Past editions of Throwback Thursday have explored the history behind the Princess and Capitol Theatres, two high-class playhouses built in the 1910s that had decidedly different fates. But the 1,600-seat Pantages Theatre, built in the same decade, suffered the worst outcome. Completed in 1913 at a cost of $125,000, the exterior of the two-storey building at 10209 Jasper Avenue looked relatively unassuming for its time period, but the grand carvings, murals, dome lights, imported red damask silk, and classical elements of its interior revealed the theatre's true persona.
Partnering with George Brown, entrepreneur, producer and impresario Alexander Pantages expanded his international chain of vaudeville houses northwards when he opened the Edmonton venue, which was originally intended as an accessory to a ten-storey office building named the Brown Block, of which only two floors were constructed. Local architect E. Collis Hopkins drafted the design for the Brown Block, with Pantages entrusting his go-to architect B. Marcus Priteca to draw up the scheme for the theatre.
The brick and Bedford stone facade was embellished with stone moulding above the first floor and an entrance finished with Italian and Greek marble panels. The ivory and gold colour palette inside the theatre, accented by red velvet upholstery, emitted an air of royalty.
Keeping up with what was in vogue, the Pantages began screening silent films under a new identity, the Metropolitan Movie Theatre, in 1921. By the time the Great Depression rolled around, the theatre was shuttered. Alex Entwhistle rebranded the facility again when he took over in 1931, introducing movie sound equipment too. It held the Strand Theatre name until its ultimate demolition in 1979 — despite its status as a provincial historic site — when plans for the 20-storey Enbridge Tower were formulated.
In anticipation of its eventual reconstruction, the plaster figurines of the building were carefully preserved, and moulds of the interior were made. A diminutive version of the Capitol Theatre has since been re-created at Fort Edmonton Park, likely closing the door on any possible revival of the Pantages.
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