WATCH ABOVE: A fire tore through the Roxy Theatre on 124 Street this morning, destroying a local landmark. Vinesh Pratap reports.
EDMONTON – The curtain has fallen on the 77-year-old Roxy Theatre, after it was destroyed by fire early Tuesday morning.
At 3:51 a.m fire crews were called by the building’s alarm company to the iconic theatre on 124 Street, near 107 Avenue. They arrived four minutes later to find the theatre engulfed in flames and thick smoke billowing from the back of the building.
A second alarm was called at 4:09 a.m, and it quickly became clear the historic entertainment venue could not be saved.
“It became very apparent right away that we had to fight this from the outside,” said Deputy Chief Barry Lamb, Edmonton Fire Rescue. “Because of the roof collapse we went to an exterior attack right off the onset.”
WATCH: Raw video of the massive Roxy Theatre fire.
The building’s walls began to collapse about an hour after crews arrived. About 50 firefighters and 12 units were on scene by 6 a.m. Crews worked to put the fire out and protect surrounding businesses.
“We do anticipate some water damage to the building to the south. Other than that, we have contained the fire to the building of origin,” said Deputy Chief Lamb.
“There was a bit of a twinge this morning when I heard it was the Roxy. It’s a big part of our city. It’s sad,” he added.
The Roxy opened in 1938 as a movie theatre, before being converted for live performances in 1989. The small venue could seat between 198 and 220 people, according to YEGLive.ca.
The theatre’s next performance series show, Cheerleader!, was set to begin previews Tuesday night, and open for a 10-day run on January 15.
“Oh my god. It hurts,” said Cheerleader playwright Morgan Smith. “It’s like physical pain looking at this thing.”
Smith was supposed to be preparing for opening night, but instead, she was surveying what was left of the Roxy.
“I hope we could put it up somewhere. I know we will find support if we do,” she said.
WATCH: Raw video of the fire at the Roxy Theatre from the Global 1 Helicopter
The Theatre Network, which runs the Roxy, said the fire is “a devastating blow” but that board and management are already developing plans for the Roxy’s future. It also said online donations are already been accepted to help rebuild.
“It’s a huge loss for probably almost everyone in Edmonton theatre,” said director Michael Clark.
The Roxy Theatre was a place where many young artists cut their teeth.
“My worry is that it’s going to delay the art,” said Adam Kuss, artistic director of the Walterdale Theatre.
On social media many Edmontonians expressed sorrow over the fire, including Mayor Don Iveson.
The Theatre Network, which runs the Roxy, tweeted, “At this point it’s hard for us to find the words to describe how we feel. We are thankful for all the support,” and “The Roxy is a home for many artists and community members. Everyone who touched that building lost something today. We are speechless.”
The Walterdale Theatre sent out a statement on the loss of the Roxy.
“On behalf of the Walterdale Theatre, our hearts go out to the Theatre Network family and all the artists that have ever graced the stage at the Roxy. An institution in our city has been lost. We are deeply saddened – this is a loss for the Edmonton theatre community that is beyond words.”
– Adam Kuss, Artistic Director, Walterdale Theatre
Edmonton Transit buses and EMS were brought in to help rehab exhausted firefighters, and Edmonton Police also responded to the fire. Emergency crews remain on scene Tuesday morning.
EPCOR said the fire also caused a power outage in the Westmount area, stretching from 104 to 113 Avenue, and 121 to 136 Street. Power was restored to all but a handful of customers around 9:30 a.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.