Downtown Theatre

363 Portage Avenue,
Winnipeg, MB R3B

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Majestic Theatre, Imperial Theatre, Rialto Theatre

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Downtown Theatre

Opened in 1911 as the Majestic Theatre at what must have been the edge of the main business district in those days. There was seating for 500 all on one floor. By 1916 the name had changed to the Imperial and then again in 1921 to the Rialto, the name by which it was best known through most of it’s life.

As the Rialto the theatre managed to compete against the bigger movie palaces downtown by presenting a mix of first run "B' movies and sub runs. Eventually it became a grind house showing double and triple features. Admission prices
were kept low and it managed to survive, although it was never remodelled. Gradually the lobby area shrunk as the stores that were part of the building on either side of the entrance expanded and encroached on the lobby space. It retained the same wedge shape marquee for many years with back lit attractions panels framed in neon and the name "RIALTO" above the panels in neon. That marquee survived until the building was finally demolished.

It closed as the Rialto in 1968 only to reopen later the same year as the Downtown Theatre offering sub run fare and occasional art films. It finally sank to being an adult theatre in it’s last years. At one point it was raided by the vice squad who seized films that they deemed obscene. The theatre finally closed in the early 1980’s when the building, along with an entire three block stretch of Portage Avenue was demolished to make way for Portage Place Mall in around 1984.

Today, within the mall complex there is a multiplex cinema and also an Imax theatre very close to the site of where this theatre had been.

Contributed by PL Glenat (sam_e)

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

wpgcinemas on June 10, 2008 at 10:27 am

A photo of the Downtown can be found here: View link — this was just after a Vice Squad bust.

Apparently the seats from the Downtown were rescued for the Gas Station Theatre (a live venue), but I can’t find my reference for that.

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