Grand Theatre | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Grand Theatre

Grand Theatre

 Grand Theatre (Kingston). Originally the Grand Opera House, built 1901-2 on the site of Martin's Opera House (1879). H.M.S. Parliament and the premiere of Leo, the Royal Cadet were given at Martin's Opera House, which also saw visits from John Philip Sousa, Oscar Wilde, and others before it was destroyed by fire 6 Dec 1898. The Grand opened 14 Jan 1902 and was bought in 1905 by Ambrose J. Small, a theatre-chain owner who had been influential in its original planning. Bernhardt, Melba, and Jolson performed there. In 1936 it was bought by Famous Players, and it reopened as a movie house 20 May 1938, but closed again in 1961. The Kingston Arts Council campaigned for its restoration as a civic theatre, and as the Grand Theatre it opened 20 May 1966 with a performance of Spring Thaw. Its new mandate was to accommodate touring and local groups and serve as the home of the Kingston Symphony. It had 832 seats, a proscenium stage, and an orchestra pit. Renovations begun in 1978 provided new lounges, improved backstage facilities, and a second smaller theatre space, The Baby Grand, which opened in November 1990.

Further restorations were undertaken in 2004-08 to include expansion of The Baby Grand, new lounges, full orchestra pit with mechanical lift, acoustic towers, an orchestra shell, 35 moveable seats in the main auditorium, improved lighting and safety systems and a multi-purpose room under the stage as well as enhancements to the external façade.

Among other artists who have appeared are Chantal Kreviazuk, Rita McNeil, Randy Bachman and Sarah Harmer. In addition to the Kingston Symphony other resident groups at the Grand are the Kingston Theatre and the Kinsmen Club.

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