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Downtown Gala Held for Vogue Theatre

For the week of Monday April 11, 2011

On April 15, 1941, the Vogue Theatre was opened in a grand gala celebration in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Guests were treated to Dal Richards’ 25-piece orchestra and the feature attraction, “I See Ice,” starring comedian George Formby.

The Vogue Theatre on April 28, 1941.
© Leonard Frank, Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 33461.
This occasion marked the completion of one of the most advanced theatres in Canada with its fusion of cutting-edge technology and striking architectural design. Odeon Theatres of Canada had recently leased the newly built theatre from developer and veteran Canadian theatre operator W. J. Long. The theatre chain hoped that the Vogue would attract customers away from the nearby Capitol and Orpheum Theatres of rival chain Famous Players.

During construction, Long spared no expense hiring the best Canadian firm of theatre architects available, Kaplan and Sprachman. Their design for the Vogue helped introduce Canada to the latest trend in architecture, the Moderne style. This style integrated new technology with a simple streamlined design. On the outside, the theatre was dominated by a giant 19-metre neon sign topped with a 3-metre statue of the Greek goddess Diana. On the inside, the theatre included luxuries then unavailable in most homes, such as air-conditioning. The theatre’s 1,347 seat auditorium’s design incorporated curved walls and a wave-shaped roof, the latest improvements in acoustics. These features, combined with state-of-the-art lighting, made the Vogue an inviting and comfortable venue for theatregoers.

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The Vogue Theatre in more
recent times.

Barrett & McKay
© Parks Canada / 1996

The Vogue was also notable for its dual-purpose design permitting both the showing of movies and the staging of live entertainment. However, this design went out of fashion by the 1960s. Even major renovations in 1967-68 could not prevent the Vogue from slowly losing customers to newly constructed multiplex cinemas. As a result, Odeon sold the theatre to developers in the late 1980s and the theatre remained closed for a number of years. Restored to its original design, the Vogue reopened under new ownership in 1993 and continues to captivate audiences with theatrical, musical, and cinematic performances.

The Vogue Theatre and its competitor, the Orpheum Theatre, remain as highlights of Vancouver’s theatre district, leading to their designation as National Historic Sites in 1993 and 1979, respectively. For their contribution to Canadian architecture, Kaplan and Sprachman, Architects, the theatre’s designer, was commemorated as a national historic event in 2008.

For more stories on Canada’s theatres please read: “The Show Place of Toronto,” “The Grand Old Lady of Granville Street,” A Gem of a Theatre, Something for Everyone, Take a Bow, The Granada, A Theatre of Dreams, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Tutus at Eaton Auditorium in the This Week in History archives. For more information on the Vogue Theatre, please visit the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
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