I go by the Palace Theatre every week when I go down Selkirk Avenue to volunteer at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand place once.
I found out the Palace was designed by Max Zev Blankstein a Jewish architect trained in Odessa, Russia who emigrated to Canada in 1904. He drew up plans for a number of Winnipeg theatres. The theatre was built by Jacob Miles whose family would become one of the biggest movie theatre operators in Manitoba.
The Palace opened in 1912 and was initially a venue for vaudeville performances. According to Russ Gourluck the author of Silver Screens on the Prairie it was also used for meetings of the Ukrainian community as well as the viewing of motion pictures.
An addition was built in 1927 adding a balcony and increasing the capacity of the theatre to 800.
Michael Koster worked in the projection room and it was sometimes so hot in the room that he wore only underwear, socks, and shoes.
Jack Baturin a North End resident recalls kids attended Saturday shows that began at 10:00 am and many kids sat twice through the cowboy movies, mysteries, serials, and cartoons bringing lunches that consisted of chunks of bread and kubasa sausage from home. The Green Hornet was a favorite serial.
The theatre was apparently a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets. Sidney Katz talks about Winnipeg’s Dew Drop gang in his 1950s Macleans article It’s a Tough Time to Be a Kid.
The Palace Theatre closed in 1964 and was, in turn, an auction house, furniture warehouse, and bargain store. Now it stands empty- a reminder of a time when the North End of Winnipeg was a very different place.
Currently, the building is owned by the University of Manitoba and a July CTV news article claims there is interest from the North End Renewal Corporation in buying it and turning it into a community arts performance space. Perhaps the old Palace Theatre has a chance of coming back to life again.
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