One of the city’s last independent theatres has been closed over unpaid rent, fueling the surrounding community’s speculation on what is in the cards for the popular venue.
The Danforth Music Hall’s owners, Electra Films evicted tenant Ellipsis Leisure Retail on Aug. 16 after Ellipsis owed more than $44,000 in unpaid rental fees, according to a notice posted on the theatre door.
This new turn of events in the life of the storied theatre has led to a flurry of questions about whether the building, owned by the Andrikopoulos family, would be leased out by a new entertainment company, or be sold off to developers.
So far, the future remains uncertain, although Mike Andrikopoulos confirmed on Sept. 13 his family has no plans to sell it to developers. He said he has talked with several entertainment groups interested in leasing the space, and is currently in negotiations with one group in particular.
“Sooner or later we hope it will be open again,” Andrikopoulos says. “The theatre is going to be kept more or less the same.”
Built by C. Howard Crane and Hynes of Feldman & Watson Architects in 1919, the modified Georgian Revival style hall was originally named Allen’s Danforth Theatre after owners John and Julie Allen.
The family declared bankruptcy in 1922 and sold their 10 theatres at “fire-sale prices” to Famous Players.
In the decades that followed the theatre became a silent film venue. Eventually it turned into a Greek-language movie theatre before becoming known as the Danforth Music Hall and returning to its live performance roots in the 1980s.
Ellipsis, under CEO Brit Glyn Laverick’s management, took over the space in 2005, and set to work renovating the space by painting the walls, redoing the stage and fixing mould, water and heating problems.
The renovations helped attract big name acts to the theatre in the last five years, including KT Tunstall, Arcade Fire and Dr. Draw.
Dancap Productions brought The Toxic Avenger musical to the hall last fall.
“It’s up to the owners but I hope it will remain as an entertainment venue of some sort,” says Gerald Whyte, president of the Riverdale Historical Society.
Last year, Whyte’s society placed a heritage plaque on the theatre calling to attention the hall’s historical importance and value to the community.
“It is one of the last 10 Allen theatres that still is a theatre,” says Whyte.
“It has been on the Danforth for a very long time. It’s important for Riverdale.”
Susan Baker, executive director of the Riverdale Share Community Association said she is saddened the Danforth Music Hall has been shuttered, but added it’s no surprise.
Her association staged their yearly holiday concert at the hall for the last 17 years.
Last year would have marked the concert’s 18th year if it wasn’t for Baker’s stormy relationship with Laverick, she says.
“He was a very difficult person to deal with,” she says.
“We didn’t have a good experience when we were there.”
Baker knew it was time to leave when Laverick asked her non-for-profit company to come up with $14,000 to rent the hall for her concert for one night compared to the few hundred Baker was used to paying.
They found a new home at St. Barnabas Church down the street.
“I loved the Music Hall,” she says. “To be in one theatre for 17 years, it was very hard to leave.”
Like Whyte, Baker hopes whoever leases the venue next is committed to keeping the entertainment value of the space alive, not develop into a retail or residential space.
“The Music Hall should part of the community,” Baker said.
Calls and emails to Laverick requesting an interview weren’t returned.
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