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 1953, 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 and the D.B.S. reference paper 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 capacity if known.
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. The D.B.S. did not include drive-ins on a province basis until 1952.
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 other factors.
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.
By 1960 there were only 116 regular 35mm theatres in operation, a number made more deceiving since new 35mm theatres had been built after 1953, such as the Yukon Theatre (Whitehorse, 1954), Paramount Theatre (Kamloops, 1955), Nechako Theatre (Kitimat, 1956), Pen-Mar Theatre (Penticton, 1956), Premiere Theatre (Fruitvale, 1956), Lux Theatre (Taylor, 1957), and the Lido Theatre (Fort St. John, 1957), among others.
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 distributors licensed to do so. 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.
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.”
All drive-in theatres in British Columbia from 1946–1953 were known to be running 35mm except for 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 1948, and operated only one season. By 1960 there were three 16mm drive-ins in British Columbia, at Lytton, Chase and Smithers, 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 1953 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. Late in 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 this amendent.
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.
Houses 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 house for the entirety of the 1945–1953 timeframe covered. Some circuit houses were owned outright while others were leased or partnered with other circuits or individual houses, 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, 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, and the paper published the D.B.S., the list is not complete: some theatres have no capacity listed and there are other 'holes', including a few that were closed by the end of 1953 but are not noted as such. Therefore it must be considered to be a work in progress, with more information required for a number of houses.
All the theatres added to the original Film Daily list were known to be operating some time between 1945–1953. 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.
|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; a note will generally follow if the latency of inclusion is greater than normal. Almost all those listed as 1932 are even older, but Film Daily did not publish such lists previously.
|Abbotsford Theatre||Abbotsford||366||†Listed in the 1932 Film Daily as the Timms Theatre, this actually was called the Abbotsford Theatre. Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1932†|
|Memorial Hall||Agassiz||200||Closed when the Aga Theatre opened.||1943|
|North Star Drive-In Theatre||Aldergrove||400||1953|
|Barbara Mine Theatre||Britannia Beach||Film Daily: 1935 (Community, 250), 1936 (same), 1937 (same), 1938 (same) and 1939 (same).|
|Beach Theatre||Britannia Beach||Listed the 1932 and 1933 Film Daily with 233 seats.||1932|
|Cascades Drive-In Theatre||Burnaby||500||1946|
|Oak Theatre||Burnaby||744||Odeon house.||1938|
|Paramount Auto-Vue Theatre||Burnaby||800||1951|
|Regent Theatre||Burnaby||688||†Noted as closed in Film Daily that year. Famous Players house.||1933†|
|Chilliwack Drive-In Theatre||Chilliwack||485||1950|
|Paramount Theatre||Chilliwack||900||1949||Famous Players house.|
|Strand Theatre||Chilliwack||569||Famous Players house. Closed in 1949.||1932|
|Gibsons Theatre||Gibsons Landing||300||1952|
|Gem Theatre||Haney||448||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1943
|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. Enlarged in 1949 and 1956.|
|Delta Hall||Ladner||200||Closed with the opening of the Ladner Theatre.||1932|
|Hillcrest Drive-In Theatre||Langley||500||1953||
|Langley Theatre||Langley Prairie||359||†Closed from 1931–1936. Also known as the Langley Prairie Theatre.||1937†|
|449||1947||Renamed Sam's Theatre shortly after opening, and the Academy Theatre in 1951.|
|Victory Theatre||Mission||449||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1932|
|Columbia Theatre||New Westminster||970||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Edison Theatre||New Westminster||850||Famous Players house beginning early in 1949, and renamed the Paramount Theatre.||1932|
|Metro Theatre||New Westminster||590||Odeon house.||1940|
|Odeon Theatre||New Westminster||695||Odeon house.||1942|
|Sapperton Theatre||New Westminster||448||Odeon house.||1940|
|Cedar V Theatre||North Vancouver||400||1953|
|Lions Drive-In Theatre||North Vancouver||350||1951|
|Lonsdale Theatre||North Vancouver||449||Odeon house. Closed in 1949.||1932|
|Nova Theatre||North Vancouver||734||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1940|
|Port Theatre||Port Coquitlam||350||1948||Also known as the Port Coquitlam Theatre.|
|Moody Theatre||Port Moody||324||1948|
|Delta Drive-In Theatre||Richmond||600||1953||
|Ruskin Drive-In Theatre||Ruskin
|Squamish Theatre||Squamish||200||Film Daily: 1941 (Rex, 177), 1942 (Rex, 190), 1943 (same) and 1944 (same). Renamed the Star Theatre in 1949.|
|420||1947||The renovated building was probably the 275-seat Richmond Theatre, a Buddhist church and recreation hall, which Film Daily last listed from 1933–1935 as closed.|
|Surrey Drive-In Theatre||Surrey||400||1950|
|Westminster Drive-In Theatre||Surrey||700||1953||Built in 1953 and announced to open in September of that year, this outdoorer was not opened until April 1954.|
|Alma Theatre||Vancouver||664||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Beacon Theatre||Vancouver||1,550||The former Pantages Theatre (the city's second), renamed the Beacon Theatre in 1930. An Odeon house, renamed the Odeon-Hastings Theatre in 1946.||1932|
|Broadway Theatre||Vancouver||936||Famous Players house.||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 late in October 1953.||1940†|
|Capitol Theatre||Vancouver||2,076||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Circle Theatre||Vancouver||890||Odeon house.||1943|
|Dominion Theatre||Vancouver||968||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Dunbar Theatre||Vancouver||770||Odeon house.||1937|
|Fraser Theatre||Vancouver||768||Odeon house. Replaced in the same location by a new 840-seater in 1949.||1932|
|Grandview Theatre||Vancouver||926||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Hollywood Theatre||Vancouver||784||Ten years a Famous Players house, ending in mid-1951.||1936|
|Kerrisdale Theatre||Vancouver||757||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Kingsway Theatre||Vancouver||762||Odeon house.||1936|
|Kitsilano Theatre||Vancouver||847||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Lougheed Drive-In Theatre||Vancouver||636||1949|
|Lux Theatre||Vancouver||867||A new theatre was built 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, the independent Lyric, in 1935. Renamed the International Cinema in 1947, becoming a Famous Players house.||1937|
|Marpole Theatre||Vancouver||449||Odeon house. Enlarged in 1947 with 850 seats.||1932|
|Music Box Theatre||Vancouver||449||Previously the Progress Theatre, a silent house which closed in 1929. Renamed the Kingcrest Theatre in 1950.||1935|
|Olympia Theatre||Vancouver||983||Odeon house.||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.||1932|
|Paradise Theatre||Vancouver||923||Previously the Globe Theatre†. Renamed the Paradise Theatre in 1938, along with a renovation yielding about 100 more seats. Odeon house.||1932†|
|Park Theatre||Vancouver||725||Odeon house.||1942|
|Plaza Theatre||Vancouver||924||A new theatre was built where the old 693-seat Maple Leaf Theatre stood. Odeon house.||1937|
|Rio Theatre||Vancouver||825||Odeon house.||1940|
|Roxy Theatre||Vancouver||449||Previously the Fairview Theatre†. Renamed the Roxy Theatre in 1939. Closed permanently in 1954.||1932†|
|Royal Theatre||Vancouver||840||Renamed the State Theatre in 1945; Queen Theatre, 1950; Avon Theatre, 1952 (a playhouse with ocassional films). This house was the first Pantages Theatre in the city.||1932|
|Stanley Theatre||Vancouver||1,216||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Star Theatre||Vancouver||449||Demolished in 1954.||1932|
|Strand Theatre||Vancouver||1,946||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Varsity Theatre||Vancouver||449||Odeon house.||1941|
|Victoria Theatre||Vancouver||527||Famous Players house. Also known as the Victoria Road Theatre.||1932|
|Vogue Theatre||Vancouver||1,332||Odeon house.||1942|
|Windsor Theatre||Vancouver||652||Famous Players house.||1932|
|York Theatre||Vancouver||449||Previously the Family Theatre†, which appears to have operated only in 1936, and was listed in the 1937 Film Daily with 350 seats. First listed in Film Daily as the York in 1941. Previously a silent house under different names and then the Little Theatre (a playhouse), which was completely renovated and re-equipped as a movie theatre early in 1940, also still operating as a playhouse.||1937†|
|Hollyburn Theatre||West Vancouver||444||1932|
|Odeon Theatre||West Vancouver||755||1948||Odeon house.|
|Park Theatre||White Rock||448||1942|
|Woodfibre Community Club||Woodfibre||200||Located southwest of Squamish on the west shore of Howe Sound.||1935|
|Vancouver Island — Central Coast|
|Roxy Theatre||Alberni||319||Famous Players house beginning early in 1947.||1941|
|Bay Theatre||Alert Bay||286||1952|
|Rainbow Theatre||Alert Bay||254||1952|
|Bellvale Theatre||Bella Coola||198||1947|
|Van Isle Theatre||Campbell River||350||1947|
|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.||1940†|
|Capitol Theatre||Duncan||449||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1949. Enlarged and rebuilt in 1954. Odeon house.||1932|
|Sunset Auto Theatre||Duncan||300||1953||
|Cadet Theatre||Esquimalt||378||Previously the Rex Theatre, renovated and renamed the Cadet in 1939, an old silent house again operating by at least 1934 but never listed in Film Daily. Renamed the Astor Theatre in 1946; closed in 1949.||1940|
|Rex Theatre||Ganges||160||†Opened in 1938.||1941†|
|Holberg Community Club||Holberg||250||British Columbia's only floating theatre, Boxoffice reported the house closed in 1949 although it did appear in the 1950 D.B.S. list.|
|Rio Theatre||Ladysmith||440||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1940|
|Community Hall||Lake Cowichan||300||Closed in 1950 when the Lake Theatre opened.|
|Lake Theatre||Lake Cowichan||400||1951|
|Crest Drive-In Theatre||Lantzville||1952||
|Capitol Theatre||Nanaimo||701||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Starlite Drive-In Theatre||Nanaimo||325||1950||Famous Players outdoorer.|
|Strand Theatre||Nanaimo||562||Previously the 680-seat Bijou Theatre†, which Film Daily showed as closed 1932–1933 and then was no longer listed. The house, which actually closed in 1930, reopened as the reconstructed Strand Theatre in 1937. Famous Players house.||1932†|
|Ocean Falls Theatre||Ocean Falls||500||†Long-established house built by Pacific Mills well before that date. Replaced by the Crown Theatre in 1948.||1934†|
|Capitol Theatre||Port Alberni||449||Famous Players house beginning early in 1947.||1938|
|Paramount Theatre||Port Alberni||650||1952||Famous Players house.|
|Port Theatre||Port Alberni||340||Famous Players house beginning early in 1947. Destroyed by fire in 1952.||1932|
|The Auditorium||Port Alice||300||Film Daily: 1932 (Recreation Hall, 150), 1933 (same but closed), 1934 (Port Alice Theatre, 175), 1935 (Community Hall, 180), 1936 (same), 1937 (same), 1938 (same) and 1939 (same).|
|Patricia Theatre||Powell River||478||1932|
|Village Theatre||Qualicum Beach||300||1949|
|Rex Theatre||Sidney||300||Listed in the 1943, 1944, 1945 Film Daily as the Sidney Theatre, this actually was the Rex Theatre at the time (corrected in the 1946 edition). This was the remodeled Auditorium Theatre, a former silent house, which opened around 1940.||1943|
|Community Hall||Sointula||260||Film Daily: 1932 (Community Club, 150), 1933 (same but closed), 1937 (Opera, 200) and 1938 (same).||1932|
|Atlas Theatre||Victoria||974||Famous Players house.||1937|
|Capitol Theatre||Victoria||1,312||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Dominion Theatre||Victoria||866||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Oak Bay Theatre||Victoria||526||Odeon house until 1948.||1938|
|Odeon Theatre||Victoria||1,490||1948||Odeon house.|
|Plaza Theatre||Victoria||640||Previously the Playhouse Theatre†, and before that the Princess Theatre. Renamed the Plaza Theatre in 1938. Odeon house.||1932†|
|Rio Theatre||Victoria||499||Previously the 569-seat Columbia Theatre†, and before that the Empress Theatre and New Grand Theatre. Renamed the Rio Theatre in 1939, this was the city's oldest movie house. Odeon house until 1946. Closed by 1953.||1932†|
|Royal Theatre||Victoria||1,270||Closed in 1928 and reopened in 1946 after a complete restoration. In 1943 it was announced to receive a $25,000 renovation to relieve the pressure of war entertainment but never happened. Also known as the Royal Victoria Theatre. Famous Players house.||1932cl|
|Tillicum Drive-In Theatre||Victoria||700||1951|
|York Theatre||Victoria||737||Previously the 920-seat Empire Theatre† (closed 1937–1940) and before that the Coliseum Theatre and Pantages Theatre. Renamed the York Theatre in 1941, which closed in 1949. Renamed the Totem Theatre in the early 1950s, home of a repertory theatre group.||1932†|
|Roxy Theatre||Westview||244||Located three miles south of Powell River.||1937|
|Caycuse Community Camp||Youbou||130||1949||Located on the south side of Cowichan Lake.|
|Nitinat Community Camp||Youbou||Located at the west end of Cowichan Lake.|
|Woodland Theatre||Youbou||300||1944||Located in the community hall. A previous 90-seat community hall was listed in the 1932, 1933 Film Daily. The Woodland Theatre was closed in 1950 but Boxoffice reported it reopened late in 1952.|
|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.||1932†|
|Community Club||Copper Mountain||Located 14 miles south of Princeton.|
|Enderby Drive-In Theatre||Enderby||350||1953||Operating one season, the equipment was sold for a drive-in theatre in Grand Forks.|
|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.||1937|
|Boyd Drive-In Theatre||Kelowna||300||1949|
|Empress Theatre||Kelowna||652||Famous Players house. Closed in 1949.||1932|
|Paramount Theatre||Kelowna||840||1949||Famous Players house.|
|Keremeos||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 community house was probably running 16mm like Hedley in 1950.||1943|
|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 closing when the Capitol Theatre was built in 1936.||1932|
|The "Pines" Drive-In Theatre||Penticton||250||1949|
|Capitol Theatre||Princeton||300||Boxoffice announced in June 1954 that a new 450-seat Capitol Theatre would be built.||1932|
|Capitol Theatre||Vernon||779||Famous Players house.||1940|
|Empress Theatre||Vernon||380||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Vernon Drive-In Theatre||Vernon||350||1950||Renamed the Skyway Drive-In in 1951.|
|Rialto Theatre||West Summerland||250||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).||1935|
|Rex Drive-In Theatre||Cranbrook||300||1952||
|Orpheum Theatre||Fernie||280||Sold in 1949 and not operating at that time.||1933|
|Vogue Theatre||Fernie||449||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.||1932|
|Roxy Theatre||Grand Forks||410||1947||
|Granada Theatre||Grand Forks||300||Previously the 386-seat Empress Theatre†. Renamed the Granada Theatre in 1935, and the Gem Theatre in 1947.||1932†|
|Toby Theatre||Invermere||300||1952||See also Athalmer.|
|Musicland Theatre||Kaslo||150||Opened in 1949 with Boxoffice stating it would be the town's first 35mm house, the Musicland was running 16mm in 1950 and 35mm by at least 1952.|
|Orpheum Theatre||Kimberley||498||†A new theatre was built in 1940 where the old 200-seat Orpheum Theatre stood.||1932†|
|Wayne Drive-In Theatre||Marysville||300||1953||
|Opera Theatre||Michel||244||Closed by at least 1950. By 1953 the only theatre operating in the Natal-Michel district of the Crowsnest was Leo's Theatre at Natal. In 1946 the Opera Theatre was sold, the new owner also purchasing the short-lived Empress Theatre at Natal. The Opera appears to have reopened as the Michel Theatre by the end of the 1950s.||1932|
|Arrow Lakes Theatre||Nakusp||200||Running 35mm by at least 1950, the proprietor would build a new 300-seat theatre in 1954.|
|Empress Theatre||Natal||200||Listed in the 1946 Film Daily only, this 1945-built house was the renovated Kootenay Hall, which became a union hall after the owner purchased the Grand Theatre in 1946.||1946|
|Grand Theatre||Natal||264||Renamed Leo's Theatre in 1954. The former Palace Theatre.||1945|
|Palace Theatre||Natal||264||Listed in the 1945 Film Daily, and others, this was Natal's only house at one time. Renamed the Grand Theatre in 1943 and modernized around 1946 (corrected in the 1946 issue by the Palace being omitted). In 1937 Film Daily listed the Palace Theatre (300 seats) and the Westminster Theatre (570 seats), the only year the latter ever appeared.||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.||1932|
|Civic Theatre||Nelson||905||Famous Players house.||1938|
|Starlight Drive-In Theatre||Nelson||200||1952||
|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 1952.||1942†|
|Capitol Theatre||Rossland||449||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Rialto Theatre||Trail||522||Renamed the Odeon Theatre in 1945. Odeon house.||1932|
|Rio Theatre||Trail||449||Closed in 1947.||1943|
|Strand Theatre||Trail||1,112||Previously the 515-seat Liberty Theatre†, reconstructed and enlarged in 1938. Famous Players house.||1932†|
|Auto-Vue Drive-In Theatre||Trail||350||1953||
|South Central Interior|
|Ashcroft Theatre||Ashcroft||180||†Listed closed (as the Opera House) in the 1933, 1934 and 1935 Film Daily.||1933†|
|Capitol Theatre||Kamloops||678||Famous Players house.||1932|
|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.||1932†|
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 will soon be reopened. (A mistake since the Capitol, Kamloops, was formerly the Empress.)
Boxoffice, February 21, 1948: FPC will reopen the 425-seat Strand at Kamloops shortly. The house has been dark the past 12 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.
The new Paramount Theatre in Kamloops opened in 1955.
|Skyway Drive-In Theatre||Kamloops||330||1950|
|Rex Theatre||Merritt||350||Closed in 1952.||1932|
|Rex Theatre||Salmon Arm||270||Replaced in the same location by the Salmar Theatre, 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.||1932|
|Salmar Theatre||Salmon Arm||416||1949|
|Starlight Drive-In Theatre||Salmon Arm||400||1953||
|North Central Interior|
|Bralorne Community Theatre||Bralorne||150||Located 68 miles west of Lillooet.||1936|
|Log Cabin Theatre||Lillooet||150||Opened in 1939 with 100 seats. Film Daily listed Lillooet in 1935 (Community Hall, 250) and 1936 (Community Hall, 150).|
|Pioneer Community Theatre||Pioneer Mines||150||Located 71 miles west of Lillooet.||1935|
|Lloyd's Drive-In Theatre||Prince George||300||1953||
|Princess Theatre||Prince George||400||Built in 1942, replacing the old Princess Theatre which had not been used as a movie house since the silent days.||1943|
|Strand Theatre||Prince George||372||1932|
|Rex Theatre||Quesnel||150||Expanded and remodeled about 1948 with 100 additional seats.||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 actually was called the Capitol from 1934–1940 and then renamed the Reo in 1941. The Reo Theatre in Vanderhoof (remodeled in 1946, now the Grand Reo Theatre) and the Reo Theatre in Burns Lake (built in 1951, now the Beacon Theatre) were operating 16mm at this time.||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 Theatre (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.||1943†|
|Oliver Theatre||Williams Lake||325||1951||Renamed the Alston Theatre a few years after opening.|
|Oliver Theatre||Williams Lake||150||†Listed in Film Daily as the Rex Theatre from 1932–1934, this actually was the Oliver Theatre. Closed in 1951.||1932†|
|Peace River — Northeast|
|Crest Theatre||Dawson Creek||500||1953†||†The September 26, 1953 issue of Boxoffice reported that the Dawson Creek Theatre Co. had opened its new 500-seat house at Dawson Creek, noting it as the town's third theatre. In the January 19, 1957 issue it was reported that the DC [Dawson Creek] Theatre Co. had opened its third house, the Crest Theatre, at Dawson Creek, with the others being the Northland and Vogue. So it appears 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 place of the Opera House. From 1936–1942 the house actually was called the Carlsonia Theatre, a two-story hall, and was then renamed the Northland Theatre in 1943 (corrected in the 1946 edition) by the new owner. In November 1947, Boxoffice reported the Forrest Theatre running in Dawson Creek, the proprietor visiting Vancouver's filmrow. This, however, was the Northland Theatre, a unit of the Forrest & Phillet circuit. The Northland Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1948, reported as the town's only theatre, and rebuilt.||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 in Dawson Creek and the Tita Theatre in Whitehorse, both 500-seat quonset-type designs, which opened in 1943.||1945|
|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 actually was the Carlsonia Theatre (owned by John Carlson who previously had a house at Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe). Destroyed by fire in 1948 and rebuilt. Renamed the Fort Theatre some time after 1950.||1945|
|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.||1945|
|North Coast — Northwest|
|Globe Theatre||Atlin||125||Not listed in the 1946 Film Daily.||1932|
|Port Clements Community||Port Clements||100||Noted as closed in the 1945 Film Daily but did not appear in any previous editions. Probably ran 16mm.||1945|
|Premier Mines Community Club||Premier||Located 137 miles north of Prince Rupert.||1932|
|Capitol Theatre||Prince Rupert||750||Famous Players house.||1932|
|Totem Theatre||Prince Rupert||665||1951||Famous Players house.|
|Stewart Theatre||Stewart||250||Located 120 miles north of Prince Rupert. Closed in 1942 and reopened in 1952. Not to be confused with the Vienna Theatre which opened in 1960; Boxoffice also reported a new theatre built at Stewart in 1956. †First listed in Film Daily as the Opera House.||1936†|
|Terrace Theatre||Terrace||300||1948||Renamed the Tillicum Theatre in 1950, with a new theatre built under the same name in 1954. The Terrace Theatre opened in 1942 as a 16mm house, but was renovated and upgraded to 35mm in 1948. This enterprise is unrelated to the Terrace (Progress) Theatre, located in the Oddfellows Hall, which closed in the early 1930s.|
|Yukon Territory — Northwest Territories|
|Orpheum Theatre||Dawson, YK||272||Destroyed by fire in 1940, then in 1950 and rebuilt again.||1933|
|Capitol Theatre||Whitehorse, YK||440||†Opened by at least 1942. Also known as the Capital Theatre. The proprietor would also open a new house in 1954, the Yukon Theatre.||1945†|
|Whitehorse Theatre||Whitehorse, YK||350||†Opened in 1937. Also known as the W.H. Theatre. Closed in 1947.||1943†|
|Capitol Theatre||Yellowknife, NWT||1947|
|Pioneer Theatre||Yellowknife, NWT||250||†Opened in 1939.||1942†|
The following is a partial list of theatres which were known to be 16mm in 1950, a few of which may have been running 35mm by the end of 1953: Alexis Creek Theatre, Columbia Theatre (Golden), Blue River Theatre, Franklin River Theatre (formerly the Bloedel Theatre), Hudson Hope Theatre, Jewel Theatre (Greenwood, last listed in the 1941 Film Daily), Mayo Theatre (Mayo, YK), Nakusp Theatre (closed in the early 1950s), Queen Charlotte City Cinema, Rainbow Theatre (McBride), Reo Theatre (Vanderhoof; the Reo Theatre at Burns Lake was still running 16mm in 1960). Two others worth mentioning, since they appeared in directories, are the Bluebell Theatre at Riondel, and an namesless theatre at Queens Bay run by E Baravalle; it is unknown what gauge of film was being used.
For the record, the following is a complete list of the 16mm theatres from the 1950 Dominion Bureau of Statistics. Some of these were later running 35mm: Parish Hall, Alert Bay • Rainbow Theatre, Alert Bay • Alexis Creek Theatre, Alexis Creek • Noohalk Community Theatre, Bella Coola • Camp 5 Community Club, Bloedel • Blue River Theatre, Blue River • Legion Hall, Bowser • Morgan Logging Co. Ltd., Cumashewa Inlet • Community Theatre, Falkland • Franklin River Theatre, Franklin River • Bal's Hall, Gibson's Landing • Giscome Social & Athletic Association, Giscome • Columbia Theatre, Golden • Jewel Theatre, Greenwood • Hazelton Community Association, Hazelton • Community Hall, Hedley • Hudson Hope Theatre, Hudson Hope • Invermere Community Committee, Invermere • Musicland Theatre, Kaslo • Salmon River Logging Co. Camp. No. 1, Kelsey Bay • Salmon River Logging Co. Camp No. 2, Kelsey Bay • Lang Bay Community Hall, Lang Bay • Community Hall, Lumby • Canadian Legion Hall, Lytton • Rainbow Theatre, McBride • New Massett Community Club Theatre, Massett • Midway Community Club, Midway • Canadian Legion Hall, Montney • Nakusp Theatre, Nakusp • Community Hall, New Hazelton • Parish Hall, Parksville • Legion Theatre, Peachland • 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 • Reo Theatre, Vanderhoof.
There were other 16mm theatres before and after this list was compiled, so in no way reflects the 1945–1953 timeframe. Most communities with a 35mm house had 16mm previously, and these would generally close with the move to standard-gauge. Many other 16mm houses simply are not listed.
A 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 in 1948, the Langford Drive-In appears to have operated only one season, which happened to be one of the poorest summers in years. It was reportedly open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
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). It was running again by at least the late 1950s and had widescreen projection installed in 1961. It is not known if this house was running 35mm between 1945–1953, since the new owner in the 1940s may have used 16mm.
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.
Also operating in the Fraser Valley was the Midway Theatre at Rosedale, which was probably closed by 1950 since it was not on the Dominion Bureau of Statistics list. Boxoffice reported the theatre sold to a new owner in 1948.
The Film Daily incorrectly listed the State Theatre for Vancouver in 1936, but this actually was 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 actually was 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.
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, suburban Vancouver, closed in 1937; Collingwood Theatre, suburban Vancouver, closed in 1935; Orient Theatre, Vancouver, operated two years then closed in 1937 (last listed as the Jan Wah Sing Theatre in 1945, not operating); 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 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. Late in 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 theatres—the Hollyburn, Langley, and Lulu—and others in Washington State and Ontario. 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.”
The first theatre in British Columbia equipped with CinemaScope was the Capitol in 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 widescreen.
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.
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, late in 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.
I received a couple of e-mails about the omission of the Beaver Valley Drive-In Theatre in Alberni. For the record: In May 1952 Boxoffice reported that Port Alberni Theatres, Ltd., a partnership of Famous Players and Harold Warren, Vancouver Island circuit owner, was planning to build an outdoor theatre near the town soon. In December 1952 council gave the green light to build the outdoorer, with 5 acres purchased for $6,000. Late in August 1954 Boxoffice reported that Harold Warren expected to open his drive-in near Port Alberni soon. Whether the drive-in was opened late in the 1954 season is unknown, but it was running by 1955, so therefore does not appear in the list.
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 actually was 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)
|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.
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, on September 27, 1928, Fox began shooting their second all-talkie Movietone feature, “The Ghost Talks,” which was completed early in 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—or any company for that matter—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 August 26. “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:
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, early in 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; probably the Tunnel Theatre, located at the so-called “Tunnel Camp,” about three miles back in the mountains where the actual mining was done] (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. In 1947 Boxoffice reported that Famous Players, obviously in a state of flux in Kamloops, would also reopen the Empress Theatre. (Both the Strand and Empress were acquired by Famous Players from the Berry circuit in 1929.) The Rex, however, actually was the Empress, which was renovated and renamed the Capitol, Film Daily simply making a mistake by listing the Capitol and Rex together in 1932, and Boxoffice adding to the confusion by saying the Empress would be reopened.
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: Baker CW, Ganges; Santini E, Lillooet; and Shlemko T, 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 late in 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:
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 early in 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:
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 late in 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
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 November 16, 2014.|