Today is World Theatre Day, and, coincidentally, also the occasion of the 94th Academy Awards ceremony.
The history of theatre in Vernon can be traced back to Dec. 12, 1908, when the Dreamland Theatre opened on Vernon’s 30th Avenue.
For the first few moving picture shows, the audiences were small, and the theatre could barely cover expenses. In a 1910 newspaper article, the theatre’s manager, H. H. Dean, claimed the people of Vernon were “afraid they would see something they would be ashamed of, and the public had to be educated as to the class of pictures which would be shown in “Dreamland.”
The Empress Theatre opened at 3207 30th Avenue on May 30, 1912. In 1921, the theatre hosted showings of the films “Stranger than Fiction,” “The Devil,” and “Nobody.”
The first films with sound, known as “talkies,” arrived at the Empress in February of 1930.
The Capitol Theatre opened on 30th Avenue in November of 1938. The premier feature film was “The Valley of the Giants,” a “four bell” picture in technicolour selected to showcase the up-to-date colour reproduction equipment at the new theatre.
In 1970, the Capitol’s name was changed to the Towne Cinema, which is currently operated by the Okanagan Screen Arts Society.
Vernon’s largest theatre, the Famous Players Cinema in Polson Place, also opened in 1970. In 2005, Cineplex Entertainment purchased Famous Players, and the local theatre’s name was changed to Galaxy Cinemas. Today, Cineplex Entertainment is a $3 -billion company, while 115 years earlier, Vernonites had to be convinced to visit the Dreamland.
Gwyn Evans is the research and communications co-ordinator with the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.