The Imperial Theatre – 720 Main Street

Here’s the Imperial Theatre, completed at a cost of $60,000 in 1912. Except that by 1939 when the first picture was taken the theatre use had ceased and it became home to Walsh’s Auto Wrecking. Originally designed by George B Purvis, a Seattle architect who designed a number of other theatres, all of them better looking than the Imperial! It was owned by the Canadian Theatre and Amusement Co, who in turn leased it to the Sullivan-Considine vaudeville chain who started out in an ambitious way with the Sheehan English Opera Company performing Verdi’s ‘Il Trovatore’ with a chorus of 40 and orchestra of 40.

Over the years the theatre operated it changed names at least twice. In that period both Jack Benny and the Marx Brothers played the theatre, and in 1921 it became home to a Chinese Opera company called Lok Man Lin. In 1927 it was transformed to a pentecostal church – first the Pyramid then the Emanuel, but in 1932 as a result of unpaid taxes the City became owners, and in 1938 it became a garage – which kept going until 1967.

Then, in an entirely unlikely twist, in 1970 it once again became a theatre – or rather, a cinema, and after a two month stint showing Chinese movies it became the Night and Day, and later the Venus, specialising in porno movies, with, it has been suggested, a certain amount of additional live-action in the audience on occasions. It was acquired by Porte Developments in the mid 2000s along with two adjacent sites and a Gomberoff Bell Lyon designed condo project called Ginger was completed a couple of years ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-189


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