Another week has come and gone. I meant to post this last week, and then life got away on me yet again. In any case, last weekend was the twentieth anniversary of the restoration and reopening of the Capitol Theatre here in Nelson. But the Capitol Theatre's history goes back to 1927 when it first opened at a cost of $75,000 which was, undoubtedly, a pretty penny back in those days, and indeed, it was lauded as one of the finest theatres on the continent at the time. It served mainly as a movie house in the Paramount chain of leased theatres, delighting audiences with all the earliest films following the silent movie era. These showings were interspersed with live dramatic performances of traveling companies and local groups.
The thirties were the hey-day of cinema and crowds flocked to see nightly shows complimented by live acts to introduce the movies. In the mid-thirties, the old Opera House in Nelson burnt down and the 1000 seat Civic Theatre, which I understand was a depression "make work" project, was built. It's initial purpose was for live theatre.
During the wartime forties, cinema began to fall out of fashion as people had less time and money. Eventually, Famous Player, holding the lease on both theatres, opted to book the larger Civic Theatre for films. The Capitol continued to sporadically show films along with live acts and music shows, however, as time went on, these began to dwindle in number. By the fifties, as necessary repairs and improvements to the building were neglected, the Capitol fell into disrepair. For awhile, it was used as an auction hall and furniture warehouse and at some point in the sixties, the seats were eventually removed. By this point, the roof leaked and the Theatre which had once held audiences spellbound, sat in a dank pool of water. Indeed, its future looked bleak.
By the early eighties, the seeds of a dream had been planted, and the Capitol Theatre Restoration Society had formed. Locals began to raise funds, and soon thereafter, the City of Nelson acquired the building. Through a fortuitous stroke of luck in the mid-eighties, a significant government grant allowed the project to really get under way. The Theatre was completely gutted, and received an extreme makeover. The original side murals on the walls were lovingly restored, the stage area was increased, and among other things, rich crimson carpets and seats were installed. By the time the repairs and restoration were finished, this original Art Deco Theatre had never looked more grand. Since this time, the Capitol Theatre has reclaimed its prestigious place in Nelson's history as it has once again become the hub of the performing arts in this community. If you're ever passing through, make sure you check out.