Capitol Theatre History
The Capitol Theatre opened in 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression in a rural community. As a premium Canadian entertainment venue, and one of the first “talkies”, the Capitol was designated a National Historic Site in 2016.
Built at the beginning of the sound film era, the Capitol is well-preserved with much of its original exterior and interior details remaining after eighty years of almost continuous operation. The Capitol is also a rare example of a traditional “atmospheric” theatre space and one of the few remaining intact in North America.
The Capitol was the first fully fireproof public building in Port Hope. The Capitol was originally constructed for the sole purpose of displaying talking pictures. Featuring acoustical plaster and equipped from the outset with one of the earliest sound projection systems – the Capitol was the first “purpose built” sound cinemas in Canada. On opening night, August 15th 1930, “Queen High” starring Ginger Rogers was screened. The most unique and lasting part of the Capitol Theatre’s heritage is its Atmospheric medieval castle courtyard setting and twinkling star night-sky ceiling.
In the Capitol’s early days one key technical innovation was added to the architectural details. The placement of a pair of Brenograph Junior “cloud projectors” were hidden from view behind foliage. The motor-driven Brenograph units slowly rotated a series of projected images of clouds on the midnight sky auditorium ceiling. Projectors were in use up until the 1950’s and the Capitol Theatre Heritage Foundation has one of them, along with the original cloud disc that was projected from it. The second Brenograph projector is in Kinmount Ontario in a museum.
Today, modern technology and innovative use of projections are a signature feature of Capitol productions. The Capitol Theatre continues to make history as it brings the experience of entertainment to new patrons in unique and exciting ways!