Laura (Queen's Square) | March 2, 2016
Experience the whir of the projector and the twinkle of the marquee as Ontario's Movie Theatres, a travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario, runs at Idea Exchange, Queen’s Square from March 7 to March 29, 2016. This limited time exhibit is an amazingly enchanting and nostalgic trip through the history of small town theatres in Ontario.
Everyone seems to have a story about old-school movie houses -- whether it's what you saw or who you saw it with. My dad has some wonderful whoppers from a stint working at his local cinema during his teen years. He hand-painted advertising and ushered for some of the hottest shows of the 1950s. After the shows, he even stayed late for “rat duty”, an unsavory cleanup for which he was paid by the head.
The movies rolled into early Cambridge in 1908 when the 156 seat Star movie house opened at 50 Main Street in Galt and the Bijou opened at the corner of King and Lowther Streets in Preston. Soon after, Scott’s Opera House in Galt and the Preston Opera House, later called the Princess, moved from live performances to film.
The real heyday for Cambridge’s movies theatres arrived with the talkies around 1930. Each of our former town centres had their big screen entertainment:
- In Hespeler, you could catch a show at the Queen's theatre, now the parking lot at Ernie’s Roadhouse.
- Galt had the Capitol, the Grand and the Palace with an impressive total movie seating capacity of 2420.
- The Preston Park theatre on King Street near Central Park was the first in South Waterloo to have movies with soundtracks.
As the marquees dimmed and the cinemas moved to the malls, the stories remain. For more on theatre and entertainment in early Cambridge check out A Part of our Past: Essays on the History of Cambridge and the excellent shared memories from Waterloo Region Record’s Flash from the Past.