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Lost Movie Theatres of Cambridge

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  • Postcard of Main Street Galt and the Palace Theatre, 1950s
    Postcard of Main Street Galt and the Palace Theatre, 1950s**
  • My dad's handpainted movie signs, 1950s
    My dad's handpainted movie signs, 1950s
  • Scott's Opera House fire, Queen's Square Galt, 1910. Rebuilt and operated as a movie house until 1928.
    Scott's Opera House fire, Queen's Square Galt, 1910. Rebuilt and operated as a movie house until 1928.**
  • Home of Henry Spencer Howell being converted to Temple Theatre, Water St N at Dickson,1912
    Home of Henry Spencer Howell being converted to Temple Theatre, Water St N at Dickson,1912**
  • Queen's Theatre, Hespeler
    Queen's Theatre, Hespeler*
  • Grand Theatre, Galt 1940s
    Grand Theatre, Galt 1940s**
  • Sunset and Palace Theatre ads, Preston, 1955
    Sunset and Palace Theatre ads, Preston, 1955
  • Princess Theatre ad, Preston, 1922
    Princess Theatre ad, Preston, 1922
  • Park Theatre ad, featuring a Potato Matinee, Preston 1922
    Park Theatre ad, featuring a Potato Matinee, Preston 1922

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.

StarstruckScandals of Classic Hollywood

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.

Grand Theatre, Galt

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.

Photos courtesy of:  *Hespeler Heritage Centre and  **Cambridge Archives