Archive for the ‘Theatres’ Category

THEATRES IN WINNIPEG

April 12, 2009

THEATRES IN WINNIPEG

By George Siamandas

At one time Winnipeg had as many as 130 theatres.

Portage Ave:

Capitol 295 Portage and 313 Donald

Furby Theatre 599 Portage

Gaiety Theatre 459 Portage

Lyceum 292 Portage

Metropolitan 283 Donald

Odeon Smith

Orphium Theatre 283 Fort

Osborne 108 Osborne

Palace 501 Selkirk

Rialto

Main St

Bijou 498 Main St

College Theatre 1296 Main

Colonial 634 Main

Columbia 604 Main

Epic/Regent 644 Main St

Garrick Theatre 30 Garry

Strand 559 Main

Starland 630 Main

Neighbourhoods

Acadia 572 Selkirk

Arcadia gardens 307 Portage Ave

Arlington Theatre 863 Portage Ave

Baddow 323 Tache

Classic 18837 Portage

Corrona 1433 Logan

Mac’s Theatre 585 Ellice

Park 698 Osborne

Plaza 105 Marion St

Province 205 Notre dame

Queens 239 Selkirk

Rose 801 Sargent

Tivoli 115 Maryland

Uptown Theatre

Wonderland 595 Sergent

Drive Inns

Airliner

Pembina drive Inn

Winnipeg’s Metropolitan and Capitol Theatres

April 12, 2009

Winnipeg’s

Metropolitan and Capitol Theatres

By George Siamandas

THE MET

The Met originally called the Allen, was built in the 1919 wave of movie palaces by the Allen family, and was completed in 1920. Both theatres were built in what was considered the golden years of the silver screen. They became known as picture palaces where the theatre itself was as splendid as the entertainment to be offered. In the 1920s theatres became larger, luxurious and relatively fire-proof as compared to the older vaudeville houses like the Walker and the Pantages.

The Allens which had originated in the US, owned 45 theatres then. The architect was Howard Crane from Detroit a noted theatres architect. The Met has an opulent lobby, the auditorium seats 2,500, and the ceiling has lovely plaster ceiling and massive chandelier. Of the two theatres the Met is the most intact.

The new theatres like the Allen, which became the Metropolitan in 1923, and the Capitol incorporated lavish details like elaborate plaster decoration using classical details, mirrors and crystal ornamentation.

The second floor promenade of the Met had overstuffed chesterfields and chairs, in gold white, old rose and french grey. It was a place where people came early and stayed late. Silent films and some vaudeville continued till the talkies arrived in the 1928. There was a house orchestra and a grand Wurlitzer organ.

The Allen (Met) had special indirect lighting that was controlled to give magical effects as the lights dimmed before the show. For opening day on Jan 2 1920 the usherettes were dressed in crisp black and white uniforms and Union Jacks were draped over the capacity balcony which seated 1000. The Allen played four shows a day.

THE CAPITOL

The Capitol opened in 1921 and was designed by New York architect Thomas Lamb. Lamb did all of Famous Players Theatres. He also designed Madison Square Gardens and many of Toronto’s Theatres. It was unique in that it was a two part structure. It had its entry and marquee on Portage Ave where Le Chateau is today. But because land was too expensive to put the theatre on Portage, it was built on Donald with a connecting tunnel on the second level over the back lane. It had an extravagant entry with a marble staircase. In 1979 the Capitol was remodelled and became two theatres by being cut into two at the balcony level. The Met closed in 1987, the Capitol in 1990.

An American-based conglomerate, Famous Players took away the Allen’s distribution deal for Paramount pictures signing an 18 year deal. Understandably, the Allens got into financial trouble, and in 1922 and were bought out by competitor Famous Players in 1923 for a tiny fraction of what their theatres were worth. By 1930, Famous Players controlled 207 of Canada’s 229 chain theatres.

The Capitol was the Allen’s main competitor. It had 2,200 seats and a similar arrangement with balcony and elaborate plaster detailing. One entered from Portage Avenue up until 1963 or 1964. After purchasing tickets one would walk up a flight of marble stairs and marble finished walls. There were silk tapestries, mirrors and heavy brass railings to guide the theatre goer up and over that tunnel to the theatre itself. Children remember seeing Pollyanna at the Capitol just before its Portage Avenue entrance was abandoned and remember the experience of that grand entry which seemed so rich and opulent like the interiors in movie itself.