Tivoli Theatre

110 James Street N,
Hamilton, ON L8R

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Famous Players

Architects: Herbert George Duerr, B. Kingston Hall

Firms: Hall & Duerr

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Wonderland Theatre, Colonial Theatre, Princess Theatre

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News About This Theater

Interior in 1991

The Wonderland Theatre was opened on January 26, 1907. It was renamed Colonial Theatre on July 30, 1908. It was renamed Princess Theatre on September 4, 1911. Renamed Tivoli Theatre, it was the home of vaudeville shows and movies from its opening on September 29, 1924 screening Mary Philbin in “The Rose of Paris”. In 1950, the Tivoli Theatre started showing movies full time and was operated by Famous Players Corp. It was remodeled in 1954. On October 5, 1972 it went over to screening adult movies. It was reopened as a regular cinema by Famous Players on March 17, 1978 screening “American Hot Wax” starring Tim McIntire. It remained a popular movie house until it closed on September 28, 1989 with Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

In 1995, the Tivoli Theatre returned to its roots as a venue for live stage shows. Closed in 2004 after a portion of the frontage collapsed, the lobby area was demolished, but the auditorium remained and by 2014 was in use by the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble. The theatre is currently unused.

Contributed by Chad Irish

Recent comments (view all 84 comments)

DavidZornig on June 29, 2023 at 9:52 pm

Facebook post with additional history and photos in the comments.


MSC77 on August 26, 2023 at 5:06 pm

This venue’s 70mm presentations history is included in the recently-published article “70mm Presentations in Hamilton: A Chronology of 70mm Large Format Exhibition, 1969-Present”.

rivest266 on December 5, 2023 at 11:55 am

Opened or placed its first ad as Wonderland on January 26th, 1907

rivest266 on December 5, 2023 at 11:57 am

Reopened as Colonial on July 30th, 1908. Another ad posted.

rivest266 on December 5, 2023 at 12:11 pm

Renamed Princess on September 4th, 1911. Another ad posted.

50sSNIPES on December 5, 2023 at 12:41 pm

The building was built in 1875 and originally housed a carriage factory before becoming a movie house.

Famous Players closed the Tivoli for the final time on September 28, 1989 with “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” in connection of the screen-expansion of the nearby Jackson Square Cinemas.

50sSNIPES on December 5, 2023 at 2:48 pm

Right at the start of the CinemaScope boom comes a miracle. Both the Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton and the Seneca Theatre in Niagara Falls were tied for being the fourth movie house in Ontario to have their CinemaScopes installed, and both theaters ran their first CinemaScope feature on Christmas Day 1953, which is “The Robe”.

The Tivoli originally housed an Ornate Italian Renaissance Scheme before its August 20, 1954 remodel/reopening which turned into a lavish production/tradition. The Tivoli reopened with Dean Martin’s “Living It Up” with no extra short subjects.

Some information about its 1954 remodel features updated traveling lights direct patrons to the focal point of the box office which is an open visual typed face of Swedish pearl granite. The office is lined with maroon vitrolite and stainless steel. The upper structure is armor plate glass with a special glass roof, and the shadow boxes on either side in the outer lobby are trimmed in shaped natural white oak with indirect lighting, stainless steel, and glass facings, and were also conspicuous by mirror-flector down lighting effects. The vestibule floor is in terrazzo with a modern design in red, black, and beige, the walls being real-wood oak Formica, and the front doors are transom are in polished aluminum and plate glass with imported Swedish shepherd’s crook door pulls and pushes. The ceiling is illuminated by a recessed lighting trough with Luminaire fluorescent units combined with circular pot lights. The outer lobby’s color scheme combinations are turquoise and mushroom. In the inner lobby features the attractive schemes of a turquoise ceiling and old rose walls relieved by ivory trim. The ceiling fixtures are in specially cast white plastic and provide indirect lighting as well. This leads through a shaped plaster arch to a large and elaborate lounge area which features a novel real-wood oak Formica with natural oak Formica trim refreshment center. This is accentuated by a floating canopy light fixture over the candy counter, and it is embellished with a background setting in which residents there will see a number of photographic murals of scenic attractions.

A stainless steel railing leads into the main auditorium. With a surprising note, the lounge ceiling was retained in its original green and ivory intrinsic Italian renaissance scheme from its 1924 opening as the Tivoli, along with some wall plaques and cherubic figures. The amphitheater received a major update though but there was a slight change in the color scheme, as its paneled ceiling previously was in a cream and gold color, but in the 1954 remodel it resembles a squared design emphasizing turquoise and highlighted in off-white and gold. Approaching the auditorium are short stairs with a stainless steel railing and at the right is a plant box of gold-flecked black marble. The steps have white rubber nosing which were first developed in Canada and have since became standard equipment in Famous Players theaters at the time. In its original decor, the Tivoli has galleries on either side of busts of the classical poets and playwrights including Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Shelley, and others. Sadly all of these were no longer seen in the 1954 remodel, but however they are hidden inside the theater somewhere. Each of these artistic alcoves have been faced with specially designed panels of tapestry cloth in a swag design. At intermission, it will be notice that the draw curtains was much different in figured old gold. Then, it will be seen the grandiose candelabra in cast plaster overhead and the complementary white wall brackets. The seats at the time in the auditorium are Kroehler push-back seats.

There are easy elbow-room as you approach the rail of attractive real-wood natural oak Formica facing and mahogany trim. The rail is offset with concealed lighting. The aisle carpeting is a special design in a luminous chevron which averts stumbling by patrons on the way to their seats. The bathrooms are also updated, which off the entrance of the second lobby is mirrors along two walls and it is finished in dusty rose. The cosmetic bar itself featured mirrors on all sides and a padded leatherette for the apron of the bar. Lastly, there used to have a confectionery store in the corner of the theater but that since was gone in the 1954 remodel.

rivest266 on December 6, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Reopened as an adult cinema on October 5th, 1972 operated by the EVE pool of Famous Players. Grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on December 6, 2023 at 6:18 pm

Remodeled and reopened as a first-run cinema by Famous Players on March 17th, 1978. Another ad posted.

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