Formerly, the Oshawa Music Hall, The Biltmore Theatre, 39 King St. E. in Oshawa, is about to reopen. Due to COVID-19, the venue was closed last spring and put up for sale by previous owners, Ed and Maggie Maybee.
Julius Kedvessy bought the venue and decided to change the name back to the Biltmore Theatre.
“Due to the historical nature of the building and desire to restore the exterior facade to its original glory, it was fitting to return the original name,” says Kedvessy.
Standing on King St., the mural that says ‘Biltmore’ and the number 39 on the door make it obvious this is the home of the future music venue.
There is nothing written on the wooden door and there is no handle but once inside, the dark hallway goes to the main floor, a stage, and then the stairs to the right.
The interior is dark yet colourful. It feels like a movie set from history, like The Great Gatsby and the roaring twenties.
The red, green and beige floral carpet on the upper-level combined with the rich and classy red valance curtains on either side of the stage looks like the ballroom scene from The Great Gatsby.
“We thought it looked like a an old-time movie house type carpet,” he says, “It’s a heavy-duty industrial hotel carpet.”
Davis said Kedvessy chose the carpet on the upper-level to make it look like a historical movie.
“It’s Julius Kedvessy’s goal to make this the best live music venue in east of Toronto,” says Jeff Davis, Director of Communications for the Biltmore Theatre.
Kedvessy, the Oshawa Biltmore Theatre owner, has been working on remodelling the historic building back to what it once was as the Biltmore Theatre, which originally opened on April 4, 1949 and closed in 1965.
It has been 56 years since the Biltmore Theatre shut its doors due to World War ll.
“It was a dance club known as the Siren in the ’90s, then the Oshawa Music Hall and now the Biltmore Venue,” says Jennifer Weymark, archivist at the Oshawa Museum.
Kedvessy says he wanted the interior to look Egyptian.
“Anything that caught my eye, I would buy and put in the building,” says owner Julius Kedvessy. This included different size chairs, chandeliers and different coloured pianos.
“Furnishings are an eclectic collection that represents the Egyptian interest of the original open times and complements those days of early cinema and theatres,” says Kedvessy.
Davis says that Kedvessy’s plan is to be the ‘premiere venue for live music east of Toronto’. He says they will still do pre-recorded shows and live streams that have been requested by the audience.
Davis says they are renovating the exterior to make it look like the building in the 1940s. With on-going interior renovations, most things are already in place.
The interior goes from the bars to different sized chandeliers to different coloured pianos.
Davis says they had added carpet to give the building colour as it was dark and groggy before.
It is still a dark colour but is not black.
“We’ve also added paint along the walls to add more colour,” he says, “It used to be very dark and black in here.”
He says the darkness before the colour was good for ‘light shows’ but they want to give the space ‘more life.’
The upper-level of the building will become a V.I.P. area, according to Davis who explained the lounge area is to become a ‘separate venue’ for smaller groups of people.
“For wine and cheese type of social,” he says.
Davis says once COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, the total capacity limit will be 598 people.
Davis says since the seatings were stripped, the building will be standing capacity and open bar on the downstairs level.
The Oshawa Biltmore Theatre is the original of five Biltmore theatres. It happened to be one of the smaller theatres in all of Ontario.
The theatre had 699 seats and was built by the Okum Brothers of Toronto.
In the 1960s, after the doors had shut, the previous owners sold several theatres to the Odeon chain.
Oshawa’s Biltmore Theatre was operated as an Odeon until 1989.
Once Odeon owned the theatre, Davis says that the seating was removed.
“They have stripped all the seating out, and the interior is very different than what it ever would have been back in that day,” he says.
He says it was more historic from the outside rather than the inside of the building.
“The historical aspect of the building was primarily the exterior rather than the interior,” says Davis.
Davis says they are taking extensive measures to keep everyone safe.
“It changes based on the colour. Currently, we are in the red zone,” he says, “which will be ten people indoor.”
Face mask/coverings will be required and social distancing as well.
They will have bands go to the Biltmore Theatre and will live to stream them online, depending on their contracts, so that the audience can watch from home.
“We have the health department’s approval that we can do that, under the current COVID-19 restrictions,” says Davis.
Once the pandemic is over, anyone will be able to go inside.
“We are preparing a socially distanced open house event and the Grand Opening will not take place until our front building facade restoration is completed. However, we are nearly 100 per cent ready to go,” says Davis.
Davis says they hope to have renovations and construction done as soon as possible.