Lights! Camera! Movie posters! Mike Orlando’s gift shop has kept old Hollywood alive since 1984.


You know you’ve got a must-see store when the members of Metallica request a private two-day shopping spree.

This is what happened to Mike Orlando, owner and manager of Hollywood Canteen, in 2018 when the rock superstars came to Toronto for a week-long stay. They had long heard of the thousands of movie posters and books stuck in the quaint store at 1841 Danforth Ave., and had only to check them out.

“They were all movie fans and wanted posters based on what they like,” Orlando says,

70. Guitarist Kirk Hammett bought a large number of Italian horror movie posters. Frontman James Hetfield, a fan of car movies, landed a poster for “Two-Lane Blacktop”, starring James Taylor. And drummer Lars Ulrich donated $ 3,500 for a rare Disneyland “Alice in Wonderland” poster. (Bassist Robert Trujillo kind of walked away empty-handed.)

Orlando first opened Hollywood Canteen in 1984 in Beaches after selling his collection of Humphrey Bogart memorabilia (“one of the largest in the world,” he adds) and realizing that ‘he could turn his passion for posters into a viable business.

“I have a strong connection to the poster community,” says Orlando, “and I’ve always been looking for movie posters and books about movies and actors, especially classic movies.”

After two years in the beaches, the store moved to the Broadview and Danforth area for three years until rent tripled, forcing Orlando to establish a new location in Markham Village, before Honest Ed’s and surrounding areas were demolished. .

Forced to move again, in 2015 Orlando found a permanent home for Hollywood Canteen on the Danforth, a few blocks east of Coxwell Avenue. Orlando briefly expanded with a store in the Mount Pleasant area, but closed it to focus solely on the Danforth outlet.

Walking into the store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the range of books and posters available for movie (and TV and theater) enthusiasts. About 15,000 books and 3,000 posters are offered, the price being determined by the rarity of the object.

Don’t expect a handful of books on any given topic. One section is devoted to books on music in the movies, and another is full of books on sex in the movies.

A dizzying section is chock-full of actor biographies, often offering more than one book on a recognizable name. Do you like Peter Sellers, famous for “Pink Panther”? Choose from nine different books on him. Are you a fan of Marilyn Monroe? There are a few shelves dedicated to the movie icon.

“If you want to learn more about special effects in movies, we have books on that,” says Orlando, “and if you want to learn more about using religion in movies, we also have books. on this subject. ”

Just a glimpse of Mike Orlando's collection at Hollywood Canteen.

One of the most popular sections of the store is full of books on horror movies, with titles such as “Terrors of the Screen”, “Splatter Movies” and “Bloodsuckers: Vampires at the Movies”.

“Horror books sell out quickly because those under 40, who are not (otherwise) known to be collectors, really enjoy collecting books and posters like this,” says Orlando.

Hollywood Canteen’s impressive selection of original movie posters, reproductions, and lobby cards (smaller 11×17 promotional posters that the studios used

hit theaters) is the meaty draw for collectors. Many pre-1990 posters from films such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Psycho” and “The Wiz” are available. “I’ve seen people who want to fill their rooms with ‘Back to the Future’ posters, so they shell out $ 1,500 for an original,” says Orlando.

Inside the store, it’s hard not to admire the antique posters on display, such as the 1936 one “The General Died at Dawn” ($ 800) and an original “The Exorcist” ($ 500) . After 20 minutes in the store, you soon start to appreciate the art and design of the posters that many of us have rarely thought of.

Orlando unrolls Hollywood Canteen’s most expensive article: an original poster for “L’Avventura”, the 1960 drama by famous Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. It sells for $ 2,500.

Mike Orlando in his Hollywood Canteen store.

Orlando says his poster stand at CNE has long been a powerful marketing tool and revenue generator. And if he didn’t sell rare posters online through third parties, along with a handful of books every day, Orlando doesn’t know if he would still be in business. “Walk-in shoppers are great, but we do a lot of business online and we have so many American buyers,” he says. “I can’t wait to catalog everything we have in the store so that fans can go beyond Amazon, AbeBooks and Alibris to buy our products online. Hopefully we can have our own online store available in the coming year.

What constantly drives Orlando are the times he finds the right item for a customer. “I remember a guy coming to get a book for his dad who loves movies, but he didn’t know what to get him,” Orlando says. “So I showed him a book about Robert Wise, who made ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘West Side Story’, and it was also autographed by Wise. The client freaked out telling me he was one of his dad’s favorite directors. He called me later to thank me for finding the perfect book.

“You know,” he adds, “that stuff happens a lot here. ”

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