Varscona Theatre

The 1940 Varscona Theatre was one of Edmonton's first theatre's to be built in the Moderne Style.

The Varscona Theatre was located on the southwest corner of Whyte Avenue and 109 Street. Designed by Rule, Wynn and Rule, the theatre was built in competition with the Garneau Theatre, also in the Moderne style. The Varscona owner, Suburban Theatres, requested the architects to build a theatre that would surpass the Moderne design of the Garneau, but also open sooner. Rule, Wynn and Rule responded with a building that exemplified the Moderne style. Key features included the rounded marquee with speed lines above the entrance, the a multi-fin tower over the marquee that doubled as the air conditioning intake, the flat roof, white stucco finish, and prominent circular window on the front façade.

Built by the Edmonton-based Subruban Theatres, which also owned and operated the Avenue and Roxy Theatres, the Varscona opened on July 7, 1940, beating the opening of the rival Garneau by several months. In 1979, the Varscona Theatre came under the ownership of Canadian Odeon Theatres which worked in partnership and consultation with New Cinema Enterprises, the organizers of the Festival and the Fine Arts Cinemas in Toronto. Under its new management, the theatre was placed under a new policy with a focus on film as a form of art, and showcased the world's most renowned motion pictures. The Varscona was rebranded to created a higher end atmosphere, including classic foreign film posters, baking, high-quality candies, coffee and hot cider, and removed the options of popcorn and soda drinks. However, in 1981, this venture as a theatre for art films and international classics closed and in 1982 the Varscona Theatre reopened under new management, now focusing on Hollywood classisc and second run films. However, when this too failed, the Varscona Theatre was purchased by Famous Players and operated as a first-run theatre house. In 1986 a permit to demolish the building was issued. Despite opposition from locals, including MLAs and the Society for the Protection of the Architectural Resources in Edmonton (SPARE), the building was demolished in May of 1987 to make way for a bank. Likely in deference to the public outcry, the new building was constructed with a stepped marquee similar to the old theatre, though this building too, was torn down and replaced with a Shoppers Drug Mart in 2010.

Details

Type

Social and Recreational

Designation Status

Demolished

Neighbourhood

Garneau

Year Built

1940

Architectural Styles

Moderne

Character Defining Elements

Cornice , Flat roof , Flush eaves , Glass block , Marquee sign , Pilaster , Rectangular footprint , Speedlines , Stucco cladding , Two storeys

Gallery

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