Imperial Theatre

147 King Street East,
Hamilton, ON L8N 1B1

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Additional Info

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Gayety Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, Strand Theatre,

Nearby Theaters

Rear of the former Imperial Theatre in 2008.

This early Nickelodeon opened in the former Bricklayers Hall, around 1908 as the Gayety Theatre.

It also operated as a penny arcade, with coin operated machines, and a June 1, 1911 Hamilton City ordinance banned anyone under the age of 15 from entering the premises, unless accompanied by an adult.

Around 1915, the cinema is leased by Frederick Guest, who renames it the Strand Theatre. When Guest opens the later Strand Theatre at 757 King Street East, in 1918, his new cinema is initially known as the “New Strand Theatre”.

By early-1917, the 147 King Street East cinema is renamed the Imperial Theatre, which is the name it keeps until it ultimately closes.

As the Imperial Theatre, it is leased and managed by Jack Ross Stewart, who also runs an almost identical operation at the Unique Theatre, at Market Square.

John Ross Stewart was a prominent figure in Hamilton theatrical circles for many years.

Born in Toronto, John Ross Stewart began his career with A.J. Small, theatrical magnate (who later famously disappeared with $1 million of the theatre’s money, never to return).

In 1902 Mr. Stewart moved to London, Ontario, where he was treasurer of the Grand Opera House in that city and subsequently moved to Ottawa before coming to Hamilton. Entertainment was an important part of keeping up moral during the war years. From 1907 to 1934 he owned or operated various theatres in Hamilton.

He was an early manager of Bennett’s Theatre, and later treasurer of the Grand Opera House, and for some years afterward went into the theatrical business for himself and was proprietor of The Unique Theatre on Market Square, The Imperial Theatre situated on King St. E., the Lyric Theatre and The Royal Theatre.

He belonged to Half Century Lodge, Knights of Pythias and died in 1934.

The Imperial Theatre is no longer listed in the Hamilton City Directory after 1932.

The building still stands, but has been converted to other retail use, and it is doubtful if many people know anything of its theatrical history.

Contributed by Brian Morton
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