of distinctly different personality: the Elgin was all gold leaf and rich fabrics, a formal theatre of plaster cherubs and ornate opera boxes. The Winter Garden was a botanical fantasy, its walls hand-painted to resemble a garden, its ceiling a mass of real beech boughs and twinkling lanterns.

With the decline of vaudeville, the Winter Garden closed in 1928. It remained closed for more than half a century, becoming a time capsule of a bygone era. The Elgin, with its grand domed ceiling, continued as a movie house, gradually slipping into disrepair with the passing of each decade.

In 1981, the Ontario Heritage Trust purchased the building and in 1987, a two-and-a-half year, $29-million restoration began. The gilt plaster detail work in the Elgin required more than 300,000 wafer-thin sheets of aluminum leaf. The walls of the Winter Garden had to be cleaned using hundreds of pounds of raw bread dough to avoid damaging the original hand-painted watercolour artwork.

Today it operates as one of Canada's finest theatrical complexes and also hosts galas for the Toronto International Film Festival. Tours of the building are available two days a week. 

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