Description of Historic Place
The Metropolitan Theatre is a two-storey-plus edifice constructed of steel and brick in downtown Winnipeg in 1919-20. The City of Winnipeg's designation applies to the building footprint and the following interior elements: entrance lobby, total auditorium space and total mezzanine level.
The Metropolitan Theatre is Winnipeg's only early movie theatre that survived in its original form. It is also one of only four Allen movie theatres that remain in Canada. Built by the Allen Brothers, the theatre was part of the biggest Canadian chain of the early twentieth century. Its design by American architect C. Howard Crane is an excellent example of the opulent and exotic movie palaces of the era, executed in the Georgian Adamesque style. Its symmetrical facade, low-relief classical ornamentation and dramatic windows are met with lavish interiors, featuring an ornate domed auditorium, balcony, loges and mezzanine. As movie-going evolved into an acceptable, even stylish cultural phenomenon, the competition to dominate the growing market and gain exclusive rights to distribute popular films was intense, and so the Metropolitan also represents the fierce rivalry between the Allen and Famous Players chains in Canada. The Allen empire succumbed in 1923, leaving Famous Players to take over many of its theatres, including this one.
Source: City of Winnipeg City Council Meeting, January 10, 1997
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Metropolitan Theatre site include:
- the theatre's downtown location, on the east side of Donald Street between Graham and Portage Avenues, consuming its lot entirely
Key exterior elements of the theatre's Georgian Adamesque styling, and its movie-theatre function, include:
- the multi-storey rectangular massing with flat and low-profile roofs and brick facades, all left plain except the front
- the symmetrical main facade with an ornamental upper level featuring wrought-iron faux balconies, fluted terra cotta pilasters with highly decorative capitals, panels of swags, and a low-relief metal cornice with urns in the frieze and a band of dentils and small projecting intricate detailing in the cornice, all topped by a simple brick parapet, limestone coping, etc.
- the openings largely restricted to the main facade and featuring on the second storey large round-arched windows with radiating brick heads, smooth-cut limestone sills and ornamental enclosed transoms
- the details, including the main facade extended to one finished bay on the north wall, smooth-cut limestone belt courses, the suspended marquee, etc.
Key elements that define the theatre's opulent finishes and details include:
- the formal plan with spaces accessed off a rectangular lobby, including the auditorium and twin grand stairways leading to the mezzanine
- the auditorium with sloping floors, a cantilevered curving balcony, a huge domed plaster ceiling with a massive chandelier surrounded by cartouches containing allegorical figures, wall sconces, cove lighting, etc.
- the massive, elaborately detailed proscenium and stage, with three levels of dressing rooms above and below and loges on either side
- the rectangular mezzanine providing access to the balcony and loges, with an open promenade area, a more intimate, barrel-vaulted area along a curved wall of mirrored panels, plaster walls, and ceilings, and ornaments such as pilasters, columns with scrolled capitals, garlands, theatrical grotesques, wall sconces, etc., all in the historically accurate Adamesque palette of ivory, gold, rose and grey
- the details, including fixed seats, period light fixtures, etc.