This self-guided tour focuses on Toronto’s Riverside neigbourhood and its exciting past & present film and TV uses.
Just steps from Toronto’s major film studios, 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.
This tour will have you walking on De Grassi Street and in Bruce Mackey Park to learn about the origins of the Degrassi TV series. You’ll make a last stop at Laird FX, Canada’s largest special effects and props firm (Dawn of the Dead, Total Recall) on Riverside’s McGee Street. Get ready to walk or wheel to explore Toronto’s Riverside:
The columned façade at 765 Queen St E 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, as well as In The Mouth of Madness (1994).
STOP 2: 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 over 50 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.
STOP 3: The Broadview Hotel (106 Broadview Ave) & Teck Theatre (700 Queen St E)
Located at 106 Broadview Ave, The Broadview Hotel – originally built in 1891 as a Romanesque style hall for public gatherings called ‘Dingman’s Hall’ – a 1907 ownership change converted the building to rooming houses for men working in factories or on the rail lines. The building was Jilly’s strip club by 1986, until, in 2014, Streetcar Developments bought and transformed this iconic building into The Broadview Hotel, a boutique hotel with the best views of the Toronto skyline. It has since been the scene of prominent TV series such as A Handmaid’s Tale.
Right next door was once the Teck Theatre (pictured below), a Toronto movie house opened from 1931-33 during the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’.
The Riverside Bridge (Queen St Viaduct) appeared in Angel Eyes (2001) with the CN Tower at the back, even though the movie was set in Chicago. At the eastern foot of the bridge, the popular Italian restaurant Il Ponte, named for the bridge it is located beside, was the setting for the TV series Mary Kills People (episode 2×05).
STOP 5: Quince Flowers (660 Queen St E)
A popular floral shop in Riverside for 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 flowers for the TV series Suits, you can see below a picture from Meghan Markle’s wedding in the series, and Atom Egoyan’s movies Chloe (2009) and Ararat (2002).
STOP 6: 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 which 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).
STOP 7: 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.
STOP 8: 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.