Description of Historic Place
The Outremont Theatre is a large, Art-Deco-style movie theatre located at the corner of Bernard and Champagneur avenues in Outremont, an early-20th-century suburban community on Montréal's west island. The theatre is situated among residential buildings, in a mixed residential and commercial neighbourhood. The formal designation consists of the theatre building on its footprint at the time of designation.
The Outremont Theatre was designated a national historic site in 1993 because of its national historic and architectural significance. With its early Art Deco exterior and its rich interior combining both atmospheric and Art Deco elements, it is a very fine example of a deluxe cinema in Canada dating from the late 1920s.
Designed by local architect René Charbonneau for Confederation Amusements, Outremont Theatre is typical of the many deluxe cinemas erected in new suburban neighbourhoods across Canada during the 1920s. Deluxe cinemas were mid-size movie theatres designed to hold between 1000 and 2000 patrons. Purpose-built for cinematographic use, they were intended to be attractive and comfortable, reflecting the fact that by the late 1920s the cinema had become mainstream entertainment. Fireproofing measures at Outremont reflect a heightened concern for the safety of patrons after a deadly 1927 cinema fire in Montreal.
Outremont Theatre was one of the first expressions of the Art Deco style in cinema architecture in Canada. It is typical of the early manifestations of the style in its use of traditional classical forms, presented in a stylized fashion. The exterior composition, in which two distinct volumes differentiated by materials, colour and proportions correspond to the principal functions of the building, reflects the advent of the modern architectural aesthetic. The use of Art Deco motifs continues throughout the building's interior.
The interior décor of the auditorium is an extravagant example of the Art Deco style presented in combination with the atmospheric style of cinema design. A short-lived phenomenon popular during the late 1920s, the atmospheric style recreated exotic, pastoral scenes on the walls and ceilings of cinema auditoriums. The Outremont auditorium combines the stylized motifs of Art Deco with pastoral scenes painted on the upper walls, and a luminous coffered ceiling intended to reproduce the atmospheric quality of a sunny day.
Outremont Theatre's elaborate, dream-like interior décor, typical of 1920s cinema design, was created by Emmanuel Briffa. Briffa was a well-known theatre artist who lived in Outremont and was responsible for the interior decoration of more than 60 cinemas across Canada.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, November 1993.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Outremont Theatre include:
- its Art Deco style, evident in the design and detailing of its façade, elements of its interior décor, the and the choice of exterior and interior colours;
- its use of the modern aesthetic in its exterior composition, evident in the two rectangular volumes distinguished by colour, material and proportions, that correspond to different functions;
- exterior features which reflect the early manifestation of the Art Deco style, namely the use of traditional classical elements such as pilasters, friezes and medallions, presented in a stylized fashion;
- the contrasting colour and materials of the exterior volumes, namely the white, artificial-stone cladding of the smaller volume, and the yellow-brick cladding of the larger volume;
- the exterior detailing of the smaller volume, reflecting the influence of Art Deco on traditional classical forms, including chiselled bands, decorative friezes, fluted pilasters and medallions;
- the mimimal detailing of the larger volume, consisting of large geometric motifs;
- the sign on the Bernard Avenue wall of the larger volume, reading "Théâtre Outremont";
- the interior plan of the smaller volume, including lobby, ticket booth and shops on the ground floor, and offices upstairs;
- the interior plan of the larger volume, including main foyer, secondary foyer, auditorium parallel to the façade, and gallery;
- features of the auditorium that reflect the adaptation of traditional theatre design to the presentation of cinematography, including the rectangular form of the proscenium arch, a rectilinear balcony, and a projection room;
- fireproofing features, including reinforced concrete construction, use of an asbestos curtain, and exit doors leading directly from the auditorium;
- the influence of the Art Deco style on the interior décor of the auditorium, evident in the use of stylized motifs and gold and silver tones;
- the ornamentation surrounding the proscenium arch, including a surrounding band of vegetation motifs in gold and silver tones, and an upper frieze of stylized figures and flowers;
- the decorative program of the remaining three walls of the auditorium, divided by a frieze at balcony level into upper and lower parts;
- the frieze at balcony level, consisting of geometric motifs;
- the decorative program of the lower half of the auditorium, including a wood dado and trim, acoustic tile painted to resemble marble, and round-arched openings surrounded with geometric motifs;
- the decorative program of the upper half of the auditorium, including fluted pilasters, blind, segmentally arched windows, rectangular panels ornamented with stylized vegetation motifs in gold and silver tones, and painted frescoes on acoustic tiles;
- features which reflect the atmospheric trend in cinematic design, namely the painted frescoes on the upper panels of the auditorium walls, illustrating pastoral scenes in pastel colours;
- the auditorium ceiling, including its coffered construction, gold painted panels, and ornamentation consisting of geometric motifs and stylized vegetation;
- surviving original interior finishes and ornamentation in the lobby and foyers, including mosaics, marble finishes, glass, woodwork, and stencilled walls.