Moray Tawse grew up in movie theatres. Today, the successful financier has returned one of Toronto’s oldest single-screen theatres to its former glory.
Growing up in Rexdale, Tawse was not from an affluent family. His mother worked several jobs to provide for her family and one of them was a ticket taker at the Biltmore Theatre. When she couldn’t find babysitting services she would bring her son to work with her.
“On weekends he would be raised by watching movies,” said David Thorek, Director of Operations at the new Paradise on Bloor.
After driving by the empty theatre in 2012, Tawse was nostalgic and decided to purchase the space and bring a real theatre experience back to the Bloordale community.
The theatre has an enlarged stage and retractable seating, allowing for both live standing performances and seated shows. The old-timey ticket wicket harkens back to the original days of the Paradise.
“Having the mix of an incredible night out for some people, you know seeing an amazing movie, but for others and it’s becoming more and more so, it’s taking time out of our busy lives, breaking bread with our friends and family and if you can encompass that in one location, I think that’s a recipe for success,” said Thorek.
Thorek, who has been involved in the project since its inception in 2016, has been working diligently to make the Paradise more of an experience than just a movie theatre.
“I don’t want to speak ill of Cineplex because Cineplex now is pushing the envelope,” said Thorek. “They see themselves not just as a movie theatre, but as an entertainment venue and that’s what this is too, but we’re kind of flipping it to not just entertainment, but hospitality.”
Moray Tawse’s vision is for an all-encompassing space with mixed-media programming as well as service and hospitality.
“He always knew he wanted the restaurant and the theatre and then the cocktail bar also came on board in that process,” explained Thorek.
Tawse paired up with Robin Goodfellow, mixologist and partner in Bar Raval and PrettyUgly, to create the cocktail bar Bar Biltmore. The snack bar is named after the theatre Tawse spent weeknights and weekends in as a child. He is also working with Geary Avenue’s artisanal pasta makers, Famiglia Baldassarre to open the Paradise’s flagship restaurant, Osteria Rialto.
The space harkens back to the heyday of the cinema. When patrons enter the chrome doors and pass the outdoor ticket wicket, they enter a dark and sleek space decked out in reflective black tile. The lobby is illuminated by the centrepiece bar, which is also the concession stand.
“I really don’t know many other spaces in the city that are like this,” said Thorek. “It’s a really awesome space, it’s crazy to see it all come together.”