Conversation – Pantages Theatre

2009/01/15

I strongly feel that the Pantages Theatre should be saved and reopened at whatever the price tag.

Our city has lost a lot of its classic buildings such as the Birks Building at Granville and Georgia and the 2nd Hotel Vancouver and even such theatres as the other Pantages down the road which was torn down in the late 60’s and sat as a parking lot for many years and other great theatres like the original Capital and the Strand.

With the exception of the Orpheum and Vogue which itself is at risk the Pantages is a one of a kind that would not only benefit the Downtown Eastside but the whole city.

Hastings is being fixed up for the 21st century, look at the Pennsylvania Hotel Project down the road. If the Pantages re-opened it could be used for live stageshows, rock concerts, even run it as a movie theatre once again like the Rio Theatre on Broadway.

Have a new movie like the Dark Knight and keep the ticket for $5 instead of $12.50 and people like myself and many others in our city would be more than happy to come down to the area and see a cheap movie. Main and Hastings 10 to 15 years from now might even have a Starbucks – look at all the other coffee shops in the area opening up.

I however feel that to put a stamp on the area’s comeback, the entrance must be on Hastings under a grand neon sign like the Pennsylvania down the street. I don’t even care what the theatre reopens as – I just want to see the city do the right thing and save this piece of early Vancouver.

If we can pay a billion plus for a 2-week 5-ring circus, then why can’t we pay a few million to save a grand old theatre that is over a hundred years old? If restored it could last another hundred years or so – look at Europe they have theatres that are how old?

With 3000 and counting people dying (not really living) on our streets the social housing part of the project would have been a great asset for future generations to come. I hope the theatre is saved because if it is sold and slated to torn down, the day it is to come down I feel like I would want to chain myself to the front doors of the theatre and yell out on a bull-horn, “Don’t do it – Save history”.

I have never even seen the inside with my own eyes, would love to someday, but I know enough of the plan to save it, and I am a local history buff and I know a lot of other young people like myself do not want to see another high-end condo be built on a site like that.

I wish I could buy the theatre and the Burr in New Westminster and do the renovations myself. 30 years from now if the theatre is torn out and you have Starbucks and a Gap Store and the Balmoral is turned into a Ramada and so on, people will want theatre space in the area, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a neat old theatre instead of a cinder-block structure of today – with no class at all.

James Schultz


The City of New Westminster is currently encountering a similar dilemma. The city is home to the Burr Theatre, originally named the Columbia. Built in 1927, it is the oldest atmospheric theatre in Canada. Atmospheric theatres are unique in that they are decorated to replicate an outdoor setting, often with 3D façades of buildings and murals transforming the ceiling into the night sky.

The theatre is currently owned by the City, which is looking to sell the property to generate funds for the acquisition of land to build a new Civic Centre.

The theatre is not currently in use but arts groups and concerned citizens would like to see the City retain ownership in order to restore the heritage of the building and to develop the site into an interdisciplinary arts centre for the community, something New Westminster lacks at this point in time.

There are concerns in the community that if the building is sold to a commercial proprietor, many arts groups in the city, desperate for access to limited space, often because of limited funds, will be left out in the cold.

We are looking for support and ideas to keep the theatre in the hands of the City. If you have any suggestions, would like more information or to offer support, please go to our website – http://www.savetheburr.com

Taryn