The Capitol Theatre was one of Granville Street’s purpose-built movie theatres, developed by the Famous Players Corporation. It was designed by Thomas W Lamb, an American architect (born in Dundee) responsible for well over 100 movie palaces, including several in New York’s Times Square. In Vancouver Townley and Matheson were given the job of supervising architects for the project. A 1922 Contract Record described the newly completed building.
“Special Entrance Features in Vancouver Theatre
While the Entrance Fronts on a Main Street, the Auditorium is Located on Cheaper Property on a Parallel Street and is Reached by a Passage Elevated over Lane
Ingenious use has been made of a very narrow main street Frontage by the builders of the new Capitol Theatre at Vancouver, B. C, in which, a motion picture house of the first class has been added to the number of the city’s theatres. A piece of property of sufficient size for the proposed building was available on Seymour Street, which lies next parallel to Granville Street, where it was desired to have the main entrance. While Seymour Street is so close to Granville, which is the principal high-class shopping street, it is very quiet and no doubt the property mentioned as available was to be had at a price very much lower per front foot than it could have been obtained on Granville Street itself.
As finally arranged the theatre, which is a very large one, was built on the moderate priced property on the back street, but a narrow frontage was secured on Granville Street, and a very handsome approach was built to the theatre at the back, opportunity being afforded by this means for a lavish display of the decorator’s art in the architectural features of the interior of the passage, which presents a very impressive appearance.
A complication of the problem was the existence of a lane through the middle of the block, which could not be closed. This difficulty was overcome by a combination of ramps and stairways in the approach passage, which by the time the lane is reached has by this means attained a sufficient elevation to allow plenty of head-room for traffic in the lane.”
The interiors of Lamb’s theatres were almost all in the Adam style, featuring urns, swags and musical instruments, with heavy use of gilding to create a sense of luxury. The entrances were often quite unassuming – as was true of the Capitol.
The building lasted just over 50 years. The image above shows the Seymour Street facade and dates from the early 1970s not too long before it was replaced. A new Capitol was built, as a multiplex, opened in 1976. That building lasted forty years, closing in 2006 and being replaced with a small retail unit on Granville Street and the 43-storey residential Capitol Residences designed by Howard, Bingham Hill on Seymour. The lower floors include rehearsal space and a small auditorium used by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with new back-of-house space for the adjacent Orpheum Theatre – another building using Seymour for the auditorium and Granville for the entrance.