One of the great joys of working at The Uniter is that I’m constantly learning about Winnipeg. Even when I’m not actively trying to, editing a bundle of articles a week inevitably ends up being a goldmine filled with valuable nuggets of knowledge.
Five years ago, I wrote a Uniter cover feature about the history of movie theatres in Winnipeg. As part of that article, I created an interactive map of the 90-something movie theatres that have existed within the city limits at some point since 1883, when moving pictures were first screened here.
The locations of many of those old, defunct theatres are burned in my memory forever. Most of the surviving buildings have been repurposed, so when I’m travelling around the city, I’m often annoying whoever I’m walking or driving with by pointing them out. “That Food Fare used to be a movie theatre. That church used to be a theatre. That bowling alley was a theatre.”
I hadn’t thought to do much digging about those buildings beyond the fun fact that they were once cinemas. I certainly never wondered who designed them. This week, I learned that several of my favourites were designed by the same person.
While editing arts and culture reporter Patrick Harney’s article about the great Winnipeg architect Max Blankstein, I learned that he was responsible for many of Winnipeg’s prettiest neighbourhood movie houses. The Food Fare on Maryland, Uptown and Academy Lanes, the Wild Strawberry Children’s Centre on Sargent Avenue, the Church of the Rock and the abandoned Palace Theatre (both on Selkirk Avenue) are all former movie theatres designed by Blankstein.
I love Winnipeg. I especially love that we’re always in conversation with longgone residents. Next time you bowl a strike or buy a head of garlic at Food Fare, give a little salute to Max.
Published in Volume 77, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 24, 2022)