Join us Sunday, February 5th 2pm
Special Event Coming
February 5, 2012
Gary Fjellgaard with Saskia and Darrel
2:00 pm matinee concert
Advance tickets available at:
The Patricia and Breakwater Books
Students & Seniors: $15.00
Happy Birthday, Old Girl!
What a great Party!
How often do we get to spend a whole weekend celebrating the 95th birthday of an old friend? Reminds one of some epic family celebrations that we’ve all attended or wished we’d been invited to.
Yes, the Patricia is really 95 years old this year (2008) and is enjoying its 80th anniversary in the new building.
The original theatre, which was located pretty much where the Cenotaph now stands, was opened in September, 1913. The building looked like nothing so much as a shoebox on end, but soon became the entertainment capital of Powell River, with movies, touring vaudeville acts, boxing matches, fashion shows and talent contests.
Oh yes, and the Saturday matinees complete with the exuberant interaction between audience and onscreen villains and heroes that was so much a part of that experience.
Built by Bobby Scanlon, son of Powell River Company founder M.J. Scanlon, the Pat got her name through a community wide contest. The contest produced a lot of silly suggestions but also finally gave us the distinction of being named in honour of Princess Patricia, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. This dashing young woman had captured the affection of the country when she came to Canada with her father, the Duke of Connaught and then Governor General of Canada.
The building materials came from the Company sawmill, the equipment came from the original “cinema” ( a tent that had blown down in a storm), and the entertainment arrived three times a week by way of steam ship, whether it was cans of films, fan dancers, boxers, magicians or singers.
Many of the seats in the first Patricia were kitchen chairs fastened in rows on boards and hinged to be swung out of the way for the sweepers. Just ask Frank Haslam about his first job there, earning free movie tickets for his labours: he’ll be at the family reunion on the Saturday, November 8.
The new building was designed, built and opened in 1928, and was a remarkable example of Arts and Crafts Spanish Revival theatre architecture in an era notable for extravagant movie palaces. What was even more remarkable was the no-expense spared approach to decorating and furnishing the old girl: a custom-built Robert Morton pipe organ; glorious murals by the Girvan studios; posh Heywood-Wakefield seats (all the way from New York by rail and steamship) and the elegant hand-stenciled, French velvet main drape, created in Seattle.
The first movie was shown in November, 1928, and there has never been a time since when there haven’t been movies, vaudeville, concerts and fashion shows offered to the community, week in and week out.
Through sheer tenacity and will to survive, the Patricia is now the oldest continuously operating business in Powell River, the oldest continuously operating movie theatre company in Canada, and the oldest cinema and vaudeville building in western Canada.
Wow! A lot has changed, and a lot has been recaptured: the glorious flowering cherry trees and hedge are gone, but there’s a new perennial and rose garden; the murals that were painted over in the 1960s have been recreated from archival photos, thanks to Whitney LaFortune, Tanya MacDonald, Roberta Pearson, Wendy Brown and a crew of volunteer helpers; the big pipe organ disappeared, but, thanks to Henri Pavid, there’s still a theatre organ, and there’s still a theatre organist... Jim Dickson; no more Sweet Shop, but now there are goodies for sale inside the theatre where the Peterson’s Jewelry store once was; the beauty salons and the Patricia News confectionary are all gone, but Synergy Frame- Shop has its design and point of sale activities in the other retail frontage.
One of the biggest changes to be shown off at the Birthday Bash was the transformation of what once were doctors and dentists and lawyers offices upstairs, into living accommodations that celebrate the 1920’s and 30’s heritage flavour of the Townsite.
In addition to guided tours of backstage, the dressing rooms, the projection booth and the balcony, there were tours of those offices.
Thank you to everyone who made our birthday party a roaring success!