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Park Theatre – Ottawa Street & Moy Avenue

In December 1939, Famous Player had their staff architect Jay Isadore English draw up plans for a new Windsor neighbourhood theatre. The theatre was announced with a main floor seating 641 people, and a balcony holding another 150 for a total capacity of 791. Given its location on Ottawa, near to Lanspeary Park, the new theatre was named “Park”. It was to be the fifth theatre in the Paramount-Windsor chain, along with the Capitol, Palace, Tivoli and Empire.

Above is a photo of the Park from May 17, 1940, which was opening night. Built in the streamline moderne style, the theatre was of cutting edge design. When it opened the capacity was larger than originally announced, and the capacity was 815. 160 seats were in the balcony, or as it was called at the time the “smoking loges”. The selling feature of the balcony was that every seat had its own ashtray.

The architect Jay English, was the staff architect of the Famous Players firm. Born in Poland, in 1903, his family emigrated to Canada about 1905 or 1906 settling in Toronto. In 1923 he moved to Detroit and spent two year there before moving to New York and studying architecture at Columbia. In 1927 he moved back to Detroit and joined the Firm of Albert Kahn as a designer, where he worked on the Fisher Building project. He returned to Toronto in 1932. He specialized in theatre design working for Famous Players first, before moving to rival Odeon in 1945 as Chief Architect, before his untimely death in a canoe accident in 1947. A more detailed biography can be found here.

On June 13, 1970 Famous Player announced that the neighbourhood landmark would be closing down on July 2, 1970, to coincide with the opening of the new two screen Famous Players Theatre at Devonshire Mall. Business was well, at the time of the announcement M.A.S.H. had been playing for eight weeks, and was going to continue until the theatre closed down. By replacing the Park with the Mall Theatre Famous Players only gained 299 seats, but the flexibility of two screens was the big selling feature.

The Park was sold to the neighbouring Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, who took possession as the Park moved out. CIBC demolished the building and erected a temporary building on the site in 1972, as it demolished its existing bank building. The current CIBC opened in November 1972, and the Park Theatre site is today a parking lot for the bank.

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