In 1928, Fred Trudeau, a building contractor, and resident of Outremont, bought land and commissioned Montreal architect René Charbonneau to design and build the Outremont Theatre. With its early Art Deco exterior and its rich interior, it is a fine example of a deluxe cinema in dating from the late 1920s. Some historians even considered it as one of the finest Art Deco creations in all of North America. Deluxe cinemas were medium size movie theatres designed to hold between 1000 and 2000 patrons. They had to be attractive and comfortable, reflecting the fact that by the late 1920s the cinema had become mainstream entertainment. Outremont Theatre’s elaborate, dreamy interior décor was created by Emmanuel Briffa, a well-known theatre artist who lived in Outremont and was responsible for the interior decoration of more than 60 cinemas across Canada. Briffa covered thewalls with pastoral scenes that stretched from floor to ceiling, and created a luminous coffered ceiling intended to reproduce the atmospheric quality of a sunny day.
On October 4, 1929, after a speech by Mayor Joseph Beaubien, and followed by some short films and stage numbers, the theatre officially opened to the public.
In the 1970s, the theatre was bought by Roland Smith, a former cinema owner who administered and programmed the first repertory movie theatres established in Canada. The Outremont was the most determining in his long career which, from 1971 to 1987, offered movie lovers more than 500 different films each year. During the 1970s and 80s, the Outremont would also lend its stage to acts like Beau Dommage, Paul Piché, Richard Seguin, Félix Leclerc and Diane Dufresne, all the while hosting screenings on the side. Smith sold the property in 1987 to Famous Players, who sold it in turn to Baron Byng Construction who wanted to transform the building into a commercial building, but residents had become attached to their theatre and protested the transformation. In 1990 the theatre reopened for movies until 1993, when the City of Outremont decided to acquire and renovate the theatre. The Outremont reopened in 2001, and was run by the Spectra team with a very diversified programming ranging from film, to dance, comedy, musical and stage performances. In 2010, both theatre management and programming were then handed over to La Corporation du Théâtre Outremont. Today it serves as both a repertory movie theatre and a venue for large-scale performances. The Corporation’s mission is to advocate its citizens’ active involvement in cultural life, to heighten public awareness of artistic and aesthetic endeavors, and to bring about an appreciation and understanding of the arts and of culture.
The Outremont Theatre was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1993 and a historical monument by the Ministry of Culture and Communications in 1994.
Outremont Theatre is located at 1248 Bernard Avenue West, Montreal
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada / Outremont Theatre / Ville de Montréal
By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca