by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams
The Capitol Theatre is like an old friend to many. It’s hard to believe that it first opened so many years ago, in the summer of 1930. It was one of the first movie houses designed expressly for “talkies”, with a night’s entertainment of 37 cents for adults and 15 cents for kids. The exception was Saturdays where it was only 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for kids. It is fitting, then, that the new Capitol Theatre holds a “Capitol Christmas” that captures the essence of old time Christmas.
The Capitol’s façade is of a Norman Castle with leaded glass, diamond paned windows, marquee emulating a drawbridge supported by heavy iron chains. All the original façade details are still there. The recessed double entrance doors lead onto the terrazzo floor still in perfect conditions while chandeliers glow above.
The Capitol is an “atmospheric” theatre, a Hollywood – inspired genre of architecture planned to evoke the illusion of patrons seated outdoors. The walls are of a medieval courtyard surrounded by a forest. The sides of the theatre painted to resemble Caenstone. Murals of treetops create the effect of looking over the walls of a forest created mostly in wet coloured plaster rather than paint. The Capitol originally seated 684 patrons in wood seats now renovated to spaciously seat only 380 with more leg room. The orchestra pit accommodates 40 people.
Today the Capitol Theatre is one of the only two surviving operational “atmospheric” theatres in Canada. It was operated as a cinema for 57 years until 1987. It wasn’t until June 1993 that Rod Stewart of Furby House Books presented the deed to the building to Don Rumgay, the founder of the newly formed Capitol Theatre Heritage Foundation. Restoration started in earnest in 1993. To date over $6 million dollars has been raised for this venue for the arts – professional theatre, music, cinema, and dance.
Today’s line-ups include:” The Irish Descendants”, “Lunch at Allen’s” (musical revue by internationally renowned artists), “Wingfield’s Inferno”, Classic Album’s Live “Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon”, Rik Emmett, Buddy Wasisname & Arrogant Worms. The Cameco Capitol Arts Centre presents The Metropolitan Opera with a strong line – up of performances monthly. If you ever are in the area, it’s worth the time to stop by and visit or, maybe even book an event to attend in the upcoming seasons.
Capitol Christmas, a Festival of Lights and Trees…
Over 70 designer trees were created by businesses and community members. Tens of thousands of sparkling lights created an incredible extravaganza throughout the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre. Capitol Christmas at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope took place this past November and ran from the 28th through to December 21st, 2008. One of the festivals objects is to raise monies with raffle tickets being sold for $2.00 per single ticket, 10 for $8.00 and 20 for $15.00. The draw takes place right in time for Christmas with every tree being raffled off. The community came wonderfully together and presented these trees to the event organizers. Some of the contributors included Ontario Power Generation, Friends of Music, Star 93.3 & the Breeze 107.9, Walsh Mountain Ironworks, Hinchcliff and Lee Antiques, Century 21 All Pro Realty, Gilmore’s Home Hardware and LA Signs. These are just a few of the over 70 companies and individual who made donations. Although this was their 11th annual display, it was the first year that we were able to attend. Christmas is the favourite time of year for our friend Paul, so we asked him if he would like to go with us. He did, and we picked up Paul and a friend’s daughter. It was an overcast snowy and cold day. We were glad to get front door parking. We left the car and headed for the Theatre. As we opened the doors to enter the theatre, we were immediately hit with an extraordinary array of trees with sparkling lights and unique decorations. There were far more trees on display then I imaged. It was hard to notice that we were blocking the entranceway as we were trying to get orientated to this spectacular sight. What amazed me was the expanse and quality of the exhibit. It just kept going and going. We sauntered up the hallway absorbing each tree, trying to get each others attention to show them this and that. Just as we reach the lobby area, they announced that a performance by the La Jeunesse Youth Choir was about to begin in the theatre. We couldn’t believe our timing and luck. We look our seats and enjoyed about ½ hour of exquisite singing. The voices were angelical. After the performance, we continued our tour around the hallways. The volunteers at the refreshment booth were offering free coffee, hot chocolate and goodies. What a treat! Although with over 70 trees to pick from, I had a few favourites. Our friend Paul put all his raffle tickets into the box for one treat tree in particular. (He didn’t win). There were some themes such as “goodie treats”, cars, trucks, bears, ribbons, monkeys and more. A Capitol Christmas is a great way to start the season and to get into the Christmas spirit. And, as an added benefit you can help raise funds and see just how much community effort and dedication there is in Port Hope! You won’t be disappointed!