Safe from the wrecking ball

In 2017, I wrote a cover feature for The Uniter about movie theatres in Winnipeg. In exploring the history of the city’s cinemas, I created a list of every movie theatre that had ever existed within the perimeter, eventually crafting an interactive map. While compiling that list, I was heartbroken by how many of these historic movie houses had been needlessly demolished.

Of the more than 90 movie theatres that have operated in Winnipeg at one time or another, only eight remain open. But perhaps more painful than the closures of the theatres themselves was the destruction of these beautiful buildings. Iconic, golden-age Portage Avenue movie palaces like the Capitol and the Rialto were torn down to build a Dollarama or the Portage Place food court.

But I always find comfort in the old movie theatres that have been repurposed. Every time I pass the Food Fare on Maryland (the old Tivoli Theatre), the Main Street Project at Main and Logan (which housed the Oak Theatre from 1938 to 1962) or the Talmud Torah Beth Jacob Synagogue building (which showed movies under various names from 1918 to 1983), I think about how nice it is that these buildings were repurposed in ways that serve the community.

Of course, it’s not only movie theatres that face the prospect of demolition. In this week’s cover feature, our arts and culture reporter Rebecca Driedger examines the ways in which some of Winnipeg’s architecture of the past is being repurposed and preserved to keep the city’s past and future alive and entwined.

Published in Volume 76, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 25, 2021)

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