Sunday, 14 June 2015

Moving Pictures - The Gayety Theatre

For many generations of Collingwood citizens, the historic Gayety Theatre has been a source of escape and entertainment, through two World Wars and the Great Depression.

This Art Deco gem was constructed in 1911, and once boasted one of the largest marquee signs north of Toronto.  The sign was purchased in 1923 from a burlesque house in Toronto and boasted over 1,000 lightbulbs.  Long since removed, apparently for safety reasons, the sign was a defining feature on Main Street for so many.  Throughout the years, the theatre has been a venue for live entertainment in the Vaudeville era, shown Silent Films, the first "Talkies", and then progressed to the modern films we now all enjoy.  In recent years, the theatre has reverted to it's roots, as it is now the home of Theatre Collingwood.  

One might think that the Gayety was the only showhouse in town, but in fact, there were also two others.  The Lyric Theatre once occupied space in The Henderson Block (where Loblaw's now sits), but was destroyed by fire in 1925.  The other theatre offering was known as The Regent, and was located in the building across from Ed Christie's Menswear.  In subsequent years, this particular spot also once housed CKCB Radio and a bingo parlour, not to mention several other enterprises. 

For many years the theatre was owned by Rose and Joe Russ who were said to be some of the nicest folks in town.  Many special events were held at the venue, including yearly Christmas parties for employees of the Collingwood Shipyards.  

In addition to the photo above, another item you might find interesting is the original Playbill retained by my great grandmother for the showing of Katharine Hepburn's movie "Little Women" in 1933.  It was customary for studios to advertise their productions with publicity photos like this, an early 20th century novelty. Would you believe that the cost to attend a matinee showing was an unbelievable 3 cents?  Try getting a deal like that nowadays!

I have been fortunate enough to have been both dazzled and frightened by many movies at this historic theatre over the course of my youth, and even though it is no longer that type of venue, I cannot help but smile and think of fond memories whenever I pass it by.

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