British Columbia Movie Theatres

 

British Columbia movie theatres as listed in the 1945 and 1946 issues of The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, with modifications and additions to the end of 1960, illustrating initial post-war construction.

The majority of the post-1946 list has been sourced from the Canadian section of the weekly Boxoffice magazine, where for many years Jack Droy, the correspondent for Vancouver, a former film exchange manager, wrote of the various happenings on filmrow. Jack covered everything from birthdays to new theatre construction in British Columbia, providing an accurate source to update The Film Daily list.

Another important source was the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, which published a reference paper simply titled List of Theatres, 1950, documenting every theatre in Canada by name, location and gauge of film (35mm or 16mm). The list, dated No. 30, November 1951, was invaluable.

The combination of Jack Droy's snippets in Boxoffice, the D.B.S. reference paper, and the recent inclusion of the Film Weekly Year Book of the Canadian Motion Picture Industry, provide an almost definitive list of 35mm theatres operating in British Columbia during this time.

The Film Daily information has been used as the foundation of the list, but except for circuit houses the publication stopped listing Canadian theatres after 1946.

Included is the year that Film Daily first listed a theatre, beginning in 1932, but is not a reflection of when a house was built since usually there was a one- or two-year period before being added. The Film Daily Year Book, it should be noted, was published early in the year. Almost all houses listed as 1932 are even older, but Film Daily did not publish such comprehensive lists previously.

Ideally all theatres should have the year they were operational, something that might be added in a future update. For now only theatres added to the original Film Daily list show the year they were operational if known.

A few of the new theatres were 16mm houses before going to 35mm, and it is the latter format's opening date that is shown.

Seating capacity is noted but these numbers vary even for theatres which had no renovations or other modifications. The number shown for drive-ins is for automobiles, of course, not including some which had seats for walk-ins. Many drive-ins were expanded but preference is given to the original car capacity if known. The numbers for walk-ins, it should be noted, are not accurate since the D.B.S. reported 772 seats in 1953 and 723 seats in 1954, so a few outdoorers will be missing this information.

From late November 1939 to mid-April 1951, British Columbia's Fire Marshal Act mandated that all theatres with more than 450 seats, or open to the public more than forty hours in the week, have two projectionists in the booth at all times. If a theatre had less than 450 seats and open less than forty hours in the week, only one projectionist was required in the booth at all times. Because of this, some houses were reseated under the limit to save the extra expense. It was common to see a theatre's capacity listed as 449 even though the house had more in previous or later years.

The numbers in the table below were published by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, which included the Yukon and Northwest Territories, whose theatres also are included in the master list. Previous to 1948 the D.B.S. did not differentiate between the gauge of film or community or regular houses, lumping them together in their totals, so 1948 is used as a starting point.

Community houses, which the D.B.S. stopped documenting after 1956, are those operated by non-profit organizations but which still generally charged an admission. After 1956, such community enterprises running 35mm were included as regular theatres. The D.B.S. did not include drive-ins on a province basis until 1952, the previous numbers below—all 35mm—being mine. The D.B.S. surveys included 16mm outdoorers.

 

 

The numbers in the table show the results of theatre closures due to television, the cost to small town and suburban houses for upgrading to widescreen (those that had the room), high film rentals and postage rates, increased admission prices, and bingo.

The numbers for 1955 are deceiving since the D.B.S. reported that 53 theatres in British Columbia had closed but operated some time during the year. In July of 1955 Boxoffice reported that 30 four-wall theatres and four drive-ins were closed, with many more closure reports to come.

Despite these closures, 177 new theatres were built in Canada between 1954–1957, 75 of them drive-ins. In February 1962, Boxoffice reported that in the past seven years in Canada, 128 new theatres opened while 521 standard houses and 22 drive-ins went dark.

By 1960 there were only 116 regular 35mm theatres in operation, a number made more deceiving since new such theatres had been built between 1955–1960, notably the Paramount Theatre (Kamloops, 1955, 1,000 seats); Nechako Theatre (Kitimat, 1956, 700 seats); Pen-Mar Theatre (Penticton, 1956, 449 seats); Premiere Theatre (Fruitvale, 1956, 350 seats); Lux Theatre (Taylor, 1957, 300 seats); and the Lido Theatre (Fort St. John, 1957, 499 seats).

In 1953 regular 16mm theatres compared to regular 35mm theatres accounted for only 1.4% of indoor paid admissions, testimony to the small volume of business these narrow-gauge houses handled even though they accounted for 11% of British Columbia and the two territories' regular theatres.

For all indoor paid admissions for the two gauges in 1953, including regular and community theatres, 16mm accounted for 2.6% of total admissions. Again a small percentage, but that amounted to 565,238 tickets being sold to view narrow-gauge, excluding the 86,182 paid admissions in halls serviced by itinerant exhibitors.

If one includes outdoor (drive-in) admissions, 16mm accounted for 2.1% of total admissions; and if one includes all indoor and outdoor admissions outside Vancouver (within the incorporated city limits), Victoria and New Westminster, 16mm accounted for 4.5% of total admissions in 1953.

The D.B.S. numbers show the increase of 16mm theatres, reflecting proliferation of the format due to its economy and especially the greatly increased post-war availability of narrow-gauge mainstream movies, the format previously the domain of educational, institutional and industrial films, and the hobbyist, with a limited catalog of feature-length entertainment.

Previous to the war, Paramount and Universal were the big players in the 16mm field, but in the U.S. one was more likely to see their product on a ship at sea, a prison, or a hospital, than a standard theatre. The studios' 16mm departments were called 'non-theatrical' for good reason.

Hollywood was very guarded about 16mm domestically, especially in areas where exhibition could be in competition to regular theatres. Canada, on the other hand, was more suited to the format because of its isolation, where theatreless communities were common, and in most cases the nearest 35mm house was many miles away.

The drawback to narrow-gauge was that it took at least a year before films were made available for distribution, although during World War II the studios made available for free prints on 16mm at the same time or before their 35mm counterparts, product for exhibition only to overseas U.S. military personnel.

The U.S. alone had over 1,000 16mm military theatres, with 19 exchange centers around the world, and the Canadian military adopted the format for screen entertainment purposes both in Europe and Canada. A local example was the 550-seat Bayview Theatre at Boundary Bay, which opened in 1945 for use by the R.C.A.F.

Immediately after the war, more of the major studios made available portions of their catalogs in narrow-gauge, but generally only to theatres outside the U.S., especially in war-torn Europe. By 1948 there were 1,600 16mm operations in England, 2,900 in France, 600 in Italy, and hundreds more in other countries around the world.

Narrow-gauge, the unwanted stepchild of the film industry, initially much maligned by Hollywood, would eventually be adopted by more of the majors for domestic distribution. Revenues, however, were very small compared to standard-gauge which generated, for example, about 98% of U.S. domestic rentals in 1954. The overseas markets for 16mm were much more lucrative.

According to 20th Century-Fox, by early 1955 there were 2,700 16mm projectors in U.S. theatres, excluding about 26,000 narrow gauge exhibitors in public institutions, churches, schools, etc.

Fox's number for 16mm projectors in U.S. theatres—which totaled about 18,000 including drive-ins—undoubtedly includes those houses which also ran 35mm, narrow-gauge more an adjunct than the main means of projection. In 1955 the Cascades Drive-In in Burnaby, for instance, was running 16mm for its cartoons.

As stated in 1955 by former R.K.O. Radio president Ned E. Depinet, testifying in the trial of the U.S. government's case charging five major Hollywood companies with conspiracy to restrict distribution and exhibition of 16mm prints, “There is not, and never has been, a commercial 16mm film business in the United States.”

Depinet's statement is not true in some ways, since the Hollywood majors did rent domestically their 16mm entertainment films for commercial purposes, either through their own branches or to licensed distributors. But much scrutiny—especially by the powerful Motion Picture Theater Owners of America organization—was paid to narrow-gauge exhibitors to ensure 35mm houses were not affected, not so easy in the U.S. where standard-gauge penetrated into smaller communities than elsewhere in the world.

As an example of the cross-border differences, M.G.M. did not enter the U.S. domestic 16mm field until 1956, yet was active in Canada well before then. Even when the company—the largest distributor of narrow-gauge overseas—did enter the domestic field, anamorphic widescreen versions were available in Canada but not the U.S.

Unlike 35mm which used inflammable nitrate film stock, and thus required fireproof projection booths, 16mm film could be shown anywhere and the equipment was much less expensive, as were the 16mm prints themselves. These and other benefits precipitated theatres opening up in small communities which would otherwise not have one.

British Columbians without easy access to regular theatres visited these licensed 16mm enterprises, usually located in a community hall or Legion, many served by licensed itinerant exhibitors who brought in film from the exchanges in Vancouver or Calgary, usually travelling a circuit of four or five locations.

In 1946, for example, at the height of post-war itinerant operations, 26 exhibitors were working in British Columbia, five with 35mm equipment and 22 with 16mm. By 1951 all itinerant exhibitors were using 16mm, theatre inspections and film exchanges stopping the use of nitrate-based 35mm film stock, some of which was projected in unsuitable halls which were fire hazards.

Boxoffice profiled an itinerant in their January 5, 1946 issue, providing insight into this form of exhibition. At this time the itinerant's company was called Pacific Mobile Movies, and by 1950, Pacific Motion Pictures, helmed by Gordon West, another returned veteran, who took over from Hugh Greig in 1946. General Film Distributors, mentioned in the news item, was Canada's largest 16mm film and equipment distributor.

 

A Veteran Builds Up Weekly Circuit

VICTORIA, B.C.—By using the re-establishment credits due to him after five and one-half years overseas service with the Canadian forces, Hugh H. P. Greig has built up a weekly moving picture circuit in small villages on the coast of British Columbia. The circuit reaches from Pender Harbor to Roberts Creek and he figures it will be on a paying basis by spring.

With his re-establishment credits he bought a [16mm] projector and accessories, an old car to transport the equipment and obtained a three-year contract with General Film Distributors.

He has been granted “awaiting returns benefits” for a period of one year, or until he has recovered his initial expenditure and has the business on a paying basis.

PENDER HARBOR IS TERMINUS

Pender Harbor, at the mouth of Jervis Inlet 60 miles from Vancouver, is the northern terminus of the circuit and is a fishing and logging village. He spends two nights a week at Pender Harbor showing the latest pictures to the fishermen and loggers and their families who come by boat from the surrounding coves to the community hall where he shows the pictures.

Then he heads south to Halfmoon Bay, which is a popular summer resort but even in winter he has an average audience there of 65 at the weekly show, which is the smallest attendance at any of the stops. At the next stop, Sechelt, Greig hopes to induce the Vancouver Steamship Co., which operates the summer resort, to build a theatre to be managed by himself.

SOUTH END AT ROBERTS CREEK

The southern terminus of the circuit is at Roberts Creek, location of several logging camps and a popular resort.

Greig sees great possibilities in his new venture and has already taken on an assistant, ex-service man, Alfred Biggs, who it is planned will become a partner in the business.

In due course Greig plans to obtain a slide projector and become a medium for advertising for Vancouver and local merchants.

 

In subsequent years such itinerants, who were forbidden under provincial law from exhibiting within 10 miles of a licensed theatre, would diminish with the addition of more rural theatres, and television reaching farther north with community antennas.

Many ex-service men were trained during the war on the use of 16mm, and post-war community organizations had nine-week courses on 16mm projection, which lessened the role of itinerants.

Although in decline by the late 1950s in British Columbia, narrow-gauge would see a resurgence in the early 1960s. As Boxoffice reported in mid-1963, “Exhibitors don't like the thought of so many 16mm situations opening over the province.”

Almost all drive-in theatres in British Columbia from 1946–1954 were running 35mm, with a notable exception: the 150-car Langford Drive-In near Victoria, the second outdoorer opened in western Canada. The Film Daily reported the first Canadian narrow-gauge drive-in opened in 1949 at Fort Erie, Ontario, but the Langford debuted in the summer of 1947, and operated only two seasons. A few other 16mm outdoorers would come and go during this time besides the Langford. By 1960 there were four 16mm drive-ins in British Columbia, at Lytton, Chase, Smithers and Valemount, with more to come.

Sixteen-millimetre theatres are generally not included in the master list since it is specific only to 35mm situations, or those that appeared in Film Daily, but it is important to note the use of narrow-gauge that entertained many people at the time.

It should be noted that after 1954 a few small houses later downgraded their projection equipment from 35mm to 16mm to save shipping charges.

Community houses are sometimes a source of confusion when it comes to the word 'theatre.' As described by British Columbia's Fire Marshal Act at this time, a moving-picture theatre “includes any theatre, hall, building, or premises erected or used for in connection with any place of public resort, gathering, entertainment, or amusement, in or upon which any kinematograph operated.” (The word 'upon' is used because some itinerants projected on the outside of buildings.)

As an example, Film Daily listed Delta Hall, a two-story community building used in part by the local agriculture association. Although a community building, the proprietor ran the theatre as if it was a typical house, the building used for other purposes but the 'kinematograph' operated on a profit-basis, without core involvement of a community organization.

Locals and Vancouver's filmrow called Delta Hall the Ladner Theatre, but it was not a purpose-built theatre in the typical sense of the word. It was somewhat common for halls to be named after their community. The Legion Theatre in Oliver, for example, operating since the 1930s, also was known as the Oliver Theatre, unrelated to the house built later, as with the Ladner Theatre.

Sometimes theatres were simply called the Opera House by filmrow, especially before the war, as in the case of the Haney Theatre, another hall doubling for the exhibition of motion pictures.

Film Daily listed Memorial Hall in Agassiz, which in 1937 was known as the Agassy Theatre, a name given by the new proprietors who at the time also operated the Abbotsford Theatre. In late 1938 the Agassiz Theatre closed due to a lack of business, but the hall certainly remained.

Halls at Ladner, Haney and Agassiz illustrate how a building could become a theatre if a proprietor was willing to provide the services necessary such as projection and booking. If business was not profitable or for other reasons the operator left and was not replaced, the hall would remain but not as a theatre.

British Columbia's fire regulations were very specific to motion picture theatres, covering things such as construction materials, seating, aisles, stairways, exits and entrances, lighting, ventilation, heating, and the projection booth.

In 1938 the Fire Marshal Act was amended to include the following: The Fire Marshal may in his discretion permit a hall of the type commonly known as a Community Hall, to be used as a moving picture theatre notwithstanding that the hall does not comply with these regulations, but no such permit shall be granted unless the Fire Marshal is satisfied that the hall may with reasonable safety be used as a motion picture theatre.

Also exempt, although not amended in 1938, were older theatres: All plans and specifications shall be in accordance with these regulations, except that the Fire Marshal may in the case of a moving-picture theatre existing on October 1st, 1929, approve such deviations from these regulations as he considers advisable and in accordance with reasonable safety.

Boxoffice, November 18, 1944: Amending an order covering the use and equipment of public halls in British Columbia, the provincial council has decreed that chairs shall “be battened together and secured to the floor in an approved manner.” The amended order, giving the fire marshal discretionary power, will effect many halls which have movable seats and are used for both dancing and film exhibitions.

Motion picture theatres in British Columbia had long been required to have chairs battened and secured to the floor, but the proliferation and easy portability of 16mm generally necessitated the fire marshal's discretionary power.

In their annual reports, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics described community enterprises: These establishments constitute community or parish halls used for motion picture exhibitions in localities which do not have a regular theatre. They are operated by organizations such as churches, lodges, Boards of Trade, Canadian Legion Branches etc., and differ from regular theatres in that members of the organizations frequently provide their services free of charge.

In 1950 the D.B.S. listed 35mm community halls at Bralorne, Copper Mountain, Field, Holberg, Keremeos, Lillooet, Pioneer Mines, Port Alice, Premier Mines, Sointula, and Woodfibre, most of which were long-established theatres. The Keremeos theatre was a then-modern quonset-type building, but was still called a hall by the D.B.S.

Illustrating the differences between regular and community theatres, the 35mm Log Cabin Theatre at Lillooet, a community house since 1945, previously privately owned, was operated by the Canadian Legion, yet the 16mm Legion Theatre at Peachland was a regular, non-community house.

Regardless of semantics and what constituted a community or regular theatre, or whether situated in a hall, no distinction is made in the list presented. A house is included so long as it was open to the general public and running 35mm, or was listed in Film Daily.

Theatres managed by the two big Canadian circuits, Famous Players Canadian Corp., Ltd. and Odeon Theatres of Canada, Ltd., are noted. Mention is made if Famous Players or Odeon did not run a theatre for the entirety of the 1945–1960 timeframe covered. Some circuit situations were owned outright while others were leased or partnered with other circuits or individual owners, so inclusion certainly does not mean ownership.

A notes section is included with each house but it is beyond the scope of this simplistic list to include anything other than the most basic of information. Some theatres were known to have been closed for a time, 'dark' as the trades would say. A note will follow if a theatre had a name changed, was destroyed by fire, rebuilt from the ground up or enlarged, but not including extensive renovation.

These notes, except for a few exceptions (notably name changes), are specific only to the timeframe covered here, excluding pre-1945 notes used to establish previous theatres or their locations.

Even with the accurate resources of Boxoffice, The Film Daily, the D.B.S., and the Canadian Film Weekly Year Book, the list is not complete: there are some ‘holes’. Therefore it must be considered to be a work in progress, with more information required for a number of indoor and outdoor theatres.

All the theatres added to the original Film Daily list were known to be operating some time between 1945–1960. None were added simply because they may have appeared in a pre-1945 edition.

Following the list of theatres is another about the first houses wired for sound in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, followed by a 1916 article about the early history of Vancouver theatres.

It was decided to extend the timeframe up to 1960, since the notes contained references to such theatres anyway. The Film Weekly Year Book of the Canadian Motion Picture Industry, abbreviated as CFWYB and first published in 1951, has now been used extensively. Many of these year books are available from the Internet Archive, but the volumes are far from complete due to their rarity. I have been able to acquire originals of the 1952–1953 and 1959–1960 editions. The opening dates for the new theatres—like almost all those previous to 1954—have been culled from Boxoffice.

Documenting theatre closures can be tricky, since a situation could be dark for a few years and then reopened. Because of this, the five CFWYB editions from 1959–1964 were used as a poor man's way of compensating for the lack of consistently accurate information. If a theatre did not appear one or more times in those editions, a note stating ‘not listed’ is shown. This will illustrate a likely permanent closure by decade's end or early 1960s at most (generally no attempt was made to go beyond that timeframe).

The blue note appears even if the year of closure is listed, providing a quick visual reference. Boxoffice did accurately document many permanent closures, but there is a reliance on the generic blue note to show theatres that did not survive. A number of houses, however, did close in the early 1960s but appear without the blue note.

 

 

 

 

Listed in Film Daily 1945–1946, one or both editions
Not listed in Film Daily 1945–1946 but an established 35mm theatre at the time
New indoor theatre
Outdoor theatre (all were new since the first was in 1946)

FD Debut: The year first listed in The Film Daily Year Book 1932–1946. Usually for new post-1932 houses there was a one- or two-year period before being added after submission by the Vancouver Film Board of Trade; a note will follow if the latency of inclusion is greater than two years of its opening date. Almost all those listed as 1932 are even older, but Film Daily did not publish such lists previously.

 

 

Name Location Seats Year Notes FD Debut
 
Lower Mainland
Abbotsford Theatre Abbotsford 366  

Listed in the 1932 Film Daily as the Timms Theatre†, this was actually called the Abbotsford Theatre. Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house, sold by the circuit in 1957 to become the independent Abbotsford Theatre.

CFWYB 1951: 449 seats.

1932†
Aga Theatre Agassiz 300 1947

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week. CFWYB 1959–1960: open 2 days per week.

 
Memorial Hall Agassiz 200  

Closed when the Aga Theatre opened.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1943
Grove Theatre Aldergrove 320 1950

Closed permanently by 1956.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
North Star Drive-In Theatre Aldergrove 400 1953

Closed permanently by 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Barbara Mine Theatre Britannia Beach 464  

Listed in the 1932 Film Daily was the Tunnell [sic] Theatre (233 seats). In 1934 the Tunnel—located at the so-called “Tunnel Camp,” about three miles back in the mountains where the actual mining was done—was listed as closed, and from 1935–1938 only the Community Hall (250 seats) appeared. From 1939–1946 no theatres were listed for the mining town.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Beach Theatre Britannia Beach    

1932 Film Daily (233 seats). See above. This house was running in 1950 according to the D.B.S. but would soon close.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Cascades Drive-In Theatre Burnaby 500 1946

The first drive-in theatre west of Toronto. See the notes section about the first drive-in theatres in Canada.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 750 cars.

 
Lougheed Drive-In Theatre Burnaby 488 1949 CFWYB 1952–1953: 639 cars.  
Oak Theatre Burnaby 744  

Odeon house.

CFWYB 1951: 755 seats. Closed in 1958, the now-independent house, run by the Lougheed Drive-In's owner, was showing oldie musical and operetta films in late 1963. CFWYB 1963–1964: 400 seats.

1938
Paramount Auto-Vue Theatre Burnaby 600 1951

Odeon outdoorer beginning in early 1957. Also known as the Paramount Drive-In Theatre. Closed permanently by 1960.

CFWYB 1956–1957: listed with 1,000 cars.

 
Regent Theatre Burnaby 688  

†Noted as closed in Film Daily that year. Famous Players house. Offered for sale as real estate by the circuit in 1957.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 696 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1933†
Chilliwack Drive-In Theatre Chilliwack 481 1950    
Paramount Theatre Chilliwack 900 1949

Famous Players house.

 
Strand Theatre Chilliwack 569  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1949.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Woods Theatre Coquitlam
(Maillardville)
447 1947

Renamed Sam's Theatre shortly after opening; the Academy Theatre in 1951. Destroyed by fire in 1956.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Gibsons Theatre Gibsons Landing 250 1952 CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.  
Hope Theatre Hope 224 1947

Initially known as the New Hope Theatre. Today the Hope Cinema, whose marquee states established 1945. Boxoffice, however, announced in March 1946 that construction would start soon.

CFWYB 1951: 292 seats. Rebuilt and enlarged in 1956, Boxoffice reported the seating capacity increased by a third, but this was never reflected in the CFWYBs.

 
Delta Hall Ladner 200  

Closed with the opening of the Ladner Theatre.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Ladner Theatre Ladner 421 1948

Closed for almost the entirety of 1953 due to a fire in late 1952.

 
Hillcrest Drive-In Theatre Langley 500 1953

 

 
Langley Theatre Langley 359  

†Closed from 1931–1936. Also known as the Langley Prairie Theatre. Closed permanently in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1937†
Gem Theatre Maple Ridge
(Haney)
448  

Opened in June 1941, this was the last new regular theatre to be built in the outer Fraser Valley for the war's duration due to federally imposed building restrictions. Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house, sold by the circuit in 1957 to become the independent Haney Theatre.

CFWYB 1959–1960: open 4 days per week.

1943
Ridge Drive-In Theatre Maple Ridge
(Hammond)
500 1954

Closed permanently in 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Astor Theatre Mission 300 1950    
Ruskin Drive-In Theatre Mission
(Ruskin)
200 1952 Known in the 1960s as the New Ruskin Drive-In Theatre.  
Victory Theatre Mission 449  

Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house. Closed permanently in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932

Columbia Theatre New Westminster 970  

Famous Players house.

CFWYB 1951: 944 seats.

1932
Edison Theatre New Westminster 850  

Famous Players house beginning in early 1949, and renamed the Paramount Theatre in early 1950. Opened in 1910, this was British Columbia's oldest theatre outside Vancouver and Victoria.

CFWYB 1951: 728 seats; 712 seats in later editions.

1932
Metro Theatre New Westminster 590  

Odeon house. Closed permanently in 1955; a mission by 1959.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Odeon Theatre New Westminster 695  

Odeon house. Opened in early December 1941, this was probably the last new regular theatre to be built in the province for the war's duration due to federally imposed building restrictions, especially on steel. The Circle Theatre, Vancouver, was the second to last. A few other theatres opened afterwards, but used existing structures, timber or quonsets.

1942
Sapperton Theatre New Westminster
(Sapperton)
448  

Odeon house. Closed permanently in 1957, and demolished the next year.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Cedar ‘V’ Theatre North Vancouver
(Lynn Valley)
400 1953 Renamed the Cedar Theatre in the mid-1960s.  
Lions Drive-In Theatre North Vancouver 350 1951

Odeon outdoorer beginning in early 1958. Also known as the Odeon Drive-In and North Vancouver Drive-In.

 
Lonsdale Theatre North Vancouver 449  

Odeon house. Closed permanently in 1949; a bank by 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Nova Theatre North Vancouver 734  

Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house. Closed in 1958, and reopened in 1959 once again as the Nova, leased as an independent operation. Dark again, it was remodeled and opened by Odeon as the 640-seat Totem Theatre in 1964.

CFWYB: later listed with 758 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Port Theatre Port Coquitlam 449 1948

Also known as the Port Coquitlam Theatre, a failed community situation although previously a regular house; reopened in 1956 as a regular house but closed in 1957. Reopened in 1961, operated temporarily by the Lions Club as a community situation. Later known in the 1960s as the Colum Theatre and then the Surf Theatre.

 
Moody Theatre Port Moody 325 1948

Renamed the P.M. Theatre in 1954. Closed permanently in 1957, and converted into a medical building by 1960.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Delta Drive-In Theatre Richmond
(Lulu Island)
650 1953

 

 
Lulu Theatre Richmond
(Brighouse)
449 1948

Closed permanently in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed (listed in the 1960–1961 edition as closed).

 
Steva Theatre Richmond
(Steveston)
416 1947

The renovated building was the 275-seat Richmond Theatre, a Buddhist church and recreation hall, which Film Daily last listed closed from 1933–1935.

 
Sechelt Theatre Sechelt 160 1951

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week. CFWYB 1954–1955: open 6 days per week (180 seats).

 
Rex Theatre Squamish 275  

†Operating years earlier. Better known as the Squamish Theatre. 1941 Film Daily (177 seats); 1942 (190 seats). Renamed the Star Theatre in 1949.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week. CFWYB 1956–1957: 330 seats.

1941†
Cameo Theatre Surrey
(Whalley)
402 1947

The D.B.S. counted this house as the sixth in New Westminster.

CFWYB 1959–1960: open 2 days per week.

 
Clova Theatre Surrey
(Cloverdale)
449 1947    
Surrey Drive-In Theatre Surrey
(Newton)
392 1950 Boxoffice and Billboard reported the outdoorer opened in the summer of 1950 yet the official opening was a year later (not unusual for some outdoorers).  
Westminster Drive-In Theatre Surrey
(North Surrey)
500 1954 This area of North Surrey was part of New Westminster at one time.  

Alma Theatre Vancouver 678  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1956; sold in 1957 to a Hungarian group for social and business meetings.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Bay Theatre Vancouver 770     1940
Beacon Theatre Vancouver 1,550  

The former Pantages Theatre (the city's second), renamed the Beacon in 1930. An Odeon house, renamed the Odeon-Hastings Theatre in 1946, after the interior was rebuilt. Closed in 1955, and reopened as the independent Majestic Theatre in 1958.

CFWYB 1951: 1,289 seats.

1932
Broadway Theatre Vancouver 936  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in mid-1961 for a street widening project.

1932
Cambie Theatre Vancouver 449  

†Built in 1937. Odeon house from 1946–1951. Leased to a church group for two years, becoming Missionary Audio Visual College in 1953. Reopened as a regular house in October 1953. Running in 1958, it was a church by 1959.

CFWYB 1954–1955: 488 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed. The Cambie operated for a brief time in early 1961, run by two college students (who may have been running 16mm).

1940†
Capitol Theatre Vancouver 2,076  

Famous Players house. Opened in 1965 with 1,400 seats after a $500,000 renovation.

1932
Circle Theatre Vancouver 890  

Odeon house. The city's newest pre-1945 theatre, opened on November 10, 1941. Renovated and renamed the 751-seat Hyland Theatre in 1966.

1943
Colonial Theatre Vancouver 873     1932
Dominion Theatre Vancouver 968  

Famous Players house. Renovated and renamed the 696-seat Downtown Theatre in 1967.

1932
Dunbar Theatre Vancouver 770  

Odeon house.

1937
Fraser Theatre Vancouver 768  

Odeon house. Replaced with an 838-seater, which opened in mid-August 1949 at a cost $150,000.

1932
Grandview Theatre Vancouver 926  

Famous Players house. Offered for sale as real estate by the circuit in 1957, but still running in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Hollywood Theatre Vancouver 784  

Famous Players house for ten years, ending in mid-1951.

1936
Kerrisdale Theatre Vancouver 757  

Famous Players house. Offered for sale as real estate by the circuit in 1957, but still running in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Kingsway Theatre Vancouver 762  

Odeon house. Closed in 1958 but reopened in early 1959, leased from the circuit as an independent house. Although closed by 1960, it was renovated to become the 497-seat Haida Theatre in 1966.

1936
Kitsilano Theatre Vancouver 847  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1955; offered for sale as real estate by the circuit in 1956.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Lux Theatre Vancouver 867  

A new theatre was built in 1939 where the old 480-seat Princess Theatre stood. Odeon house.

1941
Lyric Theatre Vancouver 1,281  

The 1891-built Vancouver Opera House, renamed the Orpheum Theatre in 1913 which ran vaudeville, live theatre and film. Renamed the Vancouver Theatre (a playhouse) when the New Orpheum Theatre opened in 1927, and became a dedicated movie and vaudeville house in 1935, the independent Lyric. Renamed the International Cinema in 1947, becoming a Famous Players house. Closed in late 1960 as a movie house, and reopened in 1964 as the Lyric once again.

CFWYB 1951: 1,237 seats.

1937
Main Theatre Vancouver 416 1949

Opened on October 27, 1949. Closed permanently in 1956; sold in 1958 for a church.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Marpole Theatre Vancouver 449  

Odeon house. Rebuilt with a 738-seater, which opened in January 1948. Closed permanently in 1955; still for sale in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Music Box Theatre Vancouver 449  

Previously the Progress Theatre, a silent house which closed in 1929. Renamed the Kingcrest Theatre in 1950.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: listed only in the 1963–1964 edition, as the Cress [Crest] Theatre. Boxoffice, July 8, 1963, reported the ‘Kingcrest’ once again being operated by its owner, Howard Fletcher.

1935
Olympia Theatre Vancouver 983  

Odeon house until mid-1959.

CFWYB 1951: 967 seats.

1932
Orpheum Theatre Vancouver 2,871  

Listed in the 1932 Film Daily as the New Orpheum Theatre, as reflected by its marquee when built in 1927. Famous Players house. The largest theatre is western Canada.

1932
Paradise Theatre Vancouver 923  

Previously the 830-seat Globe Theatre†. Renovated and renamed the Paradise in 1938. Odeon house. Renovated and renamed the 764-seat Coronet Theatre in 1964.

1932†
Park Theatre Vancouver 725  

Odeon house.

1942
Plaza Theatre Vancouver 924  

A new theatre was built in 1936 where the old 693-seat Maple Leaf Theatre stood. Odeon house. Rebuilt and opened as the 701-seat Odeon Theatre in 1963.

1937
Rex Theatre Vancouver 943  

Demolished in 1959 but running the previous year.

CFWYB 1951: 922 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Ridge Theatre Vancouver 842 1950 Opened on April 13, 1950.  
Rio Theatre Vancouver 825  

Odeon house. Closed in 1958 to become a bowling and sports center, the Rio would eventually reopen after many years.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Roxy Theatre Vancouver 449  

Previously the Fairview Theatre†. Renamed the Roxy in 1939. Closed permanently in 1954, purchased by the Apostolic Church of Pentecost.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Royal Theatre Vancouver 840  

Renamed the State Theatre in 1945; Queen Theatre, 1950; Avon Theatre, 1952 (a playhouse with occasional films). Opened in early 1908, this was the first Pantages Theatre in the city. Closed in mid-1953 to become a burlesque house, then leased in 1955 to the Canadian Legion for bingo, but reopened for film at the start of 1956.

CFWYB 1951: 900 seats.

1932
Stanley Theatre Vancouver 1,216  

Famous Players house.

CFWYB 1951: 1,225 seats.

1932
Star Theatre Vancouver 449  

Closed permanently in 1954, expropriated for a police building; demolished by early 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Strand Theatre Vancouver 1,946  

Famous Players house.

1932
Studio Theatre Vancouver 446 1949 Opened on March 25, 1949.  
Varsity Theatre Vancouver 449  

Odeon house.

1941
Victoria Theatre Vancouver 527  

Famous Players house. Also known as the Victoria Road Theatre. Closed permanently in 1955; sold in 1956 for a bank.

CFWYB 1951: 449 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Vogue Theatre Vancouver 1,332  

Odeon house.

1942
Windsor Theatre Vancouver 652  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1955; sold in 1957 for a gas station.

CFWYB 1951: 641 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
York Theatre Vancouver 449  

Previously the Family Theatre†, which appears to have operated only in 1936, listed in the 1937 Film Daily with 350 seats. First listed in Film Daily as the York in 1941. Opened in 1913 as the Alcazar Theatre, a purpose-built playhouse, then renamed the Palace Theatre and the Little Theatre, a dedicated legitimate house. It was renovated completely and re-equipped for film in early 1940, also still operating as a playhouse. Closed as a movie house in 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed. Up for sale in mid-1959, the house would be running film again by the early 1970s.

1937†
Hollyburn Theatre West Vancouver 444  

Closed permanently in 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Odeon Theatre West Vancouver 758 1948

Odeon house.

 
Park Theatre White Rock 448     1942
Woodfibre Community Club Woodfibre 250  

†Probably operating years earlier. Located southwest of Squamish on the west shore of Howe Sound. 1935 Film Daily (Social Hall, 200 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week.

1935†

 

 

Vancouver Island — Central Coast
Beaver Valley Drive-In Theatre Alberni 350 1955 Famous Players outdoorer.  
Roxy Theatre Alberni 333  

Famous Players house beginning in early 1947.

1941
Bay Theatre Alert Bay 286 1952 CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week.  
Rainbow Theatre Alert Bay 254 1952

This house was running 16mm in 1950.

 
Community Theatre Bamfield    

Located 35 miles southwest of Port Alberni. Operated by the Pacific Cable Club, a community organization for this trans-Pacific telegraph cable station. Closed in 1959, along with the station itself.

CFWYB 1952–1953: listed as a non-commercial situation. See the notes section. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Bellvale Theatre Bella Coola 196 1947

Boxoffice reported the owner building a new 300-seat house in 1958.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week.

 
Van Isle Theatre Campbell River 449 1947    
Cassidy Drive-In Theatre Cassidy 400 1954

Located between Nanaimo and Ladysmith.

 
Caycuse Community Camp Caycuse 130 1949

A lumber camp on the south side of Cowichan Lake.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Willow Theatre Chemainus 406 1949    

Bickle Theatre Courtenay 449  

†Opened in 1935, Film Daily continued to list only the 499-seat Gaiety Theatre up until 1939 even though it was not running (the Bickle was built next door to the Gaiety). Closed permanently by 1960.

CFWYB 1959–1960: open 2 days per week.

1940†
E.W. Theatre Courtenay 449     1942
Ilo-Ilo Theatre Cumberland 449  

Closed permanently by 1958.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Capitol Theatre Duncan 449  

Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1949. Rebuilt with a 722-seater in 1954. Odeon house.

1932
Sunset Auto Theatre Duncan 400 1953

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed. Reopened in 1967 as the Park Cinema Drive-In.

 
Cadet Theatre Esquimalt 378  

Previously the Rex Theatre, a former silent house which was still listed in directories until 1939, although never appeared in Film Daily (it was probably never wired for sound). Renovated completely and opened as the Cadet in late 1939; renamed the Astor Theatre in 1946. Closed permanently in 1947.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Rex Theatre Ganges 160  

†Opened in 1938.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week.

1941†
Holberg Community Club Holberg 250  

Located on the northern end of Vancouver Island, this was British Columbia's only floating theatre. Operated from a boat until 1949, in favour of a landlocked 150-seat community house.

CFWYB 1951: open 2 days per week. CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week.

 
Rio Theatre Ladysmith 440  

Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house. Closed permanently by 1957.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1940
Community Hall Lake Cowichan 300  

This house had been operating for many years by Clarence Whittingham who also ran 35mm at Youbou and Nitinat. He also had a theatre at Franklin Creek near Port Alberni, the Bloedel Theatre, which was sold in 1947. It may have been running 35mm but the new proprietor would run 16mm. The Lake Cowichan community hall closed as a movie house when Whittingham opened the Lake Theatre in 1951.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Lake Theatre Lake Cowichan 395 1951 CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week.  
Capitol Theatre Nanaimo 701  

Famous Players house.

CFWYB 1959–1960: open 2 days per week.

1932
Starlite Drive-In Theatre Nanaimo 320 1950

Famous Players outdoorer.

 
Strand Theatre Nanaimo 562  

Previously the 680-seat Bijou Theatre†, which Film Daily showed as closed from 1932–1933 and then was no longer listed. The house, which actually closed in 1930 (it was never wired for sound), reopened as the reconstructed Strand in 1937. Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1955.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Nitinat Community Camp Nitinat    

A lumber camp on the west end of Cowichan Lake towards the Nitinat Valley, this hall was running in 1950 according to the D.B.S.

CFWYB 1956–1957: listed as a non-commercial situation. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Ocean Falls Theatre Ocean Falls 498  

Long-established house built by Pacific Mills. Replaced by the Crown Theatre in 1948 (whose interior adorns the background of this document).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 5 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: listed as the Odeon Theatre, likely a mistake, the publication's successor soon listed it as the Crown. It was never an Odeon circuit house.

1932

Park Theatre Parksville 400 1952    
Capitol Theatre Port Alberni 449  

Famous Players house beginning in early 1947.

1938
Paramount Theatre Port Alberni 711 1952

Famous Players house.

 
Port Theatre Port Alberni 340  

Famous Players house beginning in early 1947. Destroyed by fire in 1952.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Auditorium Theatre Port Alice 309  

1932 Film Daily (Recreation Hall, 150 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week.

1932
Patricia Theatre Powell River 478   CFWYB 1951: 449 seats. 1932
Village Theatre Qualicum Beach 300 1949    
Gem Theatre Sidney 391 1949    
Rex Theatre Sidney 300  

Listed in the 1943–1945 Film Daily as the Sidney Theatre, this was actually the Rex at the time (corrected in the 1946 edition). The remodeled Auditorium Theatre, a former silent house, which opened in 1941. Operating in 1950 but soon closed permanently.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1943
Community Hall Sointula 250  

1932 Film Daily (Community Club, 150 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week.

1932
Atlas Theatre Victoria 974  

Famous Players house until closed in late 1956. Reopened in 1961 as an independent house. Renovated and opened as Astral Films' 898-seat Coronet Theatre in 1966.

1937
Capitol Theatre Victoria 1,312  

Famous Players house.

CFWYB 1951: 1,212 seats.

1932
Dominion Theatre Victoria 866  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently by 1960.

CFWYB 1951: 858 seats.

1932
Fox Theatre

Victoria
(Quadra-Hillside)

429 1949    
Oak Bay Theatre

Victoria
(Oak Bay)

526  

Odeon house until mid-1948.

CFWYB 1951: 449 seats.

1938
Odeon Theatre Victoria 1,472 1948

Odeon house.

 
Plaza Theatre Victoria 640  

Previously the Playhouse Theatre†, and before that the Princess Theatre. Renamed the Plaza in 1938. Odeon house. Closed in 1961 but a brand new house was constructed inside the shell of the old building, which opened in 1967 as the 579-seat Haida Theatre.

CFWYB 1951: 633 seats. Renovated from wall to wall during a four-month shutdown, the house reopened in 1955 with 712 seats.

1932†
Rio Theatre Victoria 499  

Previously the 569-seat Columbia Theatre†, and before that the Empress Theatre and New Grand Theatre. Renamed the Rio in 1939, this was the city's oldest existing movie house and, as Boxoffice called it, one of the oldest picture houses on the Pacific Coast (it was showing “moving pictures” in 1906). An Odeon venue until mid-1946, then struggled with openings and closings under multiple owners. Shuttered permanently in 1956.

CFWYB 1951: 475 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Royal Theatre Victoria 1,467 1946

Closed in 1928 as a silent movie house but continued to feature stage productions. Renovated and reopened with sound in 1946 by Famous Players, which purchased the theatre in the mid-1930s. Also known as the Royal Victoria Theatre.

1932cl
Tillicum Outdoor Theatre Victoria
(Saanich)
620 1951

CFWYB 1951: 132 seats. Also known as the Tillicum Drive-In Theatre.

 
York Theatre Victoria 737  

Previously the 920-seat Empire Theatre† (closed 1937–1940) and before that the Coliseum Theatre and Pantages Theatre. Rewired for sound and renamed the York in late 1940, which closed permanently as a movie house in early 1949. Renamed the Totem Theatre in 1953, home of a repertory theatre group. Reopened in 1965 as the McPherson Playhouse after a $600,000 renovation.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Beach Gardens Drive-In Theatre Westview
(Powell River)
350 1954    
Roxy Theatre Westview
(Powell River)
244  

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week (260 seats).

1937
Woodland Theatre Youbou 300 1944

A 90-seat community hall was listed as unwired and closed in the 1932, 1933 Film Daily.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week. CFWYB 1954–1955: open 4 days per week (315 seats). CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Zeballos Community Theatre Zeballos 175   CFWYB 1952–1953: listed as the Hospital Benefit Theatre, a non-commercial situation. See the notes section.  

 

 

Okanagan
Star Theatre Armstrong 300  

†Listed in the 1932–1933 Film Daily as the Armstrong Theatre (noted as closed both years), this was the former Coliseum Theatre, renamed the Star in 1932.

CFWYB 1951: 320 seats.

1932†
Community Club Copper Mountain 300  

Located 14 miles south of Princeton.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Enderby Drive-In Theatre Enderby 350 1953

Operating only one season, the equipment was sold for the Grand Forks Drive-In Theatre.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Monarch Theatre Enderby 375 1949    
Community Hall Hedley 250  

Listed in the 1946 Film Daily but not the 1945 edition although operating at that time. Also known as the Hedley Community Theatre and previously the Ace Theatre. Noted as 16mm in the 1950 D.B.S. list but soon closed that year.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1937
Boyd Drive-In Theatre Kelowna 275 1949

Also known as Boyd's Drive-In Theatre. Renamed the Rutland Drive-In Theatre in 1963. Rebuilt and enlarged in 1966 as the 600-car Kelowna Drive-In Theatre.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 304 cars.

 
Empress Theatre Kelowna 652  

Famous Players house. Closed permanently in 1949.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Paramount Theatre Kelowna 839 1949

Famous Players house.

 
Keremeos Theatre Keremeos 150  

Last listed in the 1944 Film Daily, this house was operating in 1945, run by the same proprietor as Hedley. Oft-mentioned in Boxoffice after the war, the two houses were known as Ace Theatres, after the Ace Theatre Circuit which also handled the community houses at Bridge River, Goldbridge and Pioneer in the late 1930s. Closed in 1949, this house was probably running 16mm like Hedley in 1950. The house's proprietor would run the new community venue listed below.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1943
Keremeos Theatre Keremeos 240 1949 CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week.  

Legion Theatre Oliver 250  

Run by the Canadian Legion in a hall, this venue was closed in 1948.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1935
Oliver Theatre Oliver 444 1947    
Sunland Theatre Osoyoos 392 1947    
Capitol Theatre Penticton 726  

Famous Players house.

1937
Empress Theatre Penticton 535  

Briefly listed in Film Daily as a Famous Players circuit house beginning in 1948, but never reopened after the Capitol Theatre was built in 1936.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Pen-Mar Theatre Penticton 449 1956    
“Pines” Drive-In Theatre Penticton 250 1949 CFWYB 1956–1957: 75 seats.  
Twilight Drive-In Theatre Penticton 300 1956    
Capitol Theatre Princeton 300  

Boxoffice announced in June 1954 that a new 450-seat Capitol Theatre would be built that summer. The new house was apparently built—this needs to be confirmed—based on its future seating.

CFWYB 1951: 320 seats. CFWYB 1956–1957 (445 seats).

1932
Capitol Theatre Vernon 779  

Famous Players house.

1940
Empress Theatre Vernon 380  

Famous Players house. Sold to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1959.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Vernon Drive-In Theatre Vernon 350 1950

Renamed the Skyway Drive-In in 1951. Odeon outdoorer beginning in mid-1957.

 
Rialto Theatre West Summerland 250  

A new 177-seat house replaced the Rialto in 1962.

CFWYB 1951: 280 seats.

1932

 

 

Kootenay — Boundary
Legion Athalmer 150  

Located one mile from old Invermere. Noted as closed in the 1945 and 1946 Film Daily. Listed in Film Daily 1935–1936 as Indevere (sic). Not in the 1950 D.B.S. list.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1935
Castle Theatre Castlegar 400 1947    
Elk Drive-In Theatre Castlegar 300 1954

 

 
Armond Theatre Cranbrook 449 1952 Famous Players house beginning in early 1954.  
Rex Drive-In Theatre Cranbrook 280 1952

 

 
Star Theatre Cranbrook 413  

Famous Players house beginning in early 1954.

CFWYB 1956–1957: open 2–4 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Grand Theatre Creston 270   Closed permanently by 1961. 1932
Tivoli Theatre Creston 340   †Opened 1938. 1941†
Valley Drive-In Theatre Creston 199 1955

 

 
Elk Drive-In Theatre Fernie
(Hosmer)
190 1954

 

 
Orpheum Theatre Fernie 280  

Closed permanently in 1949.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1933
Vogue Theatre Fernie 392 1947

This was the renovated Grand Theatre, which last operated as a movie house in 1929.

 
Field Railroad Y.M.C.A. Field 150  

Noted as closed in the 1945 Film Daily (simply listed as Y.M.C.A.) but open in 1946, this 35mm house was for Canadian Pacific train crews and the public. Closed permanently in 1955.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Premiere Theatre Fruitvale 350 1956

Located 10 miles east of Trail, this house closed permanently in 1959.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Starlite Drive-In Theatre Genelle 250 1954

Located between Trail and Castlegar, this outdoorer closed permanently in 1956.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Yoho Theatre Golden 300 1950 CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3–6 days per week.  
Granada Theatre Grand Forks 300  

Previously the 386-seat Empress Theatre†. Renamed the Granada in 1935; the Gem Theatre in 1947.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: Although not listed in the 1959–1960 and 1960–1961 editions, the Gem appeared in the three that followed and omitted the Roxy listed below, whose owner had purchased the Gem in 1959. So in the early 1960s the Roxy was closed in favour of the Gem.

1932†
Grand Forks Drive-In Theatre Grand Forks 350 1954

Burned shortly after opening, and subsequently listed as 200 cars when reopened in 1956.

 
Roxy Theatre Grand Forks 371 1947

 

 
Toby Theatre Invermere 306 1952

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2–4 days per week. CFWYB 1959–1960: open 4–6 days per week.

 

Orpheum Theatre Kimberley 498  

†A new theatre was built in 1940 where the old 200-seat Orpheum stood. Famous Players house beginning in early 1954.

1932†
Wayne Drive-In Theatre Marysville
(Kimberley)
300 1953

 

 
Opera Theatre Michel 244  

Renamed the Michel Theatre by 1951. Closed permanently by 1961.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week.

1932
A.L. Theatre Nakusp 250  

Running 35mm by 1950, the proprietor would open a new 250-seater in 1955. Also known as the Arrow Lakes Theatre.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week. CFWYB 1956–1957: open 4 days per week.

 
Empress Theatre Natal 200  

Listed in the 1946 Film Daily only, this 1945-built house was the renovated Kootenay Hall, which was purchased as a union hall in mid-1946—the theatre closed by then.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1946
Grand Theatre Natal 300  

Previously the Palace Theatre†, renamed the Grand in 1943, rebuilt and modernized in 1946. First listed in the 1946 Film Daily as the Grand, with 200 seats. Renamed Leo's Theatre by 1953.

CFWYB 1951: 274 seats.

1935†
Capitol Theatre Nelson 640  

Listed as closed in the 1942–1946 Film Daily. (See notes for the Strand Theatre, Kamloops.) A Famous Players house, the Capitol, Nelson, may have operated for a few years after 1946 but did not appear in the 1950 D.B.S. list. Boxoffice reported the house closed in 1951 but would reopen. Closed permanently by 1954.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 449 seats. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Civic Theatre Nelson 905  

Famous Players house.

1938
Starlight Drive-In Theatre Nelson 350 1952

Odeon outdoorer for about two years, ending in early 1959.

CFWYB 1952–1953: listed as the Nelson Drive-In. Later listed with 288 cars.

 
Radium Drive-In Theatre Radium Hot Springs 200 1957    
Avolie Theatre Revelstoke 499  

†Film Daily listed the 380-seat Province Theatre up until 1941 although it was gutted by fire in 1938 and replaced by the Avolie in a different location the same year. Renamed the Roxy Theatre in 1959.

CFWYB 1951: 449 seats. Later listed with 432 seats.

1942†
Capitol Theatre Rossland 449  

Famous Players house, closed by the circuit in 1957. Closed permanently in early 1959, after being run independently for a short time.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Auto-Vue Drive-In Theatre Trail 400 1953

 

 
Rialto Theatre Trail 522  

Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.

CFWYB 1951: 610 seats.

1932
Rio Theatre Trail 449  

Closed permanently in 1947.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1943
Strand Theatre Trail 1,112  

Previously the 515-seat Liberty Theatre†, reconstructed and enlarged in 1938. Famous Players house. Destroyed by fire in 1956.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†

 

 

South Central Interior
Ashcroft Theatre Ashcroft 180  

†Listed closed (as the Opera House) in the 1933, 1934 and 1935 Film Daily.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week (198 seats). Listed with 228 seats in later editions.

1933†
Cache Creek Drive-In Theatre Cache Creek 187 1957

 

 
Capitol Theatre Kamloops 678  

Famous Players house.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: listed only in the 1960–1961 edition. Famous Players announced the house would close permanently in mid-1957, after being dark since mid-1955.

1932
Paramount Theatre Kamloops 1,000 1955

Famous Players house.

 
Skyway Drive-In Theatre Kamloops 250 1950

Odeon outdoorer beginning in mid-1957.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 330 cars and 260 seats.

 
Strand Theatre Kamloops 464  

Briefly listed in Film Daily as a Famous Players circuit house beginning in 1948, although the company had not operated it since the silent days and never would (see notes below). †Noted as closed and unwired.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Sundown Drive-In Theatre Kamloops 450 1954

 

 

Film Daily, July 27, 1945: FPC announced the opening of two British Columbia houses which have been dark for many years. Theaters, the Strand, Kamloops, and the Capitol, Nelson, will give the circuit two theaters in each spot.

Boxoffice, February 1, 1947: Plans were made to remodel and equip the Strand in Kamloops, which will have a seating capacity of about 500. The Strand, now closed, will be renovated and equipped for showing sound film.

Boxoffice, April 5, 1947: Famous Players is planning to reopen theatres in two cities where it now has a single house in operation. In Nelson, where FPC now operates the Civic, the 640-seat Capitol will be reopened after having been dark for several years, and in Kamloops, where the Capitol is now running, the Empress [Strand] will soon be reopened.

Boxoffice, February 21, 1948: FPC will reopen the 425-seat Strand at Kamloops shortly. The house has been dark the past 12 [sic—it was longer] years.

Boxoffice, September 18, 1948: Famous Players Canadian has started construction of a 1,000-seat theatre in Kamloops, B.C., which it will name the Paramount. FPC operates the only other theatre there, the Capitol, a 678-seater, and had planned to reopen the small Strand, closed for the last 20 years, but decided to build instead.

Famous Players had a monopoly in some areas of British Columbia, “closed” towns as the trades called them. Kamloops was an example, where its other house, the Strand, could be readied if business was warranted. The same for Penticton, where it held on to its long-closed Empress. Also in Nelson, where the circuit opened and closed—sometimes for years—the Capitol as business dictated. This was a hedge against rivals, especially Odeon: Famous Players intended to reopen the Strand because Odeon purchased property on the opposite side of the street in 1947, with plans for a new theatre. Other closed towns ruled by Famous Players were Chilliwack, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, and Vernon.

Merit Theatre Merritt 330 1952    
Nicola Drive-In Theatre Merritt 180 1958    
Rex Theatre Merritt 350  

Closed permanently in 1952, after running for 40 years, when a competitor opened the new Merit Theatre.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Rex Theatre Salmon Arm 270  

Replaced in the same location by the 416-seat Salmar Theatre in 1949, retaining the Rex's main entrance and lobby. The new house was a quonset-type design, also used for new theatres at Fort St. John, Keremeos, Merritt, North Vancouver, Parksville, Sidney, Terrace and Victoria, among others.

1932
Starlight Drive-In Theatre Salmon Arm 246 1953

 

 

 

 

North Central Interior
Bralorne Community Theatre Bralorne 210  

Located 68 miles west of Lillooet. 1935 Film Daily (Community Hall, 150 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week.

1935
Log Cabin Theatre Lillooet 140  

Opened in 1939 with 100 seats. One of only two 35mm log cabin theatres in Canada; the other was the Opera Theatre in Canmore, Alberta.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week.

 
Pioneer Community Theatre Pioneer Mines 150  

Located 71 miles west of Lillooet. 1935 Film Daily (Community Hall, 350 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week.

1935
Lloyd's Drive-In Theatre Prince George 220 1953

This outdoorer is somewhat of a mystery. Operated by Lloyd Merritt, Boxoffice, September 19, 1953, reported the theatre opened with a capacity of 300 cars. Merritt ran Lloyd's Drive-In Cafe at the time, which opened a few months earlier. Listed in the 1954–1955 CFWYB, this venue was more than likely a restaurant only.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

 
Moonlight Drive-In Theatre Prince George 500 1959    
Princess Theatre Prince George 400  

Not used since the silent days, the old Princess reopened in 1942, remodeled and equipped with sound.

CFWYB 1954–1955: 500 seats (renovated around 1954 with the addition of a 100-seat balcony).

1943
Star-Time Drive-In Theatre Prince George 246 1954

CFWYB 1954–1955: 300 cars.

 
Strand Theatre Prince George 372   CFWYB 1951: 360 seats. 1932
Carib Theatre Quesnel 500 1953

 

 
Casbar Drive-In Theatre Quesnel 360 1958

Opened in late June 1958, before its official opening.

 
Rex Theatre Quesnel 150  

CFWYB 1951: 315 seats (the house was remodeled around 1949). Still listed in the 1954–1955 edition, this house was announced to close with the opening of the owner's new Carib.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Reo Theatre Smithers 200  

†Listed in Film Daily from 1935–1939 as the Rex Theatre, then the Capitol Theatre from 1940–1945, this house was actually called the Capitol (previously closed) from 1933–1940 and renamed the Reo in 1941. Sold by Cecil Steele in 1951, and renamed the Roi Theatre by the new owners. The Reo theatres in Vanderhoof and Burns Lake, still owned by the Steele family, were operating 16mm into the 1960s. The Roi was rebuilt with a 350-seater in 1960.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 2 days per week (300 seats). CFWYB 1954–1955: 287 seats.

1935†
Lode Theatre Wells 400  

†Listed in Film Daily from 1943–1945 as the Wells Theatre, this was the original name of the 1941-built Lode (corrected in the 1946 edition). The town's original house, the 200-seat Sunset Theatre, closed in 1941 but would again be showing films by at least the 1970s.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week.

1943†
H & H Drive-In Theatre Williams Lake 300 1957

Renamed the Starlight Drive-In Theatre in the early 1960s.

 
Oliver Theatre Williams Lake 150  

†Listed in Film Daily as the Rex Theatre from 1932–1934, this was actually the Oliver Theatre. One of the smallest non-community houses in the province at the time, Boxoffice reported it had 160 seats in 1949. Closed when the owner opened his new house in 1951.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932†
Oliver Theatre Williams Lake 320 1951

Renamed the Alston Theatre after new ownership in early 1959.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 3 days per week.

 

 

 

Peace River — Northeast
Crest Theatre Dawson Creek 499 1953†

†Boxoffice, September 26, 1953, reported the Dawson Creek Theatre Co. had opened its new 500-seat house at Dawson Creek, noting it as the town's third theatre. The January 19, 1957, issue, however, reported the DC Theatre Co. had opened its third house, the Crest at Dawson Creek, with the others being the Northland and Vogue. So the Crest was built in 1953 but not opened until 1957.

 
Northland Theatre Dawson Creek 385  

†Film Daily listed the Opera House as the only house in town from 1936–1944 except for 1941 which listed the Carlsonia Theatre in its place. In 1943 the Carlsonia, a two-story hall, aka the Opera House, was renamed the Northland (corrected in the 1946 edition) by its new owner. Destroyed by fire in 1948, reported as the town's only theatre, and rebuilt.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 450 seats.

1936†
Playhouse Theatre Dawson Creek 400  

Noted as closed in the 1945 Film Daily and not listed in any other edition, this may have been a temporary house for the thousands of workers who invaded the town in the early 1940s to build the Alaska Highway. Most notable of the temporary theatres were the Cree Theatre, Dawson Creek, and the Tita Theatre, Whitehorse, both 500-seat quonset-type designs which opened in 1943. The films were booked under the supervision of Famous Players.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1945
Ranch Drive-In Theatre Dawson Creek 350 1959 See the notes section about the 300-car Dawson Creek Drive-In Theatre, which appeared in the CFWYB 1954–1955.  
Vogue Theatre Dawson Creek 449 1949    
Carlsonia Theatre Fort St. John 250  

Listed in the 1945 and 1946 Film Daily as the Fort St. John Theatre, this was actually the Carlsonia, opened in 1943 by John Carlson who previously had the house at Dawson Creek and was running one at Pouce Coupe. Destroyed by fire in 1948 and replaced by a quonset building.

CFWYB 1952–1953: 396 seats.

1945
Lido Theatre Fort St. John 499 1957    
M.P. Theatre Pouce Coupe 150  

Noted as closed in the 1945 and 1946 Film Daily and not listed in any other edition. In October 1943 it was announced that John Carlson, exhibitor at Fort St. John, was opening his new theatre at Pouce Coupe with a seating capacity of 250. The two houses, however, are probably unrelated. Like the Playhouse Theatre in Dawson Creek, these short-lived houses were built to cash in on the thousands of workers who invaded the area to build the Alaska Highway. The Film Daily last listed open theatres at Pouce Coupe in 1941, the 150-seat Stanley Theatre (which might have been renamed the M.P. Theatre) and the 165-seat Opera House.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1945
Lux Theatre Taylor 300 1957    

 

 

North Coast — Northwest
Globe Theatre Atlin 125  

Not listed in the 1946 Film Daily. Still operating in the late 1940s but soon closed.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Nechako Theatre Kitimat 700 1956    
Port Clements Community Port Clements 100  

Noted as closed in the 1945 Film Daily but did not appear in any previous editions.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1945
Premier Mines Community Club Premier 200  

Located 137 miles north of Prince Rupert. 1932 Film Daily (Club Theatre, 350 seats).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1932
Capitol Theatre Prince Rupert 750  

Famous Players house.

1932
Totem Theatre Prince Rupert 666 1951

Famous Players house.

 
Stewart Theatre Stewart 250  

Run for many years by Allan Carolan, a local merchant, this house closed in 1942, which he reopened in 1952 but would soon close. 1936 Film Daily (Opera House, no seating listed; 250 seats in 1937).

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 1 day per week. CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1936
Stewart Theatre Stewart 200 1956

Boxoffice reported a new theatre opened in 1956, run by Joe Ducklee. Boxoffice then reported a 200-seat quonset theatre opened in 1960 by Joe Wingler. I suspect this was the same house under different proprietors, with Wingler's house renamed the Vienna Theatre.

CFWYB 1962–1963: open 2 days per week.

 
Terrace Theatre Terrace 299 1948

Renamed the Tillicum Theatre in 1950, with a new quonset theatre built under the same name in 1954. The Terrace opened in 1942 as a 16mm house but was renovated and upgraded to 35mm in 1948.

CFWYB 1951: open 4 days per week. CFWYB 1952–1953: open 6 days per week.

 
Tillicum Drive-In Theatre Terrace 220 1958    

 

 

Yukon Territory — Northwest Territories
Orpheum Theatre Dawson, YK 272  

The farthest north theatre serviced by Vancouver's film exchanges, this house was destroyed by fire in 1940 and 1950.

CFWYB 1952–1953: open 4 days per week. Listed with 261 seats in later editions.

1933
Park Theatre Fort Smith, NWT 240 1957    
Stewart Theatre Hay River, NWT 200 1957    
Capitol Theatre Whitehorse, YK 440  

CFWYB 1951: 305 seats.

1945
W.H. Theatre Whitehorse, YK 350  

†Opened in 1937. Also known as the Whitehorse Theatre. Closed permanently in 1947.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1943†
Yukon Theatre Whitehorse, YK 350 1954    
Capitol Theatre Yellowknife, NWT 400 1948    
Pioneer Theatre Yellowknife, NWT 250  

†Opened in 1939. This house was running in 1950 according to the D.B.S. but would soon close.

CFWYBs 1959–1964: not listed.

1942†

 

 

Miscellaneous Notes

 

Forty-four 35mm drive-ins operated between 1946–1960, with two more opened in the early 1960s: the Parkland Drive-In Theatre (200 cars, 1961), Prince Rupert, and the Revelstoke Drive-In Theatre (200 cars, late 1962, although officially opened in 1963), Revelstoke. Boxoffice called the latter the Motor-Vue Drive-In, the Mount Vue Drive-In, and the Stevenson Drive-In, after its owner, Herb Stevenson.

Boxoffice, August 7, 1961, reported the Dominion Theatre Equipment Co. had signed a deal to install equipment at a new drive-in at Lillooet. It appeared only in the 1962–1963 edition of the CFWYB, as the Lillooet Drive-In, with no car capacity listed. The licensee was Max Martin, who owned the Totem Cafe at Lillooet.

The 1961–1962 Canadian Film Weekly Year Book reported: “Since January 1, 1961 five theatres have been built in Canada, of which four were drive-ins. Of these two were in BC, one in Man. and one in Ont. The auditorium theatre was in Que.” One of the drive-ins cited would be the Parkland, Prince Rupert; the other must have been at Lillooet. If the latter outdoorer did actually open, it disappeared quickly.

New 35mm ozoners in the province diminished dramatically after the openings at Prince Rupert, Lillooet and Revelstoke. To my knowledge the next two to be built were in 1967: the Miracle Beach Drive-In Theatre at Black Creek, between Campbell River and Courtenay, and the Stardust Drive-In Theatre at Merville, north of Courtenay. Also on Vancouver Island, the long-closed Sunset Auto Theatre, Duncan, would reopen in 1967 as the Park Cinema Drive-In. The Ranch Drive-In, Smithers, opened in 1956 with 16mm but upgraded to 35mm in 1965. More outdoorers would open in the province but never in the numbers from the 1950s.

The 1954–1955 Canadian Film Weekly Year Book (CFWYB) listed an outdoorer operated by the DC Theatre Co., the 300-car Dawson Creek Drive-In. Boxoffice, June 1, 1959, reported a new 350-car drive-in was opened at Dawson Creek by Northland Theatres Ltd., the successor to the DC Theatre Co. A drive-in at Dawson Creek, however, did not appear in subsequent CFWYB editions until 1959–1960, when the Ranch opened in 1959. Film Daily Year Books from the 1960s sometimes listed two outdoorers at Dawson Creek: the Dawson Creek Drive-In and the Northland Drive-In. So although it appears there were two outdoorers built at Dawson Creek, they were likely one and the same (this needs to be verified).

Later editions of the CFWYB listed a second drive-in theatre at Grand Forks, the Gem, with no car capacity listed. This was a mistake that was eventually corrected. Peter Abrosimoff, owner of the Roxy Theatre, bought the town's outdoorer in 1957. He also acquired the town's other indoor theatre, the Gem, in 1959.

The Cascades, Burnaby, was the second or third drive-in theatre in Canada, opened on August 30, 1946. The first in Canada was the Skyway Drive-In, Stoney Creek, Ontario, near Hamilton, opened on July 10, 1946. The Skyway Drive-In, Windsor, Ontario, was scheduled to open on August 25, 1946, but that date is unconfirmed. Boxoffice, September 14, 1946, reported the Skyway, Windsor, opened as Canada's second drive-in, stating it was the only other one in the Dominion besides Stoney Creek. There was no mention of the Cascades, even though Boxoffice, August 31, 1946, reported the Burnaby outdoorer would open that day. So it is likely the Skyway, Windsor, opened a few days before the Cascades.

Boxoffice, April 3, 1948, reported: “Drive-in theatres had a belated start in eastern Canada because of war's restrictions on construction and there were only five in operation in Ontario at the end of the 1947 season.” Although unnamed, based on news items from Boxoffice, these were at Agincourt, east Toronto (Northeast Drive-In), London (Skyway Drive-In), St. Catharines (Canadian Drive-In), Stoney Creek (Skyway Drive-In), and Windsor (Skyway Drive-In).

Along with the Cascades, Burnaby, there were six 35mm drive-in theatres in Canada by the end of 1947, all but one in Ontario. The D.B.S. said there were seven drive-ins—the other would have been the 16mm Langford Drive-In near Victoria, B.C., which opened in 1947 (see more below). The D.B.S. said there were 62 drive-in theatres in 1950, and since they also listed the theatre names and film gauges that year, the D.B.S. did indeed include 16mm outdoorers in their surveys.

The D.B.S. documented 15 drive-in theatres in 1948. The eight which opened that year, all in Ontario, and all based on news items from Boxoffice, were at Brantford (Sunset Drive-In), Chippawa (Starlite Drive-In), Malton, west Toronto (Northwest Drive-In), Oshawa (Peter Drive-In, soon renamed the Oshawa Drive-In), Ottawa (Auto-Sky Drive-In), Ottawa (Britannia Drive-In, the city's first), Peterborough (Peter Drive-In, soon renamed the Peterborough Drive-In), and Preston (Sunset Drive-In).

The first domestic 35mm drive-in theatre outside of Ontario and British Columbia was the Chinook Drive-In, Calgary, opened on May 12, 1949. The first in Manitoba was the Pembina Drive-In, Winnipeg, opened on July 19, 1949. The first in Saskatchewan was the Skylark Drive-In, Regina, opened on August 6, 1949, but lasted only two seasons. Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, had a 35mm open-airer operating in 1950, with 200 seats and a tiny 20-car capacity, but I have not been able to find its opening date.

Drive-in theatres in Quebec were banned for decades, the first opening in 1970—although legislation allowing them was passed three years earlier. The first drive-in theatre east of Quebec was Sandy's Theatre Under-the-Stars, Marshfield, Prince Edward Island, which opened in July 1950, also doubling as a restaurant and lodge. This 273-car outdoorer, however, used 16mm on a 16x13-foot screen. Boxoffice, May 26, 1951, reported there were only two drive-ins in the whole Maritimes including Newfoundland. The other one was the 35mm Starlite (Starlight) Drive-In, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, which had just opened.

Technically, Sandy's Theatre Under-the-Stars was not the first drive-in theatre in the Maritimes, since Boxoffice reported two in operation previously, notably at Reversing Falls, Saint John, New Brunswick. Boxoffice, August 13, 1949, called it the first in the Maritimes, a non-commercial venture sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The only films screened were views of the provinces, particularly New Brunswick. On wet days the screenings were held in a canteen. Another one was reported in Boxoffice, August 20, 1949, at the Leghorn Bar B-Q, a roadside eating place near Halifax. Benches were provided to patrons who could also watch and hear the shows from their cars. These were likely 16mm outdoorers.

The table below illustrates the growth of drive-in theatres. Narrow-gauge accounted for a small percentage of outdoorers—in 1966, for example, there were nine 16mm drive-ins. The numbers were sourced from the Dominion Bureau of Statistics except for 1946.

Canadian Drive-Ins
(35mm and 16mm)
1946 3   1954 230   1962 240
1947 7 1955 242 1963 241
1948 15 1956 237 1964 242
1949 30 1957 229 1965 247
1950 62 1958 232 1966 245
1951 82 1959 234 1967 253
1952 104 1960 232 1968 261
1953 174 1961 238 1969 271

Other than drive-ins, only a few 35mm theatres were built in British Columbia during the early 1960s. Boxoffice, December 4, 1961: “The new 35mm Tri-Town Theatre recently opened at Hazelton in the northern part of the province.” Boxoffice, September 17, 1962: “The only new theatre opened this year in the province was the Rialto in Summerland, a small-seater.” Also opened in 1963 were new houses at Gibsons, the 250-seat Twilight Theatre, and the 300-seat Igloo Theatre at Fort Simpson, NWT.

Notable, however, was Odeon's new 701-seat house in Vancouver, completed in 1963 on the site of the Plaza Theatre. It was described by Boxoffice as the first new downtown theatre to be opened in western Canada in 25 years. The Plaza was built in 1938 on the site of the second Maple Leaf Theatre (the first, built in 1907, was at the same location). Boxoffice stated that the only remains of the Maple Leaf were the two side walls and the concrete roof.

In a world of multiplexes these days, mention must be made of the first twin theatre in British Columbia, the Park Royal Theatre and the Park Royal Cinema in West Vancouver. Opened by Famous Players on January 5, 1966, with an invitational screening and reception, and to the general public the next day, the first house had 760 seats and the second had 440 seats. Both were under one roof and served by a single boxoffice.

Other than Odeon's new downtown Vancouver house, the Park Royal was the third brand new—from the ground up—commercial 35mm indoor theatre built in the Lower Mainland since 1953. The second was the independent—soon to be run by Odeon—775-seat Dolphin Cinema, Burnaby, opened on December 27, 1965. The fourth was the 756-seat Guildford Towne Cinema, Surrey, opened in early 1967 by NGC Cinemas, Ltd. The fifth was the Richmond Square Twin Theatre, Richmond, opened by Famous Players in June 1968, comprising the 700-seat Richmond and the 480-seat Islander.

The sixth was the 509-seat Fine Arts Cinema, Vancouver, opened by NGC Cinemas in February 1969, notable as the second new downtown house since the Plaza was torn down to become the Odeon in 1963. The Fine Arts, however, was not built on the site of an existing theatre, so it was the first new—in the strictest sense of the word—downtowner since the Studio Theatre opened in March 1949 (whose construction, beset by delays, was well under way in early 1948). In the same sense of the word, the Dolphin was the first new hardtop in the Lower Mainland since the Cedar ‘V’ Theatre, North Vancouver, opened in May 1953.

To follow in the Lower Mainland was Famous Players' 552-seat Denman Place Cinema, Vancouver, opened in June 1969. Then came Twinex Century Theatres' Lougheed Mall Cinemas, Burnaby, opened in early December 1969—Canada's first triplex. The numerically named cinemas had 736, 294 and 496 seats, respectively.

Out of the Lower Mainland, the only important new houses built were in Prince George, both from Famous Players: the 750-seat Parkwood Theatre, opened in April 1966. Boxoffice, April 25, 1966: “Of ultra-modern design and with the very best of appointments, the Parkwood is the finest theatre north of Vancouver and west of Edmonton.” It was the first indoorer built in the city since the Strand Theatre opened in 1926. Another opened in February 1969, the 726-seat Spruceland Theatre.

The following is a list of “16mm Regular Theatres” from the 1950 Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Parish Hall, Alert Bay • Rainbow Theatre, Alert Bay • Alexis Creek Theatre, Alexis Creek • Blue River Theatre, Blue River • Community Theatre, Falkland • Bal's Hall, Gibson's Landing • Columbia Theatre, Golden • Community Hall, Hedley • Hudson Hope Theatre, Hudson Hope • Musicland Theatre, Kaslo • Salmon River Logging Co. Camp. No. 1, Kelsey Bay • Salmon River Logging Co. Camp No. 2, Kelsey Bay • Rainbow Theatre, McBride • Nakusp Theatre, Nakusp • Legion Theatre, Peachland • Reo Theatre, Vanderhoof • Mayo Theatre, Mayo, Yukon Territory • Peffer Trading Co., Aklavik, Northwest Territories.

The following is a list of “16mm Community Theatres” from the 1950 Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Noohalk Community Theatre, Bella Coola • Camp 5 Community Club, Bloedel • Legion Hall, Bowser • Morgan Logging Co. Ltd., Cumashewa Inlet • Franklin River Theatre, Franklin River • Giscome Social & Athletic Association, Giscome • Jewel Theatre, Greenwood • Hazelton Community Association, Hazelton • Invermere Community Committee, Invermere • Lang Bay Community Hall, Lang Bay • Community Hall, Lumby • Canadian Legion Hall, Lytton • New Massett Community Club Theatre, Massett • Midway Community Club, Midway • Canadian Legion Hall, Montney • Community Hall, New Hazelton • Parish Hall, Parksville • Nelson Bros. Fisheries Ltd., Port Edward • P.A.C. Community Hall, Port McNeill • Queen Charlotte City Cinema, Queen Charlotte City • Bridge River Community Club, Shalalth • Sinclair Mills Woodworker's Educational Club, Sinclair Mills.

The following is a list of 16mm for-profit situations as listed in the 1954-1955 CFWYB. Twenty are listed, as reported by the D.B.S. (“16mm Regular Theatres”) in 1953, likely reflecting the latency of inclusion in the Year Book: Alexis Creek Theatre, Alexis Creek • Blue River Theatre, Blue River • Reo Theatre, Burns Lake • W.C. Campbell, Clinton • Community Theatre, Fort St. James • Hudson Hope Theatre, Hudson Hope • Musicland Theatre, Kaslo • Kemano Theatre, Kemano • Kitimat Theatre, Kitimat • Rainbow Theatre, McBride • J. Humphreys, Penny • Port Mellon Theatre, Port Mellon • Galena Theatre, Riondel • Stillwater Theatre, Stillwater • Taku Theatre, Tulsequah • Texada Mines Ltd., Box 35, Van Anda • Salmon River Logging Co. Ltd., 510 W. Hastings St., Vancouver • Reo Theatre, R.C. Steele, Vanderhoof • Mayo Theatre, Mayo Landing, Yukon Territory • G.M. Peffer, Aklavik, Northwest Territories.

The following is a list of 16mm community (non-profit) enterprises as listed in the 1954-1955 CFWYB. Thirty-five are listed, reflecting the number reported by the D.B.S. (“16mm Community Theatres”) in 1953, likely reflecting the latency of inclusion in the Year Book: Noohalk Community Theatre, Indian Reserve, Bella Coola • Camp 5 Community Club, Bloedel • Community Hall Committee, Blubber Bay • Community Hall, Clearwater • Community Hall, Fort Fraser's Women's Institute, Fort Fraser • Franklin River Theatre, Camp B, Franklin River • South Gabriola Public Hall, Gabriola Island • Community Hall, Giscome • La Joie Falls Athletic Association, Goldbridge • Greenwood Community Association, Greenwood • Hazelton Community Hall, Hazelton • Upper Skeena Farmers Institute, Kitwanga • Community Hall, Lac la Hache • Canadian Legion, Lytton • Malakwa Hall Association, Malakwa • Mansons Landing Community Hall, Mansons Landing • Massett Hall, Massett • Midway Community Hall, Midway • Canadian Legion, Montney • Namu Recreation Committee, Namu • Community Hall, New Hazelton • Community Hall, Nickle Plate • North Bend Memorial Pool Association, North Bend • Canadian Legion, Peachland • P.A.C. Community Hall, Port McNeill • Queen Charlotte City Cinema, Queen Charlotte City • Sinclair Mills Woodworkers Educational Club, Sinclair Mills • Community Hall, Spences Bridge • Mascot Miners Community Club, Spillimacheen • Tahsis Community Association, Tahsis • Community Hall, Valemount • Ant. A. Bakker, Van Anda • Nelson Bros. Fisheries, 325 Howe St., Vancouver • Westwold Farmer's Livestock Association, Westwold • Hay River Community Hall, Hay River, Northwest Territories.

Three other likely narrow-gauge situations worth mentioning, since they appeared in directories of the time, are the Bluebell Theatre at Riondel run by J.E. Bothamley; a nameless theatre at Queens Bay run by E. Baravalle; and another on Campbell Island, near Bella Bella, run by R. Carpenter.

There were other 16mm theatres before these lists were compiled, so in no way reflects the 1945–1960 timeframe. Most communities with a 35mm house had 16mm previously, and these would generally close with the move to standard-gauge. A new 35mm house would also affect nearby communities' 16mm venues.

Ideally, all “16mm Regular Theatres” operating between 1945–1960 should be included, either in the notes section here or the main listing which is currently specific to 35mm. More resources, however, would be required. Thus a number of other for-profit 16mm houses are not listed, especially early ones. The most important ones to me are those which were dedicated theatres, not just 16mm projectors in community halls.

 

xxx  

The Rainbow Theatre, McBride, as it appeared in 1961. Opened in 1946, this 325-seat house debuted with 16mm but was built with 35mm in mind according to Boxoffice (i.e. it likely had a fireproof projection booth). The theatre, however, would continue to run narrow-gauge. It was destroyed by fire in 1965, leaving the town with only a small 16mm drive-in.

 

There were at least eight commercial narrow-gauge hardtops operating in 1960, notably the long-established Alexis Creek Theatre, Alexis Creek; Reo Theatre, Burns Lake (opened in 1950); Musicland Theatre, Kaslo (opened in 1949); Rainbow Theatre, McBride; and the Reo Theatre, Vanderhoof (remodeled in 1946). Notable among the 16mm houses opening in 1961 were the Chetwynd Theatre, Chetwynd, and the Alcan Theatre, Fort Nelson.

In 1960 there were three commercial 16mm drive-ins operating: the 250-car Ranch Drive-In, Telkwa-Smithers area (opened in 1956); the 100-car Copper Kettle Drive-In, Lytton (opened in 1957); and the 150-car Whispering Pines Drive-In, Chase (under construction in 1959). Boxoffice, July 4, 1960, reported the Dominion Theatre Equipment Co. had installed new sound and projection equipment in the Li-An Drive-In at Valemount, and then later reported, on August 7, 1961, that Dominion had obtained orders to re-equip the “Lizan” Drive-In at Valemount, a 16mm situation, which had been swept by fire recently. The Li-An may not have been operating in 1960 and never rebuilt after the fire, although it did appear for years in the CFWYBs as a 35mm Alberta drive-in with no capacity listed. Note that the Ranch Drive-In, Smithers, upgraded to 35mm in 1965.

In 1960 the Dominion Bureau of Statistics reported 232 drive-in theatres in Canada, five of which were running 16mm. There were 10,029,249 paid admissions for 35mm outdoorers, while 16mm outdoorers had a total attendance of 40,335 persons. Indoor and outdoor film exchange receipts from the rental of 35mm was $23,229,803, while 16mm accounted for $1,509,308, excluding television—16mm's biggest market—and non-theatrical use. So narrow-gauge accounted for about 6.5% of Canadian theatrical film exchange receipts in 1960.

Statistics Canada (formerly the Dominion Bureau of Statistics) provided me with a great deal of motion picture theatre figures from 1945–1960. Based on these documents, the D.B.S. did not start separating 16mm outdoor theatres from indoor theatres until 1955. Except for one document from 1951, the D.B.S. did not list actual theatre names—just facts and figures. The D.B.S. provided the CFWYB with actual names, but unfortunately such documents, regardless of the theatre type, are not available or no longer exist from Statistics Canada. The numbers reported for 16mm drive-in theatres in Canada: 1955: eleven; 1956 and 1957: five; 1958 and 1959: six; 1960: five; 1961: ten (four were in British Columbia, and are mentioned above except the Cache Creek Drive-In which was also running 35mm).

Other 16mm outdoorers were opened in British Columbia by mid-1963: the Mountain Shadow Drive-In, Revelstoke, and the Peaks Drive-In, Skeena Crossing. Another was under construction by mid-year, the Rainbow Drive-In, McBride. These outdoorers used professional French-made 16mm Hortson projectors with 75-amp arc lights and 5,000-foot reels with “all 35mm techniques.” They were equipped by General Sound & Theatre Equipment Co., Vancouver, which reported its seventh 16mm drive-in installation, at Houston, B.C., in July 1964.

Previous to 1955, though, there were other 16mm outdoorers, including the Eldorado Drive-In Theatre at 100 Mile House, at the 100 Mile Lodge, listed in a 1954 BC directory; the Port Crawford Drive-In Theatre, Port Crawford (renamed Crawford Bay by the end of 1954); and the Radies Drive-In Theatre, Penticton. The latter was run by Andrew and Lillian Radies, who operated a circuit that also ran the narrow-gauge indoor Radies Theatres at Hedley and Nickel Plate. These commercial situations were listed in the 1956–1957 CFWYB, all apparently operating previous to that time. Earlier editions of the CFWYB did not list actual theatre names, reflecting the D.B.S. not providing such information before 1955.

A more notable 16mm situation was the 150-car Langford Drive-In Theatre near Victoria, the second outdoorer opened in western Canada. The Cascades Drive-In Theatre at Burnaby was the first in 1946. Opened almost a year later, the Langford Drive-In operated only two seasons (three months at a time) and then closed in 1948—one of the wettest summers in years. At the end of its last season, a sign read “Closed Until Next Summer. If Any.” It was reportedly open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Another obscure 16mm outdoorer, running in 1953, was the Monashee Drive-In Theatre at Lumby, operated by the Stanley Golinowsky circuit out of Penticton. It was probably a non-permanent itinerant venue. Just as obscure was the Crest Drive-In Theatre at Lantzville (Nanaimo), listed in a 1952 BC directory, with the proprietor as A.H. Dale.

Radium Hot Springs would have a 35mm outdoorer in 1957, but Billboard, August 2, 1952, reported: “First drive-in in the Windermere, Alta., district is now in operation at Radium Hot Springs to cater to the tourist trade.” The news item, appearing in Drivin' 'Round the Drive-Ins, a section on new outdoor theatre construction, makes no mention of the film gauge—no doubt 16mm.

Because of latency in the CFWYB, the following is a list of for-profit 16mm situations in the 1956–1957 edition, excluding those already mentioned: Little Theatre, 100 Mile House; Community Theatre, Pender Harbour; Kitimat Theatre, Kitimat; Kelley Logging Co., Vancouver; and the Tillicum Theatre, Terrace (which was also running 35mm). Also listed were personal names: W.C. Campbell, Clinton and Lone Butte (the company was called Campbell Roadshows); J. Humphreys, Penny; T. Hetherington, Proctor (Hetherington also ran the Kaslo Theatre and the Starlight Drive-In Theatre, Nelson); O.A. Mortenson, Valemount; and F.J. Cope, Vancouver.

As documented by the D.B.S., below are paid admissions in British Columbia including the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Regular 16mm theatres are in the 16mm-1 column; community 16mm theatres in the 16mm-2 column. The D.B.S. stopped listing the actual numbers for community theatres in 1951, lumping those running 16mm and 35mm in one total but providing a percentage to one decimal point of the gauge used; thus the numbers are based on those percentages. For 35mm community situations, those numbers were then added to the 35mm column to consolidate all such houses. The D.B.S. stopped documenting 16mm community houses in 1957; the same was done for 35mm community houses, which were included in the regular 35mm numbers instead. The D.B.S. did not include drive-in admissions on a province basis until 1953, the numbers not included in the 35mm column. The numbers for 16mm excludes admissions from itinerant exhibitors—those using portable equipment and showing motion pictures in more than one town or village—since the data supplied to me by Statistics Canada was incomplete. Itinerant admissions in 1949: 113,968 (included were two itinerants using 35mm); 1951: 155,397; 1952: 88,352; 1953: 86,182; 1954: 60,979; 1955: 73,050; and 1956: 77,581 (the D.B.S. stopped documenting itinerants in 1957).

Year 35mm 16mm-1 16mm-2 Drive-Ins
1948 23,345,601 80,433 167,112  
1949 22,776,522 91,285 167,680  
1950 22,346,794 113,252 126,519  
1951 23,298,185 176,804 144,695  
1952 23,496,623 189,520 185,857  
1953 24,492,546 344,246 220,992 1,859,196
1954 22,756,275 312,234 251,295 2,045,167
1955 19,111,296 428,197 311,755 1,702,688
1956 16,277,440 313,416 339,256 1,751,522
1957 15,920,396 278,620   1,755,586
1958 14,198,248 251,079   1,820,284
1959 12,258,833 189,121   1,852,531
1960 11,515,439 172,232   1,766,379

 

Zeballos on the west coast of Vancouver Island had a 35mm theatre built in 1938, which burned in 1940 but was rebuilt by a new owner, only to close in 1948. Film Daily listed Privateer, named after the mine at Zeballos, in 1941 (Community Hall; 180), 1943 (Community Club; 435), and 1944 (same). A 35mm theatre operated by the Zeballos Community Association was running by at least the late 1950s, and had widescreen projection installed in 1961. The 175-seat house was reportedly knocked six feet off its foundation from a tidal wave after the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. It is not known if this or another house—there would have been only one in the very small town—was using 35mm between 1945–1948, since the new owner in the 1940s may have used 16mm. The 1952–1953 CFWYB listed a non-commercial situation at Zeballos, the Hospital Benefit Theatre. No gauge was specified but the entry does not appear in the 16mm section.

Other non-commercial situations listed were three mental hospitals at Victoria, New Westminster and Coquitlam; a sanatorium at Kamloops; a technical school at Vancouver; and a long-established community theatre at Bamfield on Vancouver Island, licensed by the Pacific Cable Club. Two of the mental hospitals just outside Vancouver were confirmed to be running 35mm in the 1950s, so all those listed as non-commercial were likely running the same gauge.

Port Hammond in Maple Ridge had a community theatre listed in the 1935 and 1936 Film Daily. A 1953 directory shows the Hammond Theatre, on Lorne Road in Port Hammond, so this might be the same building. The Hammond Theatre was built by Edward J. Timms, a pioneer British Columbia theatreman who also opened the first theatres in Langley and Abbotsford, and one in White Rock (although not the first there). Early in 1943 the Hammond ceased operation and became a 20-bed hospital for the war's duration.

The Film Daily incorrectly listed the State Theatre for Vancouver in 1936, but this was actually the Star Theatre which was not listed for that year. The Film Daily also mistakenly listed the Capitol Theatre in New Westminster in 1935, which was actually the Columbia Theatre.

The Film Daily listed the Roxy Theatre in 1937, not to be confused with the Fairview Theatre which became the Roxy in 1939. The Roxy, as listed in 1937, was the renamed Central Park Theatre in Burnaby, which would see its last year of operation in 1936 or 1937. Film Daily listed the 374-seat Central Park as closed in 1932 and 1933, not listed in 1934, and reappeared in 1935 with 300 seats.

Other houses, like the Central Park Theatre, which operated in the greater Vancouver area during the 1930s but were closed by the end of World War II: Carleton Theatre, 1929-built Vancouver suburban house, closed in 1937 to become a restaurant, the Rio Dairy. Collingwood Theatre, suburban Vancouver, closed in 1935. Never listed in Film Daily, this house may never have been wired for sound. It was listed in directories up to 1934, with 1931 noted as closed. Formerly the obscure Bell Theatre, renamed the Collingwood in late 1913. Orient Theatre, Vancouver, operated with sound for two or three years then closed in 1937. Last listed in directories as the Jan Wah Sing Theatre in 1945, not operating, it was destroyed by fire in 1947 with the loss of four lives. Empress Theatre, Vancouver, more of a playhouse, described by Boxoffice as never a competitor in motion pictures, which was playing films months before being demolished in 1940. Westminster Theatre, New Westminster, renamed the Fox Theatre in 1939 and closed in 1942 when the owner built the leased Odeon Theatre down the street. White Rock Theatre, White Rock, closed in 1940 when the Park Theatre opened the same year. Agassiz Theatre, Agassiz, run by the same proprietors as the Abbotsford Theatre, closed in 1938 due to a lack of business. And the Haney Theatre, Haney, closed in 1941 when the Gem Theatre opened the same year.

Likewise in Victoria, the Romano Theatre, operating since 1910, closed before the war. The Film Daily listed the Little Orpheum Theatre in their 1936 and 1937 yearbooks, on one occasion together with the Romano. Both houses were listed with 414 seats, so I suspect they were the same house under different names. The Romano closed in 1936.

Established theatres in the Vancouver area that were closed with the advent of sound: Columbia Theatre, Vancouver; National Theatre, Vancouver; Progress Theatre, Vancouver, which briefly became the New Grand Theatre, closed in 1930 and then reopened in 1934 as the Music Box Theatre; Heights Theatre, Burnaby; and the Empire Theatre, North Vancouver.

Likewise in Victoria, the Variety Theatre, built in 1913 as the Kinemacolor Variety Theatre, closed in 1932. In the early 1940s the Odeon chain was making preliminary arrangements for opening the old house but it never happened.

In May 1949 Boxoffice announced that Howard Fletcher, pioneer exhibitor, would erect a theatre in the Capilano district of North Vancouver, a 450-seater to cost $65,000. In late 1952 it was announced that the house, to be called the Capilano Theatre, at Marine Drive and Tatlow, three blocks from the Lions Drive-In Theatre, would be completed in 1953, and early that year Boxoffice reported work had started. In October 1953 the house was again reported as “started,” now slated to have 650 seats. In April 1954 Boxoffice said the house would open late in the year, and in October 1954 reported: “A local newspaper wondered when Howard Fletcher will open his new North Vancouver theatre. Construction has been going on for the past two years at a slow pace with no end in view.” The theatre was never actually finished, but it appeared in the B.C. Directories Ltd.'s 1953 Vancouver and New Westminster City Directory, at ns 1700 blk Marine N Van and, in 1954 and 1955, at 1702 Marine N Van, matching the crossroad of Tatlow Avenue. Howard Fletcher, or John Howard Fletcher as he was known, had a small, short-lived suburban circuit in the Vancouver area during the 1920s: the Collingwood Theatre and the Cedar Cottage Theatre, both in Vancouver, and the Coquitlam Theatre, Coquitlam. In 1926 he opened West Vancouver's first house, the Hollyburn Theatre, which he sold in 1946 and entered local politics. In 1950 Fletcher acquired the Music Box Theatre, renaming it the Kingcrest Theatre, and shortly thereafter was elected reeve of West Vancouver.

Mention must be made of the SeaVue Theatre, opened in 1948, in Blaine, Washington, a border town south of Vancouver. The house, and its predecessors, the International Theatre (noted as closed in the 1946 Film Daily Year Book, never to be listed again) and AM-BC Theatre, both owned by the same proprietor (George Borden, Jr.) as the SeaVue, saw a great deal of Canadian patronage, especially at the time when theatres in British Columbia were closed on Sundays. In the early 1960s the SeaVue would be known for its “girlie” pictures, and ultimately hardcore. The Film Daily Year Books for some reason listed the SeaVue simply as the Blaine Theatre. The International Theatre, which opened in 1934, may have become the site of the SeaVue. The International was acquired along with the much older Ivan L. Theatre in 1936 by George Borden, Jr., who later would be mayor of Blaine.

There also was a theatre just across the border at Sumas, the Washington State Theatre as Boxoffice called it in 1944, run by the Lions Club, better known as the Rose Theatre, which was listed in The Film Daily from 1932–1943, then invariably listed as both the Lions Club and Rose thereafter. There also was the long-established Liberty Theatre in Lynden, Washington.

Canadians also frequented the theatres in Bellingham, Washington: the American Theatre, Avalon Theatre, Grand Theatre, Mt. Baker Theatre, and the People's Theatre (renamed the Holly Theatre in 1951). Also in Bellingham was the Motor-Vu Drive-In, opened in 1948, and the Moonlite Movies Drive-In, opened in 1953. Before talkies came to British Columbia, the Avalon was wired for sound in February 1928, with the Mt. Baker to follow in November.

Communities east of the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia also crossed the border to visit U.S. theatres, the magnet for all being accessibility, Sunday shows, and newer releases since many films on the Canadian side were as much as six months behind American towns.

Another notable border house was the Orada Theatre at Oroville, Washington, its name a combination of Oroville and Canada. In 1953 the theatre was taken over by Pete Barnes, who also owned three British Columbia houses—the Hollyburn, Langley, and Lulu. Barnes also built an outdoorer about a mile from the border at Oroville, the Pow-Wow Drive-In Theatre, which opened in 1955. Another Oroville house, the Osoyoos Theatre, when opened in 1936—unrelated to Barnes who was running a theatre in Texas at the time—was described by the press as “said to be the largest and finest theatre building and best equipment between Wenatchee and Penticton, B.C.”

In 1946, Pete Barnes, who was born in Arkansas, opened his Skyview, an open-airer at the summer-resort village of Wasaga Beach, Ontario, the first major theatre of its kind in Canada. The 982-seat amphitheatre held no cars. After selling his remaining houses in 1958, including a circuit of 15 small-town theatres in Washington state, Barnes would operate his 13,000-acre ranch at Lac la Hache, B.C., before passing away in 1962.

The first theatre in British Columbia equipped with CinemaScope was the Capitol, Vancouver, which premiered “The Robe” on October 29, 1953. The second was the Royal Victoria, Victoria, which premiered the film on January 1, 1954. On January 30, 1954, Boxoffice reported only four CinemaScope installations in the province without listing their names. The other two would have been the Columbia in New Westminster—a Famous Players house like the Capitol and Royal Victoria—and the Fox in Victoria, the first independent theatre to have CinemaScope in western Canada.

On May 15, 1954, Boxoffice reported only five CinemaScope houses in the province, again unnamed, the other being the Vogue, Vancouver, the first Odeon house to be equipped. On May 8, 1954, Boxoffice reported that Famous Players had installed CinemaScope in the Columbia, New Westminster, its fourth installation in British Columbia, but I do not know what their other house was. Contradicting itself with an earlier date, on January 16, 1954, Boxoffice reported that the company had installed CinemaScope equipment in the Columbia, New Westminster, and “The Robe” was to open.

Many more installations would follow, although a shortage of CinemaScope lenses would slow things down. By June 1954, the first drive-in theatre in the province was equipped with CinemaScope, the Paramount Auto-Vue, Burnaby. The Skyway Drive-In, Kamloops, would be next. As of June 18, 1954, U.S. installations of CinemaScope totaled 4,644 theatres, including 419 drive-ins.

Note that some houses installed widescreens in 1953 but did not have the actual equipment at the time. The last house to be equipped, although not due to any shortage, was the Orpheum, Dawson City, Yukon, in late 1964 (not a typo).

The short-lived three-dimensional format would come to British Columbia on April 2, 1953, when “Bwana Devil” premiered at the Plaza and Paradise, both Vancouver Odeon houses. Famous Players would debut 3-D in the province on April 27, 1953, at the Strand, Vancouver, with “House of Wax.” The first independent house to install 3-D was the Steva, Steveston, in July 1953. On January 30, 1954, Boxoffice reported only 14 theatres in the province were equipped with 3-D. The first drive-in theatre in the province with CinemaScope and 3-D was the Paramount Auto-Vue, Burnaby, in June 1954.

The first theatre in British Columbia to show VistaVision was the Orpheum, Vancouver, which debuted “White Christmas” on November 5, 1954. The first for 70mm was the Stanley, Vancouver, which debuted “South Pacific” on November 5, 1958. The first for three-camera Cinerama was the Strand, Vancouver, which debuted “This is Cinerama” on March 6, 1958. To operate the equipment, which was moved from Seattle, required seven extra projectionists.

The trades had a little controversy with what was the most northerly theatre, with a 300-seat, 1939-built Yellowknife house, the Pioneer, claiming that distinction by a Boxoffice correspondent. Manager of the Orpheum, Dawson, Yukon, P.J. Allen, wrote to Boxoffice in 1940 regarding its article titled “Most Northerly Theatre Closes When Boom Ends,” claiming his town was actually further north than Yellowknife. Allen also added that Fairbanks, Alaska, with two theatres and a seasonal operation north of town, was about 30 miles north of Dawson, Yukon. A 1938 Boxoffice news item was more careful with its headline about the Yellowknife house, stating “Most Northerly House in Empire.” As quoted by P.J. Allen in 1940, “... our claim to be the northernmost theatre in the British Empire is still unchallenged.”

Ignored in the light-hearted controversy, however, was the Dreamland Theatre in Nome, Alaska.

Boxoffice, January 20, 1940: Operator of the only theatre in Nome, Alaska, C[harles].H. Code was a guest of Paramount during his current visit to the film colony. Code is accompanied by his wife.

The north country exhibitor revealed that his house has been in continuous operation for 28 years, with only one exception—when fire destroyed it. He rebuilt in less than two months. On the last boat in the summer Code ships about 125 pictures to store for the winter season, which are returned to Seattle exchanges in the spring.

The Dreamland, or Alaska Dreamland as it was known, certainly was the most northerly 35mm theatre on the North American continent. In 1946 the house, which Film Daily listed with 300 seats but reportedly had 528 when rebuilt in 1934, would be severely damaged from a storm that swept in from the Bearing Sea. Early in 1953 the house was destroyed by fire, and rebuilt once again.

The 1950 list published by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics listed three theatres in the Northwest Territories: the Capitol Theatre and Pioneer Theatre (both 35mm) at Yellowknife, and the Peffer Trading Co. (16mm) at Aklavik, a community near the Arctic Ocean, a great distance from Yellowknife, Dawson, Nome and Fairbanks. The opening of the theatre at Aklavik was reported in the July 18, 1941 issue of Film Daily: Sound Gets to Aklavik. Blocks of ice, yes, but not blocks-of-five, are of consequence to the film trade up in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, Canada. The “trade” there consists of getting pic product to show the inhabitants, more than 75 per cent of whom had never seen a sound picture prior to last Christmas. Productions on 16 mm. are shipped up by airplane, and the service is only once a month at that. Victor Animatophone equipment is used for the periodic showings.

In the Dawson Weekly News, August 19, 1948, F.E. Envoldsen wrote about his visit to Aklavik: On entering the large first floor room, I was surprised to see half of it taken up by chairs that had comfortable back rests [which] were fastened together 6 and 8 in rows. I failed to see a door at the rear. This was the projection room, a movie theatre. Every Saturday night a show was on. The other half was the dining room.

The Aklavik theatre, at Stan Peffer's hotel, also doubling as a pool room and for church services, could have certainly laid claim to the northernmost theatre on the North American continent.

All motion picture theatres in British Columbia were licensed on a yearly basis, which means there existed a paper trail of openings and closures. For example, in 1947 the Rio Theatre in Trail, which closed permanently on May 15, 1947, had license number 4211. Although not legible in the small image presented above, the text states: This License is issued subject to the provisions of the “Moving Pictures Act” of British Columbia and the “Fire Marshal Act” and Regulations passed thereunder, and cannot be sold or transferred except by consent of the Fire Marshal. The license was issued to Geo. J. Gerrard, authorizing him to operate a moving picture theatre at 1601 2nd Ave in the city of Trail.

Whether this paper trail exists in archives today is unknown, but it certainly would provide a wonderful source of information. Even the seating capacity at the time can be determined in some cases based on the yearly license fee, which was $86 for the Rio. If a theatre was located outside Vancouver and Victoria, and within the limits of any organized municipality or corporation townsite, as was the Rio, the fee was $65 plus 15 cents for each seat in excess of 300.

 

 

 

First Sound Theatres in British Columbia (incomplete)

 

Name Location Built Opened   Seats11 Circuit
Capitol Theatre Vancouver 1921  October 5, 1928 NE 2,153 Famous Players
Dominion Theatre Victoria 1913  December 4, 1928 NE 856 Famous Players
Colonial Theatre9 Vancouver 1915 January 1929; see note   825  
Pantages Theatre10 Vancouver 1917 February 1929; see note   1,660  
Orpheum Theatre1 Vancouver 1927  May 10, 1929 RCA 2,871 Radio-Keith-Orpheum
Columbia Theatre New Westminster 1927  June 3, 1929 NE 910 Famous Players
Capitol Theatre Victoria 1921  June 10, 1929 RCA 1,331 Famous Players
Dominion Theatre Vancouver 19122 June 17, 1929 NE 946 Famous Players
Rex Theatre Vancouver 1913  July 1, 1929 NE 931 Dewees8
Strand Theatre3 Vancouver 1920  July 15, 1929 NE 1,912 Famous Players
Capitol Theatre4 Nanaimo 1915  August 22, 1929 RCA 738 Famous Players
Lonsdale Theatre North Vancouver 1911  September 2, 1929   600 Dewees8
Capitol Theatre Nelson 1927  September 9, 1929 RCA 640 Famous Players
Star Theatre Cranbrook 1921  September 16, 1929 NE 414  
Capitol Theatre Prince Rupert 1928  October 24, 1929 NE 708 Famous Players
Broadway Theatre Vancouver 19165 November 4, 1929 NE 954 Famous Players
Kerrisdale Theatre Vancouver 1925  December 6, 1929 NE 750 Famous Players
Grandview Theatre Vancouver 19236 December 25, 1929 NE 850 Famous Players
Kitsilano Theatre Vancouver 19147 December 25, 1929 NE 887 Famous Players
 

 

(1) New Orpheum Theatre. (2) The new Dominion Theatre. (3) Previously the Allen Theatre. (4) Previously the Dominion Theatre. (5) The new Broadway Theatre. (6) The new Grandview Theatre. (7) Given a major facelift and remodelling in 1922. (8) Although independent, the Dewees circuit was an affiliate of Famous Players. (9) Previously the Kinemacolor Theatre. The Colonial Theatre had sound by at least January 1929, using Romanophone, an unknown, perhaps home-made, non-synchronous disc device named after the house's proprietor, Hector Quagliotti-Romano. Later in 1929 the house would be listed as an “all-talker,” so probably had new equipment installed. (10) The second Pantages house in Vancouver, becoming the Beacon in 1930. In February 1929 the Pantages was playing “Submarine” starring Jack Holt with “sound effects,” and Fox Movietone News by at least March 1929. The Pantages in Seattle and Portland were wired in December 1928 with Western Electric, as were their other houses, so Vancouver probably had the same. (11) Seating capacity as listed in the 1932 Film Daily.

NE: Northern Electric, the Canadian counterpart of Western Electric which had two sound systems: the sound-on-film Movietone and the sound-on-disc Vitaphone. The first theatre in Canada with Western Electric was the Palace, Montreal, which opened with sound on September 1, 1928.

RCA: Photophone sound-on-film system, which also supported Vitaphone-compatible sound-on-disc. With installations beginning in earnest in August 1928, Photophone would have only 69 U.S. houses wired with the equipment by the end of the year, but ramped up production in 1929 to eventually become Western Electric's biggest competitor. The first theatre in Canada with Photophone was B.F. Keith's, Ottawa, which opened with sound on April 24, 1929.

It was standard practice for Western Electric and RCA installations in Canada to be dual systems, supporting both sound-on-film and sound-on-disc.

As of December 7, 1928, Famous Players had 152 theatres in Canada, some owned outright while others were operated on leases or partnered with other circuits or individual houses.

Although listed as a Radio-Keith-Orpheum house, the Orpheum Theatre also was connected with Famous Players since at the time the two companies had just formed Radio Keith Orpheum Canada, Ltd., equal partners in the new company.

To put sound-on-film Movietone into perspective, below is a short, accurate chronology published in Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, October 20, 1928, prepared by Fox Film Corp. I have added a few snippets.

 

Here's a Chronology Of Notable Events In Movietone Career

For those who like their facts unadulterated and who go in for figures and dates, Fox Films has prepared a chronology of important events in the history of Fox Movietone. These dates will prove of interest and value in preparing newspaper stories on Movietone. Here they are:

1927

The first Fox Movietone subject was a group of songs by Raquel Meller. This was exhibited for the first time as a demonstration of Movietone possibilities at an invitation showing in conjunction with the premiere of “What Price Glory” on January 21, 1927 at the Sam H. Harris theatre in New York.

[Note: "What Price Glory" opened quietly in Great Neck, New York, on November 10, 1926, before its official premiere in Los Angeles on November 19 and its New York premiere at the Harris on November 23. These showings were without music and sound effects, which were added for the January 21, 1927, premiere at the Harris—the first public presentation of Movietone.]

[Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, June 2, 1928: The first public showing of Movietone was held January 21, 1927 at the Sam H. Harris theatre in New York when a performance of four songs by Raquel Meller was given in conjunction with the showing of “What Price Glory.”]

On May 25, 1927 at the Sam H. Harris theatre, “7th Heaven” was opened with the first all-Movietone surrounding program. The feature film was not at that time synchronized. The auxiliary program consisted of the Raquel Meller subject previously shown as an experiment; the first short comedy, “They're Coming to Get Me,” with Chic Sale; Lindbergh's takeoff for the New York to Paris flight; a Ben Bernie program of music; songs by Gertrude Lawrence and the first outdoor Movietone subject, West Point Cadets drill.

[Absent from the chronology: Film Daily, May 1, 1927: “Demonstrating the tremendous strides made in talking films, Movietone's first "talking" news reel, was given a preview at the Roxy Friday [April 29]. The innovation caused a veritable sensation among the trade and newspaper representatives present. Drill and parade of West Coast cadets, with a preliminary speech by the post commander were the subjects chosen for the demonstration of the first talking picture taken out of doors. Simultaneous registration of sound and action characterizes the reel.”]

[A two-page Fox advertisement in May proclaimed: “For the first time in any theatre, before spell-bound audiences in the Roxy, New York, on Saturday, April 30—presented the "talking newsreel," or motion pictures of current events portrayed IN SOUND, by Movietone.”]

On September 10, “7th Heaven” Movietone synchronized version was shown at the Roxy theatre. The picture played two weeks.

[Film Daily, September 8, 1927: “Movietone score and choral accompaniment will be used in connection with the run of "Seventh Heaven" at the Roxy. S.L. Rothafel and Erno Rapee arranged the score. Scores also have been arranged for "Sunrise," which is to play the Times Square, and for "Mother Machree," soon to open in New York.”]

On September 23, “Sunrise” with Movietone synchronization opened at Times Square theatre. This was the first feature to be synchronized before its Broadway showing.

The first all-Movietone newsreel was shown at the Roxy theatre on Saturday, October 28, 1927, and consisted of the following subjects: 1. Niagara Falls; 2. Romance of the Iron Horse; 3. Yale Bowl Festivities (Yale-Army Game); 4. West Comes East. Rodeo Performers.

[Film Daily, November 6, 1927: “Realism Via the Movietone Route. The Roxy show had one kick at least last week. What maybe likened to the first complete Movietone news weekly made its appearance. Work still remains to be done in order to improve the process, but as another demonstration of the possibilities which now reveal themselves, the subject was significant.”]

The first weekly issue of Movietone News was released on December 3.

[Film Daily, November 30, 1927: “MOVIETONE NEWS TO BE LAUNCHED DEC. 4. Fox Movietone News, experiments for which have been conducted for the past three months, will become a permanent institution Sunday, when issue No. 1 will be released to exhibitors, according to announcement by William Fox. The Movietone will be released once a week.”]

[Film Daily, December 4, 1927: “THE NEWSREEL HAS NOW LEARNED HOW TO SPEAK. Fox Movietone News was launched yesterday when the initial issue of the first complete newsreel made its appearance. Preliminary presentations at the Roxy, the Academy of Music and a number of other Fox theaters in New York City have been under way for a number of weeks, but in each instance, only part of the newsreel was treated to the Movietone process.”]

1928

On June 25, the first all dialogue comedy in two reels, “The Family Picnic” was shown at the Globe theatre, New York, in conjunction with “The Red Dance,” synchronized feature.

[Film Daily, June 24, 1928: “The rapid strides which are being made in the production of sight and sound pictures are shown in "The Family Picnic," the first two-reel Movietone comedy to come out of Hollywood. This production has just been received in the Fox offices in New York and will be a part of the presentation at the Globe, where "The Red Dance," has its premiere Monday. Written and directed by Harry Delf "The Family Picnic" utilizes Movietone completely. There is not a written title in the two reels. All of the dialogue by Kathleen Kay and Raymond McKee, is recorded on Movietone as well as the words from the two children of the family and the attendant noises of a picnic party.”]

On September 1, the first feature with dialogue, “The Air Circus” was shown at the Gaiety theatre in New York.

[Exhibitors Daily Review, August 28, 1928: “The first Movietone feature with dialogue to be released by any company, "The Air Circus," will be presented by William Fox at the Gaiety Theatre for an extended run beginning next Saturday afternoon, September 1.”]

[Motion Picture News review, September 8, 1928: “Here's a rollicking piece of entertainment—mainly entertainment of the form which has found its finest medium in the motion picture, though there is a Movietone accompaniment of music, with "effects" in counterpoint to it and one nicely handled dialogue sequence.”]

[Variety review, September 5, 1928: “The talking sequence runs about 15 minutes.”]

On October 6, the first release of two Movietone News Subjects per week became effective.

[Film Daily advertisement, October 7, 1928: “The Only Talking Newsreel Now Supplies 2 Issues Weekly. Fox Movietonews [sic] speaks for itself. Its perfect reproduction of world events has earned its popularity with the public. Public demand has compelled sometimes reluctant theatre operators to supply the only talking newsreel. The Fox organization is glad to yield to public demand by supplying each week 2 talking newsreels instead of one as heretofore.”]

 

Omitted from the chronology by Fox—no doubt intentionally—is the first all-talking Movietone feature, Universal's “Melody of Love,” reported as completed in Film Daily, August 31, 1928, although with no title given. Universal had borrowed a camera and Movietone truck from Fox, making the film secretly in nine days for $30,000. Starring Walter Pidgeon and Mildred Harris, the film, whose pre-release title was “Madelon,” was shown to 50 people at Grauman's Chinese, Hollywood, September 11, 1928.

At the time of the preview Fox had started work on its first all-talking outdoor Movietone feature, “In Old Arizona,” on location in Utah. The film was beset by problems, including an eye injury to director Raoul Walsh—replaced by Irving Cummings—and recasting of the female lead, Maria Alba, the Spanish “discovery,” because her dialect was found impractical for sound.

While “In Old Arizona” was in production Fox began shooting, on September 27, 1928, their second all-talkie Movietone feature, “The Ghost Talks,” which was completed in early November. “In Old Arizona” was finished on November 21, the final shots being interiors at Fox's Movietone City, and was promptly previewed at the Mission, San Jose, California, November 23, 1928, making it the first all-talking Movietone feature to be released by Fox. The official premiere was at the Criterion, Los Angeles, on Christmas Day. Although “The Ghost Talks” was the first all-talkie Movietone feature to be completed by Fox, it was not released generally until February 1929.

The first sound film with dialogue to open in British Columbia, at the Capitol, Vancouver, October 18, 1928, was Fox's “Mother Knows Best,” which after “The Air Circus” was Fox's second Movietone feature with dialogue, described by the trades as a fifty per cent talkie. Fox issued three variations of the film: a silent version for theatres not equipped to handle sound (the majority of houses at the time), a synchronized version with a musical score but no dialogue, and a third version with a synchronized musical score and dialogue. At this time Fox did not issue their sound films on disc.

Technically, the first Fox feature film released with Movietone dialogue was “The River Pirate,” which began production about one week after “The Air Circus.” Completed the week of July 10, 1928, around the same time as “Mother Knows Best,” “The River Pirate” had a small dialogue scene at the film's end, an epilogue, added in August, and was released on the 26th of the month. “The Air Circus” was released September 1, and “Mother Knows Best,” September 15.

The first sound film to open at the Capitol, Vancouver, is not known to me, but Famous Players' policy to the end of 1928 was to open all its wired houses with Fox's “Street Angel,” which had Movietone songs, music and sound effects.

Film Daily, July 31, 1929: Toronto—Practically one seventh of all theaters in the Dominion have been wired for sound pictures, according to Col. John A. Cooper, president of the M.P. Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada. Col. Cooper asserted that 135 out of the 940 picture houses in Canada were now presenting sound film, or using non-synchronous equipment. All large theaters in cities and towns have been wired.

Non-synchronous equipment, as mentioned above, used standard 78 rpm phonograph records timed to a motion picture with custom recordings provided with cue sheets, or with generic stock accompaniment. Although the news item speaks in general terms, 33 1/3 rpm sound-on-disc Vitaphone and its compatible variants were synchronous, since the sound was synchronized with the film and reproduced through the operation of a synchronous motor which ran both the projector and turntable.

With non-synchronous equipment a theatre could have the equivalent of a house orchestra and also contract with a cueing service to have the entire season's bookings or an individual film cued with incidental music and sound effects. Non-synchronous was a poor man's sound for the many houses which could not afford the expensive Western Electric system, which in mid-1928, for example, was priced from $5,000 to $12,000 with an average price of $9,000.

Western Electric also had non-synchronous equipment, as later would many manufacturers of synchronous equipment, which allowed standard phonograph records to be used. The equipment also could be used as a public address system or to send music, for example, to a theatre's lobby.

On October 15, 1928, the Academy, Hagerstown, Maryland, presented a run of “Lilac Time,” a First National picture, on its new Vitaphone-compatible Bristolphone equipment, the first in the country. This marked the start of a controversy described by Film Daily as “... the first case on record where a licensed sound picture has been projected over non-licensed reproducing equipment.” The house then booked “The Whip,” another from First National, only to run into contractual difficulties and forced to use the silent version.

The second house to be wired with Bristolphone, the Strand, Madison, Wisconsin, played the synchronized version of “Lilac Time” starting on November 17, 1928, without interference from First National, although it took the threat of a lawsuit for the company to relent. Previously the house had played some MGM subjects on Bristolphone without any controversy.

After much wrangling and debate about interchangeability with films recorded by the Western Electric disc system, the stage was set for many other companies to manufacture equipment compatible with Vitaphone, provided, according to Western Electric, the tonal quality is deemed satisfactory.

Warner Brothers, which controlled First National, stated at the time that Vitaphone pictures are sold only for projection by Western Electric equipment, making an exception for RCA Photophone's disc device, which was to be introduced shortly. In January 1929, Warner Brothers, through its Vitaphone subsidiary, sanctioned the use of Biophone's new disc equipment, the installation found to reproduce satisfactorily; Pacent's disc equipment was next to get the green light.

Film Daily, January 30, 1929: Each application for Vitaphone service for showing via other than Western Electric equipment is decided on its merits, George E. Quigley, [Vitaphone] company vice president, stated recently in outlining the company's position. If the tonal quality of the particular machine in the particular house meets with company approval, films and discs are served for showing.

To clarify the sometimes confusing “Vitaphone”: In April 1927, Warner Brothers acquired hundred per cent ownership of the Vitaphone Corp., the trade name used for both film production and the equipment installed in theatres. Thereafter the name Vitaphone was only a production unit of Warner Brothers, while the electrical equipment used for reproduction was known as the Western Electric Sound Projector System, a term rarely used, the Western Electric disc system, and more commonly, Vitaphone. Western Electric, through its subsidiary, Electrical Research Products, Inc., now would handle the supply, sale, installation and maintenance of Vitaphone equipment for theatres.

Around this time, specifically November 14, 1928, Western Electric had 779 installations in the U.S., 743 with both Movietone and Vitaphone, 28 with Vitaphone alone, and 8 with Movietone alone; Canada had 7 installations, all dual systems. With the introduction of new synchronous equipment such as Bristolphone, Western Electric would see many more competitors ahead.

This burgeoning competition was reflected in Canada, as reported in Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, December 1, 1928:

Toronto, Nov. 27.—The latest edition of film contracts universally used in Canada contains a new clause prohibiting the use of auxiliary sound devices in the presentation of the feature in a theatre unless permission is granted by the film exchange. When a picture is booked as a sound film it is to be used with recognized synchronized projection.

It is understood that no prohibition is placed on the type of sound mechanism to be used in the projection as long as proper results are obtained. In other words, suitable interchanging is unofficially permitted, but the sound field in the Dominion has not yet become so widened that any problem has arisen in this respect.

The first Vitaphone-compatible equipment released in Canada was Melotone, which in December 1928 was installed in two Quebec houses, a few Famous Players houses in Toronto, and eight houses of the B. & F. circuit in Toronto. Early in 1929 the device also was installed in 18 houses of the Premier Operating Company circuit in Ontario.

Interchangeability of the synchronous Melotone was demonstrated at the Capitol, Kitchener, Ontario, in early 1929 with a Vitaphone presentation of Paramount's first all-talking feature, “Interference.” The film had a Movietone soundtrack but also was released silent and on disc-only Vitaphone.

Film Daily, February 10, 1929: The Melotone synchronization device has been placed on the Canadian market by the Columbia Sound-Film Equipment, Ltd. The company has offices in five other cities of the Dominion. This is the first of this type of equipment to be offered in Canada.

Film Daily, July 21, 1929: There are at present, it is stated, 192 theaters in United States and 66 in Canada equipped with the [Melotone] apparatus.

Film Daily, August 29, 1929, however, reported: There are 174 theaters showing sound pictures in Canada, according to Col. John A. Cooper, president of the M.P. Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada. Western Electric equipment predominates with 71 machines installed. Melotone is second with 19 installations. The discrepancy in numbers is probably because those houses with Melotone soon were wired with Western Electric.

Another early example is the Palace, Windsor, Ontario, which had Harmony sound equipment installed by a Detroit company in February 1929. The sound-on-disc system at the house was replaced in August 1929 with Western Electric.

Other disc-based sound equipment in Canada, far from comprehensive, included Amplitone, Baldwin, Bristolphone, Capehart Orchestrope, Columbia Theatrephone, Electrograph, Kinophone, Mellaphone, and Oraphone. Film Daily's sound survey as of September 1, 1929, showed that more than 175 brands of synchronous and non-synchronous devices were installed in U.S. theatres.

Film Daily, August 16, 1929: Toronto—There are 202 wired theaters in Canada, states Col. John A. Cooper, president of the M.P. Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada. Of these, 84 are in Ontario, 41 in Quebec, 36 in the Winnipeg division, 12 in Alberta, ten in British Columbia and 19 in the Maritime provinces. It is estimated that about 35 per cent of Canada's seating capacity is represented in wired houses.

Film Daily, December 14, 1931: Total of 727 houses, or approximately 80 per cent of the 899 regularly-operated theaters in the Dominion of Canada, are now wired for sound, according to the latest survey made for The Film Daily Year Book. The situation, by provinces, is now as follows: Alberta, 96 out of 110 wired; British Columbia, 81 out of 103; Manitoba, 105 out of 139; Maritime Provinces, 62 out of 90; Ontario, 258 out of 300; Quebec, 125 out of 157.

Motion Picture Herald, January 30, 1932: A breath of encouragement is found in the official survey of theatre operating conditions throughout Canada, which shows ... that 775 theatres in all Canada have been wired and, with 20 other systems for censor boards and screening rooms, the total number of installations in the Dominion is 795. Film exchanges work on the basis of 900 theatres in the country all told; so it can be estimated that there are approximately 125 silent houses under the Canadian flag. By regions, the wired theatres are: Ontario, 256; Quebec, 127; Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 238; British Columbia, 78, and Maritime Provinces, 76.

Film Daily, February 13, 1933, reported 118 theatres in British Columbia: 85 were wired, with ten of those closed; the remaining 33 unwired houses were all closed. The Film Daily Year Book, it should be noted, was published early in the year, so is more a reflection of the previous year.

1933 Film Daily Year Book, not wired and closed: Alert Bay (150), Alert Bay • Globe (150), Atlin • Mine Hall (150), Anyox • Beavercove (150), Beavercove [Beaver Cove] • B.C. Theater (162), Bella Coola • Campbell River (150), Campbell River • Opera (110), Canyon • Chemainus (200), Chemainus • Recreation Hall (188), Corbin • Gulf (200), Ganges • Lyric (150), Golden • Rex [Greenwood Theatre] (250), Greenwood • Rex [Port Haney Theatre] (304), Haney • H.B. Club (85), Hazelton • Club (100), James Island • Strand (464), Kamloops • Opera House (250), Kaslo • Opera (110), Lake Windermere • Opera House (250), Lillooet • Bijou (680), Nanaimo • Opera House (300), Natal • Nimpkish (150), Nimpkish • Empire (450), North Vancouver • Itinerant [Massett Theatre] (100), Old Massett • Recreation Hall (150), Port Alice • Hall (100), Queen Charlotte City • Assembly (200), Rolla • Halls [Slocan Theatre] (200), Silverton/New Denver • Princess (300), Smithers • Community Club (150), Sointula • Progress [Terrace Theatre] (200), Terrace • Royal Victoria (1,500), Victoria.

1933 Film Daily Year Book, wired and closed: Opera House [Abbotsford Theatre] (350), Abbotsford • Opera House (205), Ashcroft • Central Park (374), Burnaby • Regent (seating not listed; 679 in the 1935 Film Daily), Burnaby • Coliseum (275), Enderby • Empress (386), Grand Forks • Delta Hall (300), Ladner • Town Hall (250), Port Moody • Capitol (622), Rossland • Richmond (275), Steveston • Hall (seating not listed; 90 in the 1932 Film Daily, which listed it as unwired), Youbou.

1933 Film Daily Year Book, wired and open: Armstrong [Star Theatre] (305), Armstrong • Recreation Hall (345), Anyox • Beach (233), Britannia • Tunnell [sic] (233), Britannia • Strand (570), Chilliwack • Gaiety (400), Courtenay • Ilo Ilo (500), Cumberland • Star (414), Cranbrook • Grand (300), Creston • Capitol (464), Duncan • Orpheum (375), Fernie • Y.M.C.A. (110), Field • Capitol (721), Kamloops • Empress (722), Kelowna • Orpheum (400), Kimberley • Rialto (325), Ladysmith • Rex (350), Merritt • Opera House (248), Michel • Victory (500), Mission • Capitol (738), Nanaimo • Capitol (640), Nelson • Columbia (910), New Westminster • Edison (855), New Westminster • Lonsdale (600), North Vancouver • Recreation Hall (524), Ocean Falls • Empress (535), Penticton • Port [Port Alberni Theatre] (300), Port Alberni • Patricia (484), Powell River • Community (350), Premier • Strand (450), Prince George • Capitol (708), Prince Rupert • Capitol (300), Princeton • Rex (150), Quesnel • Province (388), Revelstoke • Rex (270), Salmon Arm • Liberty (515), Trail • Rialto (522), Trail • Alma (645), Vancouver • Beacon (1,660), Vancouver • Broadway (954), Vancouver • Capitol (2,153), Vancouver • Carleton (400), Vancouver • Colonial (825), Vancouver • Dominion (946), Vancouver • Fairview (500), Vancouver • Fraser (722), Vancouver • Globe (834), Vancouver • Grandview (850), Vancouver • Kerrisdale (750), Vancouver • Kitsilano (887), Vancouver • Maple Leaf (693), Vancouver • Marpole (496), Vancouver • Olympia (825), Vancouver • Orpheum [RKO Orpheum Theatre] (2,871), Vancouver • Princess (480), Vancouver • Rex (931), Vancouver • Royal (1,000), Vancouver • Stanley (1,242), Vancouver • Star (497), Vancouver • Strand (1,912), Vancouver • Victoria (524), Vancouver • Windsor (652), Vancouver • Empress (532), Vernon • Capitol (1,331), Victoria • Columbia (600), Victoria • Dominion (856), Victoria • Empire (920), Victoria • Playhouse (650), Victoria • Romano (414), Victoria • Rialto (250), West Summerland • Hollyburn (300), West Vancouver • Rex [Oliver Theatre] (150), Williams Lake.

Also listed is Haney Bay, Hanet [sic] Bay, not noted as closed or unwired, with no seating number. This was probably at Port Haney, and appeared only in the 1933 edition, no doubt confused with the Port Haney Theatre which Film Daily listed as the unwired and closed Rex Theatre. Also listed is the Orpheum, Dawson City, Yukon, not noted as closed or unwired, with no seating number.

The Central Park Theatre is listed twice: under the community of Central Park as the Park Theatre, wired and closed with 374 seats, and under Vancouver as the Central Park Theatre, wired and open with no seating number. The duplication error was corrected in the 1934 edition.

Listed in the 1932 Film Daily for Kamloops were three houses: the Capitol Theatre (721 seats), Rex Theatre (600 seats), and Strand Theatre (464 seats, noted as unwired and closed). In the 1933 edition the Rex was not listed, never to appear again; the Strand was listed as it was in 1932, likewise never to appear again. The Strand was announced by Boxoffice to be reopened by Famous Players in 1945, 1947 and again in 1948, to be remodeled and re-equipped, but never happened.

Wrigley's 1932 British Columbia Directory lists the following motion picture theatres which are not included in the 1932 and 1933 Film Daily: Colwood Hall Theatre, Colwood; Empress Theatre, McBride; Hammond Theatre, Port Hammond; Squamish Theatre, Squamish; Chinese Theatre, Vancouver; Collingwood Theatre, Vancouver (noted as not operating); White Rock Theatre, White Rock. The directory also lists, under motion picture theatres, the following people with nameless theatres: C.W. Baker, Ganges; E. Santini, Lillooet; and T. Shlemko, Natal.

The first wired theatre in Canada with permanent equipment was Famous Players' Palace Theatre in Montreal, which opened with Western Electric equipment on September 1, 1928. The opening feature was Fox's “Street Angel,” starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, which had Movietone music, including singing, and sound effects. The program also included three Movietone shorts and Movietone News.

The Palace had been showing Movietone subjects since it opened, but Vitaphone would make its Canadian debut at the house on December 1, 1928, when it presented “The Jazz Singer.”

The other wired houses in Canada up to December 31, 1928, all with Western Electric equipment and sorted by opening date: Tivoli, Toronto, October 5; Capitol, Vancouver, October 5; Metropolitan, Winnipeg, October 26; Uptown, Toronto, November 3; Capitol, Calgary, November 5; Capitol, London, November 12; Tivoli, Hamilton, November 24; Dominion, Victoria, December 4; Capitol, Regina, December 12; Capitol, Montreal, December 29; Regent, Ottawa, December 29; and the Capitol, Winnipeg, December 29.

In 1926 the Palace and a few other Montreal houses had presented shorts using the sound-on-film DeForest Phonofilm, which at that time was still not perfected. Even earlier, Phonofilm was presented in late 1924 in Toronto, coinciding with the formation of DeForest Phonofilm of Canada, Ltd., with a number of prominent Montreal exhibitors as directors.

In 1927 Phonofilm saw other presentations in Toronto, notably at the Canadian National Exhibition, where six- and eight-minute shorts made at Lee DeForest's Montreal studio were presented.

Although beginning in 1923 about 50 theatres in the U.S. and Canada made use of Phonofilm, by September 1928, now perfected, it was ready for permanent theatre installations. The first house in the U.S. was the Alhambra in Canton, Ohio, which presented “The Toilers” on December 1, 1928.

By August 1929 more than 200 installations of Phonofilm and 150 of Phonodisc—the company's version of Vitaphone—had been made in the U.S. and Canada, with many more in other countries. While other sound-on-film equipment existed at this time that was compatible with Movietone, notably RCA Photophone, Pacent and Cinephone, the first to commercialize the sound film and make it a theatrical reality was DeForest Phonofilm.

Following the opening of the Palace, Montreal, with sound on September 1, 1928, Exhibitors Daily Review, October 9, 1928, reported:

“UNITEAPHONE” SECOND CANADIAN SOUND SHOW

Montreal.—The first presentation of a new sound method, and the second public showing of sound films in Canada, occurred at the Rosemont Theatre, a suburban house, several weeks ago.

The advertised showing of “Uniteaphone” on the Rosemont's program was sponsored by the United Amusements, Ltd., and embraced the exhibition of two silent features, “The Cossacks” and “No Other Woman,” and two sound subjects, “Listen Children,” a Lloyd Hamilton comedy, and the current Pathe News Weekly. “Uniteaphone” sound equipment has been installed in the theatre.

Inquiry in New York office of Pathe brought forth a denial that any public showing of Pathe News in sound has taken place anywhere. Similar information was obtained from Educational relative to the Hamilton comedy, except for experimental purposes.

The type of equipment Uniteaphone used is unknown. Pathe News with sound was not inaugurated until November 12, 1928, and Lloyd Hamilton's “Listen Children” was known to be silent, although Pathe's New York office mentioning “experimental purposes” must mean the two-reeler had sound added. United Amusement Corp., Ltd., with a circuit of Montreal theatres, was managed by George Ganetakos who was an executive of DeForest Phonofilm of Canada, Ltd. Uniteaphone may have been Phonofilm under a different name.

In Alberta the first wired houses were the Capitol, Calgary, on November 5, 1928, followed by the Capitol, Edmonton, on March 27, 1929, both with Vitaphone and Movietone (Western Electric).

One of British Columbia's other neighbours, Alaska, had its first sound house, the Coliseum, Ketchikan, wired with Vitaphone and Movietone in June 1929; ditto the Coliseum, Juneau, around the same time. The Liberty, Ketchikan, was the first in Alaska with Photophone in December 1929.

The Empress, Fairbanks, with Vitaphone and Movietone, would be the most northerly house exhibiting talking pictures on the continent beginning in March 1930, and then was supplanted by the Dreamland, Nome, Alaska, which had sound in July 1932.

The first wired house in the Pacific Northwest was the Blue Mouse, Seattle, which presented “Don Juan on March 18, 1927, using Vitaphone's sound-on-disc system. John Hamrick, owner of the house along with two others by that name, in Portland and Tacoma, held a short monopoly on sound in the entire region, not surprising since at this time there were only about 50 installations of Vitaphone in the entire country. On March 25, 1927, “Don Juan” debuted at the Blue Mouse, Portland, later to open at the Blue Mouse, Tacoma.

Based on their own records, 157 theatres in the U.S. were equipped by Western Electric as of December 31, 1927. In the Pacific Northwest the following houses were equipped with Movietone and Vitaphone: Liberty, Spokane; Blue Mouse, Seattle; Blue Mouse, Tacoma; Blue Mouse, Portland; and the Granada, Everett.

The Granada, Everett, was described by Motion Picture News, January 7, 1928, as the first installation of “talkies in any of the smaller cities in the Pacific Northwest district.

The distinction of exhibiting Movietone first in the Pacific Northwest goes to the Liberty, Spokane, which debuted the sound-on-film format on November 29, 1927, one of the few houses outside New York at the time to play what Fox soon would call Movietone News. The Seattle premiere of Movietone was at the Blue Mouse on December 2, 1927.

As of December 31, 1928, there were 1,046 theatres in the U.S. equipped by Western Electric. The year would see competition from other reproducer manufacturers, notably late in the year with sound-on-film Powers Cinephone, DeForest Phonofilm and RCA Photophone—all of which would support film-on-disc—being introduced for general installation, plus many sound-on-disc devices from various companies. Eventually there would be other sound-on-film equipment and a plethora for sound-on-disc.

In mid-1929, the Pacent Reproducer Corporation introduced its sound-on-film device, the company having installed its sound-on-disc equipment in hundreds of U.S. theatres since December 1928. By the end of 1929, Pacent had over 800 installations in the U.S. In Canada, S.H. Stanleigh of Toronto had the Canadian rights to Pacent, but reportedly only a few installations were made in the country.

As of July 1, 1929, in the first survey of the sound field completed by Film Daily, 5,251 U.S. houses were wired, with 2,238 or about 43 per cent equipped by Western Electric. The majority of W.E.'s installations were dual systems, both Movietone and Vitaphone. Based on all systems, not just W.E., the Pacific Northwest was wired as such: Washington, 109; Oregon, 92; Montana, 29 and Idaho, 28. By September 1, 1929, Film Daily's survey showed 6,037 U.S. houses were wired, the Pacific Northwest as such: Washington, 111; Oregon, 103; Montana, 35; and Idaho, 30.

Although Canada was not included in the first survey, Film Daily, August 16, 1929, reported that British Columbia had 10 wired houses according to the Motion Picture Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada.

As of April 15, 1930, as documented by one of the major film companies, and published in Film Daily, May 1, 1930, there were 9,575 wired theatres in the U.S., with Western Electric accounting for 40 per cent of the installations; Pacent was second, followed by RCA Photophone. Of the total theatres, 47 percent had both sound-on-disc and sound-on-film; 45 per cent had sound-on-disc only, and less than 8 per cent had sound-on-film only.

Although no numbers in the survey were provided for Pacent and RCA Photophone, Film Daily, July 20, 1930, reported: Installations of RCA Photophone have taken a big spurt in recent months, with a total of 775 equipments placed in the U.S. in the first half of this year, which is about twice the number installed in the previous 16 months and represents an average of around 30 jobs weekly. This brings the total world installations of Photophone up to 1,635, of which 1,185 are in the U.S. and 450 in foreign countries.

Film Daily, May 9, 1930: With approximately 1,500 Pacent reproducer installations already made, expectations are that the total will reach 2,000 by Jan. 1, 1931, said Louis Pacent, attending the S.M.P.E. meeting. The Pacent numbers would be worldwide installations and also includes their sound-on-disc equipment, whereas RCA Photophone's numbers were almost all sound-on-film.

In mid-1931, amongst the many patent battles going on at the time, Pacent was estimated to have 500 sound-on-film installations in the U.S. As reported in Variety in early 1930: Pacent has been even more secretive than Photophone in intimating the number of national installations. Reports have placed Pacent users at times as high as 800, but this figure has as often been denied by exhibs.

The 1931 edition of The Motion Picture Almanac listed 17,899 theatres in the U.S., of which 11,553 were wired as follows: Western Electric, 4,430; RCA, 1,189; DeForest, 543; Pacent, 478; and miscellaneous, 4,913. Miscellaneous would include the more than 100 different types of reproducers in use at the time, including about 25 home-made devices (in 1929 the Isis, Calgary, Alberta, reportedly had the only home-made sound equipment in Canada).

One must keep in mind that installation numbers provided by manufacturers and those in theatrical surveys vary because the latter excludes non-theatrical installations, such as military posts, schools, prisons, hospitals, ships, film exchanges, etc. RCA, for example, up to December 31, 1931, had 542 non-theatrical Photophone installations.

It must be noted that many theatres with outdated or unsatisfactory sound installations were replacing their equipment at this time, so these numbers compared to the April 15, 1930, survey were changing. In September 1930, with about 4,500 installations in the U.S., Western Electric reported one-half of its business was replacing unsatisfactory equipment.

Exhibitors Herald-World, March 29, 1930:

Toronto, March 25.—Official statistics compiled by the Film Board of Trade in Canada show that there are 433 theatres in the dominion which are equipped for the presentation of synchronized films.

This is the March figure as compared with that of January 2, when the total was 394, and in December, 1929, when the total was 353. This shows an approximate increase of 80 installations throughout the country during a three months period. More than a third of the installations are in the four cities of Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the total being 149.

Film Daily, January 5, 1930, reported 177 Western Electric installations in Canada. Based on 394 wired houses as of January 2, 1930, W.E. equipment accounted for 45 per cent of sound installations in Canada.

According to the Motion Picture Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada, as of December 31, 1929, there were 261 Canadian houses wired for both sound-on-film and sound-on-disc. Based on the number by the Film Board of Trade on January 2, 1930, of 394 theatres in Canada equipped for the presentation of synchronized films, 133 houses would have used synchronous or non-synchronous sound-on-disc only, most of which would have been in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Film Daily, December 2, 1930, in numbers from the Motion Picture Division, U.S. Department of Commerce, show 12,500 of 22,731 U.S. theatres were wired; 450 of 1,100 in Canada were wired. As of January 1, 1931, Film Daily, February 3, 1931, in co-operation with the Film Boards of Trade, reported 20,993 theatres in the U.S., of which 13,128 were wired.

Motion Picture News, October 25, 1930: Canada and not the United States, as generally believed, has the greater number of sound installations, on a proportionate basis. Seventy per cent of all Canadian houses are wired, while the U.S. only boasts of 55 per cent. Great Britain is third with 47 per cent.

As of December 31, 1931, according to the Motion Picture Distributors and Exhibitors of Canada, there were 765 theatres in the country, with 620 supporting both sound-on-film and sound-on-disc.

Film Daily, January 2, 1931: At least 116 manufacturers of cheap sound equipment have gone out of business trying to market a low-priced apparatus without service, says C.W. Bunn, sales manager of Electrical Research Products [Western Electric].

Film Daily, February 20, 1931: World-wide installations of Western Electric sound system now total 7,645, of which 4,922 are in the U.S.

Film Daily, March 19, 1931: Photophone installations now total 3,000, he [Sidney Abel, Photophone general sales manager] declared, 2,000 of these being in the United States.

Film Daily, May 18, 1932: More than 3,500 installations of sound reproducing equipment have been made so far by the Photophone division of RCA Victor Co., said E.O. Heyl, manager of the division, at the RKO sales convention yesterday.

Film Daily, July 1, 1932: Virtually every theater operating at present is wired for sound, according to checkups made by the two major talking equipment companies. Erpi [Electrical Research Products, Inc.; Western Electric] now has 6,000 installations, it was stated at the company's home office yesterday. RCA Photophone has 3,000 equipments installed, according to statement. (These would be U.S. numbers, excluding RCA's non-theatrical numbers.)

Film Daily, August 29, 1932, advertisement: Since 1926, Western Electric has maintained leadership by holding to the highest possible standards of quality for recording and reproduction. Outstanding results in 8836 Western Electric equipped theatres—including 2405 replacements of other equipments—prove the soundness of that policy! (These would be worldwide numbers.)

Film Daily, January 30, 1933: Number of companies manufacturing sound equipment has dropped to about 40, against more than a hundred three years ago, it is shown in lists compiled for THE FILM DAILY YEAR BOOK. Electrical Research Products has more than 45 per cent of the current installations, an unofficial estimate indicates.

These numbers and reproducer manufacturers are important to note as we return to early Movietone and Vitaphone installations in the Pacific Northwest.

Motion Picture News, February 11, 1928: Two new installations of Vitaphone and Movietone were announced in this territory during the last two weeks. The former contrivance is being installed in Dr. E.T. Mathes' Avalon theatre in Bellingham, Washington, and the Movietone apparatus is now performing at Pilz & Swanson's new Granada theatre in Everett.

Following the news item on the Granada, Everett, and Avalon, Bellingham, was the Egyptian, Seattle, reported by Motion Picture News, February 11, 1928: Al Rosenberg, who with Al Finkelstein comprises the DeLuxe Theatres, Inc., of this city [Seattle], returned last week from Los Angeles and has just announced that within the next few weeks work will begin on the installation of Vitaphone and Movietone apparatus in the company's Egyptian theatre in the University district. The announcement has signal significance in this territory because it represents, as far as is known, the first installation of this apparatus in a second run suburban theatre on the Pacific Coast, and gives Seattle the distinction of being one of the first cities in the nation to have two theatres both equipped with the “speakie” apparatus.

The exact order of houses being wired in Washington becomes hazy in February 1928. By this time, Western Electric reported that new installations of Vitaphone and Movietone were functioning in Olympia, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima. How the Avalon, Bellingham, and Egyptian, Seattle, fit into this order is unknown.

By May 1928, a time when there were about 300 Western Electric installations in the U.S., 95 per cent of which were both Vitaphone and Movietone, the following houses in Washington and Oregon also were known to be wired: D. & R., Aberdeen; Rialto, Bremerton; Music Box, Seattle; Granada, Spokane; Liberty, Walla Walla; Liberty, Wenatchee; and Liberty, Yakima, all in Washington; Liberty, Astoria; Hollywood, Portland; Liberty, Oregon City, all in Oregon.

The first Montana house to be wired was the Rialto, Butte, which Motion Picture News, February 11, 1928, reported as a new installation of Vitaphone and Movietone without listing the theatre's name. The Rialto debuted the talking device in late February 1928.

Motion Picture News, June 16, 1928, reported the Rialto, Butte; Liberty, Great Falls; and Judith, Lewistown, were equipped with Western Electric. Film Daily, July 22, 1928, reported the same three Montana houses were equipped, along with the Babcock, Billings.

Motion Picture News, September 22, 1928: It is announced that the Vitaphone opened up at the Liberty Theatre of Great Falls, Montana, last week. In the same issue: The Babcock Theatre, at Billings, Montana, is opening up with the Vitaphone September 25th. The Liberty, Great Falls, actually debuted sound on August 29, 1928, with Al Jolson's “The Jazz Singer.”

These houses, all with Western Electric equipment, were reported in Film Daily, March 29, 1929: Four Wired in Montana. Four Montana houses are wired for sound. They are: Fox-Rialto, Butte; Liberty, Great Falls; Judith, Lewistown and Babcock, Billings. Other houses are planning installations.

The first Idaho house wired for sound was the Liberty, Lewiston, in November 1928. This house did not appear in Film Daily's September 1, 1929, list of wired houses. However it did appear in Film Daily's July 22, 1928, list of houses contracted for sound. Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, December 8, 1928, in its Western Electric installations for November up to and including November 17, 1928, listed the Liberty, Lewiston. In the same issue, in a table of W.E. Installations By Territories, one un-named 786-seat theatre was in the entire state, which would have been the Liberty. Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, November 10, 1928, stated “Ike Binnard's Liberty will install Vitaphone and Movietone this month.”

Film Daily's September 1, 1929, list of wired houses mistakenly included only the Granada, Lewiston, Idaho, which was listed with a disc-only DeLuxe Masterphone reproducer. Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, December 22, 1928, Sound Installations, however, says the Granada was equipped with a Kolstadphone reproducer, a moot point since the Liberty was wired shortly before the Granada.

Missing from this list of British Columbia's neighbours is the Yukon Territory. Currently I do not know when the Orpheum, Dawson City, was wired.

Perhaps the first sound house in British Columbia was the Cameraphone Theatre in Vancouver, opened in 1908 using the leased equipment of the National Cameraphone Co., one of at least 67 theatres by year's end using the New York company's synchronized film and phonograph system. At the start of 1909, Cameraphone's library consisted of 90 reels of film with 310 different acts. With the demise of the Cameraphone Co., the so-named Vancouver house was replaced by the National Theatre in 1909, which venued standard pictures and small-time vaudeville.

 

 

 

 

A wonderful article published in Moving Picture World, July 15, 1916, about early Vancouver theatres and exhibitors, written by the publication's local correspondent, E.C. Thomas.

 

Vancouver, B.C., Started with “Hale's Tours” in 1905

Humble Beginning of J.D. Williams Has Developed to a Business of Considerable
Proportions—Some Beautiful Picture Theaters.

 

The dawn of the moving picture in British Columbia was much the same as in other parts of the continent, and occasioned the same wonder among those of the inhabitants who were sufficiently curious to pay real money for the privilege of looking upon something which they had never seen before. The first Vancouver entertainment in which films played a part was established on Cordova street in the year 1905, by J.D. Williams, now a leading Australian vaudeville and moving picture magnate, who installed one of the “Hale's Tours,” which made their appearance at about that time, and consisted of an imitation railroad passenger coach in which the enchanted patrons sat in regulation car seats, and with eyes and mouths wide open, gazed fixedly at a sheet hung at the forward end. On this were projected scenes taken from the moving trains or street cars, and the effect of actual locomotion was heightened by the activities of a busy attendant who stood outside and joggled the structure at frequent intervals.

There was a noticeable tendency on the part of those seated down in front to arise and shout warnings to careless pedestrians who were apparently about to be run down by the cameraman, and they still tell a good story of one depraved individual who became a steady patron in the hope of being present when some such exciting accident should occur, or perhaps even when the well-known Mr. Hale's tour should be brought to a thrilling close through one of those collisions which always seemed to be on the point of happening.

Run in connection with a Mutascope arcade, the car show was a financial success from the start, and for a time enjoyed a monopoly of the business. Before long, however, small store shows began to make their appearance. Bears & Tripp opened the old Bijou, and the Crystal was started by Mr. Williams. This is the oldest house in town still running, and is now giving six or seven reels for 2½ cents, each purchaser of a ticket at five cents being given a coupon good for a second admission within the week following.

A month later the Royal theater was opened by J.R. Muir, now the president of the Dominion Theater Company, Ltd., and the earliest pioneer among the present-day exhibitors of the city. The Royal, which later was re-named the Rose, was fitted up with four hundred kitchen chairs, and gave programs of from two to three reels, consisting principally of Kleine pictures, for which Mr. Muir had the agency, and some Pathe subjects, which were controlled in this territory by J.A. Schuberg, now a leading Winnipeg exhibitor. The praises of the show were sung continually by a paunchy individual who went to such particular pains to assure passersby that they were just in time to see the entire performance that he eventually came to be known as “Old 'Just in Time,'” and his proper name was lost sight of. This was probably intended in the scheme of things, however, as Mr. Muir is unable to recall anything else in regard to him that was at all proper.

The Star theater on Main street and the Elite on Cordova street were opened about this time, and a little later on, in 1907, J.R. Muir made a considerable advance over anything else established up to that time when he built the Maple Leaf theater on the site of the present Maple Leaf, but occupying a smaller plot of ground. This was the first local moving picture show housed in a building put up for that purpose, and although kitchen chairs still were used in lieu of something better the house was a marked improvement over its predecessors and had a seating capacity of five hundred.

Practically all houses featured illustrated songs at this time, and J.M. Robertson, then the singer at the Maple Leaf and now manager of the Dominion theater in Victoria, was one of the leading entertainers in this line.

In the year following the erection of the Maple Leaf Mr. Muir, in association with J.H. Quan, opened the Majestic, which was the first Vancouver film theater equipped with opera chairs, and gave the natives something to talk about. For some time Mr. Muir retained his interests in the three houses which he had established, and the business done was very heavy. Later he sold out to his partner, Mr. Quan, but continued to manage the houses until Mr. Quan in turn disposed of his interests to William Brown.

Directly following the opening of the Majestic, W.P. Dewees, the present head of the Rex Theater Company, opened his first local house, called the Royal—the second Vancouver theater to bear that name, and situated on Hastings street, near Abbott. Seating capacity here was 240, and films were secured from the old Kinetograph company and from Pathe. Two reels were shown for ten cents and an orchestra was sometimes engaged for special occasions, although a piano usually furnished what music was required.

Mr. Muir now spent $15,000 in remodeling the Maple Leaf, putting in opera chairs and increasing the capacity of the house to 670, while after seven months in the Royal Mr. Dewees opened the Princess, which marked a still further advance in the type of houses devoted to moving pictures. Independent service was used here, and the Princess developed into one of the most phenomenal money-makers in this section, playing to capacity houses nightly for a long period, and only letting down when other houses increased so rapidly that competition became an important factor in the situation.

In 1909 Douglas Creighton organized the National Amusement Company, and the National theater was erected. During this and the succeeding years a very large business was done with programs comprising pictures and small-time vaudeville at ten cents admission.

W.P. Nichols, the present general manager of the National Amusement Company, also entered the local field at about this time through the purchase of the Bijou theater on Carrall street, but did not enter the National Amusement Company until early in 1914, when he secured the controlling interest and became managing director. In the meantime, however, both Mr. Nichols and Mr. Creighton had secured additional houses in other cities—the former, in North Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, and the latter, houses in Victoria and Nanaimo.

Contemporaneous with the National and Bijou several new store shows sprang up, and many of them soon disappeared. The Savoy and the Province on Hastings street and the Granville on Granville street were in this class, and several of the earlier houses also dropped out of existence.

Late in the year 1912 J.R. Muir gave Vancouver its first pretentious photoplay house, when he opened the Dominion theater. It is owned by the Dominion Theater Company, Ltd., of which Mr. Muir is president, as well as being the active manager of the house. The Dominion is a beautiful brick and reinforced concrete theater costing in the neighborhood of $70,000, and occupying a position on the edge of the business district, well toward the fashionable West End.

The Rex theater at 25 Hastings street West is owned by the Rex Amusement Company, Ltd., and W.P. Dewees, managing director, is in control of the house and its policy. This theater is the finest yet built in western Canada for the exhibition of moving pictures, and represents the personal ideas of Mr. Dewees as to what a modern photoplay theater should be. Throughout the construction of the building he exercised the functions of a supervising architect, and the result is an imposing tribute to his ability in this direction. The Rex is the newest of the Vancouver houses, having been completed in the fall of 1913 at a cost of $130,000, and the entire arrangement of the house, as well as the quality of its appointments could hardly be improved upon. Mr. Dewees is managing director of the National Film Service, distributors of the Triangle program in western Canada.

Following the opening of the Dominion the next of the fine downtown houses was the Kinemacolor, or as it is now known, the Colonial. This theater was financed by a group of local capitalists and, as indicated by its name, was the home of the colored pictures; but after a period of six months a demand for dramatic interest in the films forced the elimination of Kinemacolor, and black and white subjects were gradually substituted. At the end of a year, however, the promoters had lost $92,000, and Hector Quagliotti assumed the management of the house, purchasing the equipment at auction. Under the new management the Colonial became an almost immediate success, and has always kept among the leaders in point of attendance.

At about this time the Columbia theater was built by the National Amusement Company, and became the stand of the shows which had formerly played the National.

The Orpheum theater, the local house of the Meyerfeld & Beck interests, but for the past year devoted to moving pictures, is a magnificent theater with a location second to none and a seating capacity of 1,700, which is considerably in excess of that of any other Vancouver house. The manager is James Pilling, former member of the Bostonians, actor, authority on hokum, past manager of a score of theaters, and a thorough showman with a record of twenty-five years in the amusement business. The Orpheum was erected two years ago on the site of the old Vancouver Opera House, and is one of the very finest theaters in western Canada.

The Globe, now controlled by the National Amusement Company, was at one time under the management of S.B. Taube, who at the same time handled the distribution of the Famous Players product in British Columbia and is now manager of the Universal office in Montreal. The Globe is now in charge of Douglas Creighton and seats about 850.

As regards the future in Vancouver, exhibitors generally are agreed that a readjustment involving the elimination of some of the smaller houses is the only immediate solution of a problem that is becoming increasingly serious. Many thousands of men have left Vancouver for participation in the war, and the families of many of these have proceeded to England to be nearer to their soldiers who are either completing their training in that country, or have gone across to France. The serious financial depression which began here before the war has also been a factor in causing many others to leave the city, so that Vancouver has probably equalled, if not exceeded, the Government's estimate of a 25 per cent decrease in the population of the province within the past two years. During this period not more than one or two small houses have closed, so that the patronage of theaters is spread out considerably thinner than formerly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Additions, corrections and comments are most welcome. Revised August 9, 2018.