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Concert Venues :: O'Keefe Centre


Now Known As Sony Centre for the Arts
Date Opened 1960
Venue Capacity 3,000
Venue URL
Venue Address 1 Front Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5E 1B2

Venue Information

In 1954, philanthropist, horsebreeder, and developer E.P. Taylor, the head of the OKeefe Brewing Company and Argus Corporation, offered to build a much-needed performing arts centre for the city. He assigned one of his key executives, Hugh Walker, to oversee the job of building what local wags described as "the house that beer built." (Walker ultimately would stay on as the centres general manager until 1975.)

Three years later, demolition of a cluster of aging warehouses, stores, and office buildings at the corner of Front and Yonge streets began, and Earle Morgan and Page & Steele started construction on the complex which became known as the OKeefe Centre. The red-carpet opening was held on October 1, 1960 with the pre-Broadway premiere of Alexander H. Cohens production of the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet. Subsequent productions of Camelot have made stops at the Centre in 1993 and 2007.

Until 1967, the building and land were owned by the OKeefe Brewing Company, which then sold them to the City of Toronto, although it took a decade before ownership passed into the hands of the city, which still owns the property.

The OKeefe Centre was renamed the Hummingbird Centre in 1996 after the naming rights were purchased by the Canadian software company Hummingbird Ltd.. In late 2006, Hummingbird was acquired by Open Text Corporation who opted not to rename the venue or renew the naming rights. Sony, the new owners of the naming rights, have renamed the building as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. However, signs directing traffic to the centre still refer to it as "Hummingbird Centre" until the City gets around to changing them.

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