As part of our ‘Riverside BIA: 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series, we’re sharing the story of the film and TV culture in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood, with some fascinating tidbits from over the years.
This story has been modified from it’s origins as one of our Riverside Walks. Thanks to our former BIA Board Member and local historian Ron Fletcher and his ‘movie buff’ brother Bernie Fletcher for sharing photos and information for this original walk/story.
Have you ever wondered where some of your favourite TV shows and movies were filmed? In some cases, the answer is very close to home! Just steps from Toronto’s major film studios, the Riverside neighbourhood has been a film and TV hotspot for decades thanks to the area’s film-friendly ‘doors open’ policy. Home to the famous De Grassi Street, which inspired the Degrassi TV series, Riverside has been transformed for “Cinderella Man” (2005) and more recently hosted shoots for TV series such as “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Taken.”
Ralph Thornton Centre / Queen Saulter Library (765 Queen St E) & Cinderella Man (Queen St E)
The columned façade was designed by E.J. Lennox, who also designed Old City Hall and Casa Loma. The building was constructed in 1913 and served as Postal Station G until 1975. It was acquired by the City of Toronto and renovated into a community center and library in 1979. Scenes from Cinderella Man (2005) were filmed in and around the building and in The Mouth of Madness (1994).
George Iliades (741 Queen St E)
A lot has changed on Queen St E, but George Iliades, barber and actor, has been in the same shop for the last 54 years and has been in 14 movies! His first appearance was in 2001, for a TD Bank Commercial (TD rented his shop for the ad and ended up putting him on camera too). After that, he got an agent and has been in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and more.
The Broadview Hotel (106 Broadview Ave) & Teck Theatre (700 Queen St E)
Originally built in 1891 as a Romanesque style hall for public gatherings called ‘Dingman’s Hall,’ a 1907 ownership change converted it to rooming houses for men working in factories or on the rail lines. The building was Jilly’s Strip Club by 1986. In 2014, Streetcar Developments bought and transformed this iconic building into a boutique hotel with the Toronto skyline’s best views. It has since been the scene of prominent TV series such as A Handmaid’s Tale. Right next door was once the Teck Theatre, a Toronto movie house opened from 1931-33 during the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’. Read all about The Broadview Hotel’s long and colourful history in our past feature.
Riverside Bridge & Il Ponte (625 Queen St E)
The Bridge appeared in Angel Eyes (2001) with the CN Tower at the back, even though Angel Eyes is set in Chicago. At the eastern foot of the Bridge, the Italian restaurant Il Ponte, named for the Bridge it was located beside, was the set for the TV series Mary Kills People (episode 2×05).
Quince Flowers (660 Queen St E)
A popular floral shop in Riverside for over 10 years, Quince boasts TIFF as one of their clients and created the flower wall ‘step and repeat’ for TIFF’s 40th Anniversary. Quince did the floral arrangements for the TV series Suits as well as Atom Egoyan’s movies Chloe (2009) and Ararat (2002).
The Opera House (735 Queen St E)
An iconic Toronto music venue since 1989, the building originally opened in 1909 as a Vaudeville stage, then as La Plaza Theatre (1930s), and as a movie theatre through the 1960s. As multiplex screen venues popped up, the venue transformed again in 1989 under new ownership to a live music venue that has hosted many of the world’s top acts such as Metallica, Cindy Lauper, and Eminem. The Opera House has been in many movie scenes, notably The Rocker (2008) and Johnny Mnemonic (1995). Learn all about The Opera House and it’s long history in our past feature about it.
De Grassi Street & Bruce Mackey Park (55 Wardell St)
Originally named for the soldier, Filippo De Grassi, the street was made famous after it inspired the hit TV series franchise. Bruce Mackey Park was officially dedicated to a founding friend and supporter of the Degrassi TV series: Bruce Mackey opened his home to young filmmakers, Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood, who were making a short children’s film. The Kids of Degrassi Street was born, spawning the cult classic franchise including Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation, which starred now famed artist Drake, and Degrassi: Next Class. Read more about this in our past story about De Grassi St vs Degrassi St!
Laird Fx (46 McGee St)
Established in 1979 by Laird McMurray, Laird Fx is Canada’s largest firm doing special effects, props and more devices for film, TV, theatre and live events – having worked with series such as Star Trek. Laird changed the game by hiring people full-time year-round – locking in good employees and talented people.
If Riverside’s “door open” policy, landscape, and proximity to major local film studios were not enough to make it a hotbed for TV and film projects, the character and history of the area are. Buildings and streets in Riverside reflect a city that has changed greatly but retained qualities and proudly bears markings of its past. Set for today, tomorrow, or yesterday, Riverside provides a great canvas to tell a visual story.
We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of some of the fascinating film and TV moments in Riverside’s history, and cheers to many more being made every day!
The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.