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has recently added an old addition to its uptown sites. The Imperial Theatre of
Saint John reopened its doors on May 1994 after along period of restoration.
The Imperial Theatre of Saint John is one of Saint John's old historical sites
beautifully restored to its original splendor. Since the first day of it's
reopening the Imperial Theatre had packed audiences for all it's shows. Saint
Johners are proud of their Theatres success and expect to see it continue on
well into the future. Come in and enjoy the "Greatest Little City in the East",
Saint John, New Brunswick!
Imperial Theatre was designed by Philadelphia architect Albert Westover, and
was built in 1912 and 1913 by the Keith-Albee vaudeville chain of New York City
and their Canadian subsidiary, the Saint John Amusements Company Ltd. The
theatre was designed as a modern adaptation of the Italian Renaissance, and
opened on September 19, 1913, and was used both for live vaudeville acts as
well as "talkies". In 1929, it was renamed the Capitol Theatre, and like most
vaudeville houses across the continent, became a cinema.
Theatre reopened in May, 1994 after being restored to its original 1913
Victorian splendor. Imperial Theatre is Atlantic Canada's busiest and most
beautiful venue for live performance. Incorporating state-of-the-art theatrical
equipment and an enlarged stage. It seats 900 in comfort, affording excellent
acoustics and sightlines. Imperial Theatre is fully accessible to the disabled,
and features a listening assistance system for the hearing impaired.
The people of
Saint John are proud of 'their' theatre. This claim of pride has been made
indisputable by the attendance rates for shows at Imperial Theatre which have
been 88% on average! Sold out performances, box office breaking records, and
standing ovations have become the norm at Imperial Theatre!
The article below was taken
from the New Brunswick Reader, September 19/98.
Sept. 19, 1913, the Imperial Theatre opened to the public with a gala
performance by Saint John performers. Seats were sold in advance and the
alphabetical list of patrons was included in the opening-night program. It was
a year and three months in the making and workmen specialized in marble, stage
equipment, decorative work and plaster garniture were brought from New York and
Philadelphia to give touches of exclusiveness to the building on a site
formerly occupied by stables and rickety buildings.
officially opened by Lieutenant-Governor Josiah Woods, who pulled the long
ribbon that started the curtain rolling upward amidst a shower of American
Beauty roses falling from the proscenium arch. A. Paul Keith, heir to the large
Keith-Albee theatre chain, clapped Walter Golding, the Imperial's first
manager, on the back and said "Now sir, we Americans are going back home and
will leave this theatre in your hands. Use it as if it were your very own, keep
it clean on the screen, stage and in its upkeep, and don't be a dog in the
manager if some good road shows come along."
conceived as a Broadway roadhouse at a time when Saint John was a major theatre
town; it was one of seven other theatres in the city. At the outbreak of the
First World War in 1914, the owners wired from New York that: "Your country is
at war - ours will follow shortly. Use house as your own and forget profits."
The theatre became the centre of the recruiting and fund raising for the war
effort in the city and ran a major deficit each year of the war. Actor Donald
Sutherland remembered being in the theatre with his father during a civil
defence meeting during the Second World War. Citizens were concerned about a
German air attack and Sutherland says his father stood up and addressed the
gathering in an attempt to cut off increasingly hysterical debate: "If German
planes happen to come near Saint John, chances are it will be foggy and they
won't see anything ... and if it's not foggy, they'll look down and figure the
place has already been bombed out."
converted to a movie house when Famous Players bought the building in 1929 and
changed the name to the Capitol. The last theatrical performance took place in
1952, the Dominion Drama Festival. It remained a movie house until 1957 when
then-owners the Davis sisters, gave it to the Full Gospel Assembly. In late
1982, Jack MacDougall and Susan Bate put a dollar down to buy the building,
with a commitment to raise the million-dollar balance within a year. The
community responded, but it was not until May, 1994, after a $11.3-million
reconstruction project, that the theatre officially reopened
architect was Albert E. Westover from Philadelphia; the architect who oversaw
the reconstruction in the 1990s, Douglas Kochel, was a native of Philadelphia
living in Saint John. It was renovated much to the way it was in 1913,
especially in terms of the plaster decorations and the colours of the walls and
the ceilings. There is no longer a green cork floor and the seats are now
burgundy instead of green leather. The original capacity was 1,500 to 1,200
seats and standing room for 300. But the original theatre didn't have any
lobbies and the seats were smaller and closer together. Capacity now is 908.
Seven tractor-trailer loads of ornamental plaster were required as part of the
Imperial season of entertainment kicked off this week.
performers it's a wonderful space," says acting manager Peter Smith. "There's
something really special about the shape of the balcony. Performers have told
me it feels like its embracing you - that it's giving you a great big hug when
you're standing on the stage. There's nothing else quite like this in Canada."
have any ghosts in the building, but I do have a picture of Walter Golding, the
original theatre manager, sitting in my office and he's watching me all the
time to make sure we do it right."
in conversation with Peter Smith, acting manager of the Imperial, and from
Theatre Seating Plan
For more information on the
Imperial theatre please visit the
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