Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Threatres in Montreal

There are a great number of cinemas or movie theatres in Montreal, many of them dating from the golden age of cinema. Including the Ouimetoscope, the first Canadian theater dedicated exclusively to showing movies (opened in 1906), and which was situated right round the corner from my house (and is currently being transformed into a block of appartments).
Showing local productions, including his own, news movies, French and translated American movies, the theater would remain open for eighteen years until, in 1922, Ouimet's financial difficulties forced him to sell the Ouimetoscope, which closed two years later.
Another is the Rialto Theatre (official site), built in 1924, and although it stopped being a cinema in 1990, the building is protected as a Candian Heritage Site. You can see a few pictures of the wonderful interiors here.

It would be remiss of me, being a Call of Cthulhu Blogger, if, whilst on this subject, I did not mention the tragedy that was the 'Laurier Palace Theatre Fire'.

In summary:
Movie house Madness - January 9, 1927   About 800 children were enjoying a Sunday matinée at the Laurier Palace Theater on St Catherine Street in Montreal.  Panic struck when at 2 p.m. a man yelled, "FIRE!!"    500 of the movie viewers sitting in the orchestra section were able to make their way out to the street.  The children in the balcony section however were not so lucky.  Of the two stairways leading to the safety of the ground floor, one was locked.  In the space of two minutes smoke filled the air so thick that the children started choking and having trouble seeing.  By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, they found children's bodies piled 8 deep in a stairway.
The projectionist, Emile Masicotte, grabbed and pulled about 30 children to safety. The firefighters sprayed the pile of bodies with water, quickly extinguishing the fire. They cut the stairs down in order to reach them. Some of the children had been only a few feet away from safety.  Seventy-eight children died that Sunday.  Some from the smoke, and some crushed to death, but only a few died from the actual fire.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, there were calls from the Catholic Church to ban children from movie theatres. Claiming that the cinema ruined the health of children, weakened their lungs, troubled their imagination, excited their nervous system, hindered their studies, overexcited their sinful ideas and led to immorality ("ruine la santé des enfants, affaiblit leurs poumons, affole leur imagination, excite leur système nerveux, nuit à leurs études, surexcite les désirs mauvais et conduit à l'immoralité"). That all sounds very familiar, doesn't it? Plus ça change...

There's a copy of the original Gazette article here, which can be used as a handout. And of course, there's always the possibility it wasn't an accident. Afterall, there's always cultists looking to have the blood of innocents as a sacrifice. And the blood of 78 innocents is sure to have been a successful sacrifice to grab the attention of any dark presence nearby.

Other Movie Theatres of the era included  The Corona Theatre (1912), The Empress Theatre (1927), the Seville Theatre (1929), The Snowdon Theatre (1937) and the York Theatre (1939).

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