Historic Garneau Theatre in Edmonton turns 80

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Historic Garneau Theatre in Edmonton turns 80
WATCH ABOVE: A milestone birthday for the Garneau Theatre. 80 years ago the iconic Edmonton landmark opened on 109 street at 87 avenue. Nicole Stillger has more – Oct 24, 2020

On Oct. 24, 1940, the Garneau Theatre opened its doors at 109 Street and 87 Avenue in Edmonton.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Metro Cinema executive director Dan Smith said Saturday.

“I don’t know how many 80-year-old buildings there are in Edmonton, but it’s pretty cool to come and work at one every single day.”

One of Smith’s favourite memories is seeing the auditorium packed with 500 people for the first time.

“It was the first year I was working here. We did Rocky Horror Picture Show… Pretty cool sight,” he said.

Eighty years ago, with a seating capacity of nearly 800 people, the theatre first screened The Great Waltz.

A ticket would have set you back about 25 cents.

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The auditorium at the Garneau Theatre. Eric Beck / Global News

“That we have this incredible gem still in our community, still an active hub and active landmark, is an incredible feat,” Edmonton Hisorical Board chair Dan Rose said.

The iconic landmark, Rose explained, has a unique design.

“The architectural style is referred to as streamline moderne, which is a bit of a variant of art deco, so it’s fairly unique in that sense,” Rose said.

“Don’t have a lot of that style in Edmonton.”

Built by a company called Suburban Theatres, it has had many programming styles over the years.

Read more: Princess Theatre on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue announces temporary closure

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In 2011, Metro Cinema moved in.

“Delighted to call it our home,” Smith said. “I think these older buildings give cities character.”

The building is a Municipal Historic Resource, so it’s protected. The threat of demolition, however, loomed a few times.

“It came close to the wrecking ball three times in its history,” Rose said.

“First in 1992, again in 2001, then again in 2007 when a proposal came forward to radically alter the structure.”

As the Garneau Theatre celebrates 80 years, the community is looking forward to many more.

“It’s a beautiful anchor for the neighbourhood,” Smith said.

The theatre closed for 116 days when the COVID-19 pandemic hit but reopened in July.

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