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Fire rages through Canada’s first cinema, in Montreal’s Chinatown

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WATCH ABOVE: A five-alarm fire raged through the historic Édifice Robillard in Montreal’s Chinatown Thursday. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, the building is most known for housing Canada's first cinema – Nov 17, 2016

A five-alarm fire raged through the Édifice Robillard in Montreal’s Chinatown area Thursday.

“It’s a very sad loss. Whatever the source of this disaster is, somehow, Montreal has lost a gracious building. A historic building,” said Dinu Bumbaru with Heritage Montreal.

The blaze broke out around 11:15 a.m. in the historic building, located on 974 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, between de la Gauchetière and Viger streets.

It took more than 100 firefighters several hours to control the flames.

“For now, the cause is unknown,” Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant told Global News.

There were no injuries, however dozens of people were forced to evacuate neighbouring buildings.

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“Just heard firemen a few minutes ago,” Twitter user Nadia told Global News.

Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who works close by, posted a picture of the flames and smoke on Twitter, writing “the fire in Chinatown looks out of control.”

Investigators said they won’t enter the building to determine the cause of the fire until it is completely out.

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Firefighters battle a blaze in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News
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Firefighters battle a blaze in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News
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A fire rages in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News
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Firefighters battle a blaze in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News
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Firefighters battle a blaze in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News
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Firefighters battle a blaze in a building in Montreal's Chinatown, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Karol Dahl/Global News

Édifice Robillard

The four-storey landmark building is best known as Canada’s first cinema house, opening in 1896, before the area was known as Chinatown.

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Constructed in the Neo-Renaissance style in 1879, it was turned into a hotel in 1890.

A year later, it housed the Gaiety Museum and Theatorium, a popular Victorian-era curios showcase.

The Édifice Robillard in 1921. Archives de la Ville de Montréal

In May 1896, it started housing the Palace Theatre, and on June 27 showed the first movies in North America.

The cinema system used a projector system developed by the Lumière brothers, using a screen the size of a towel.

The first films shown were of a train, ship, cavalry charge and the demolition of a wall.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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