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The Granada, A Theatre of Dreams

For the week of Monday January 14, 2002

On January 18, 1929, the Granada Theatre in Sherbrooke, Quebec, opened its doors for the first time, captivating patrons with its enchanting decor. Today, the exceptional quality and condition of that decor make the Granada one of the best-preserved examples of the "atmospheric-style" theatre in Canada.

Exterior of the Granada Theatre

Exterior of the Granada Theatre
© Parks Canada / N. Clerk / 1996

In the twenties, picture shows were all the rage and the advent of full-length feature films prompted the construction of ever more inviting and comfortable "picture houses," or theatres, in a number of cities. The Granada was built in 1928 by United Amusement Corporation Limited from plans produced by D. J. Crighton, an architect specializing in this type of building. Its decor was entrusted to talented scenic artist Emmanuel Briffa.

Theatres of this period were decorated in various fashions. The Granada developers chose an "atmospheric style," with an exotic decor evoking an outdoor setting in a foreign land. The opulent lobby has an elaborately ornamented ticket booth, statues, luxurious furnishings, two boats forming a fountain, and even the sound of birds chirping. In the amphitheatre, the walls have different styles of decorating, each accentuating the "natural" setting. Painted to look like masonry, balconies done as reliefs, gargoyles, sculpted columns, and gardens reminiscent of the inner courtyard of a Spanish villa grace the walls. In the past, clouds, planes and stars were projected onto the ceiling, painted a bluish hue to simulate the sky.

At the Granada's official opening, the program, typical for the period, involved a musical medley and two films, including a Laurel and Hardy comedy. The Granada Theatre played an important cultural role into the sixties, presenting movies and showcasing local artists as well as big names in music from the French and international scenes, such as Joe Dassin, Louis Armstrong and the Von Trapp family.

The Granada amphitheatre

The Granada amphitheatre
© Parks Canada / N. Clerk / 1996

Like many other theatres of that period, the Granada eventually closed its doors, replaced by other forms and venues of entertainment. Fortunately, steps were taken to save, restore and return the Granada to its early glory. Today, the theatre is managed by the Société des activités du centre-ville de Sherbrooke and serves as a multi-purpose auditorium suitable for a wide variety of events.

An excellent example of an "atmospheric style" theatre in Canada, the Granada Theatre was designated a national historic site in 1998.

For more information on the Granada Theatre, visit the Granada Theatre Web site (in French only).

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