Bijou Theatre

498 Main Street,
Winnipeg, MB

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

I’ve found a period source which adds a missing piece to the early history of the Bijou Theatre as told here and at Theatres of Winnipeg. The source is the 1913 edition of Western Law Reporter (Canada), which gives a synopsis of a 1912 court case involving events that took place in 1910. The details of the case are not relevant, but the following sentences are:

“On the 21st April following the date of the contract, the lessees of the Empress Theatre vacated the premises and removed all their plant (excepting the drop curtain, which did not fit the new building) to another building, in another street in Winnipeg. The new building was given the name “Empress Theatre,” and the building vacated was afterwards known as the “Bijou.” The Empress, both in the old and in the new building, was what is generally known as a vaudeville show, while the Bijou was run as a moving picture show.”
As the Empress, this house was part of the Sullivan & Considine vaudeville circuit, which used the name Empress for most of its theaters. The Bijou joined the circuit in 1908, when the October 3 issue of The Billboard said:
“Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fairchilds are touring Western Canada and meeting with great success. They are playing a new circuit formed by J. M. Nash of the Bijou Theatre, Winnipeg, and booked through the Sullivan and Considine office.”
The Bijou probably adopted the name Empress shortly after joining the Sullivan & Considine circuit, so must have had the name for less than two years, until it was moved to the former Dominion Theatre in 1910.

kencmcintyre on September 8, 2007 at 7:18 pm

Here is an August 1945 ad from the Winnipeg Free Press:

PGlenat on November 12, 2004 at 10:26 am

A couple of corrections. The Bijou was located at 498 Main St, not 438. The Photoplayer from another local theater ended up in Ontario, not the one from the Bijou. That’s what I get for trying to read a blurry, yellowed photo of an old newspaper article covering the 1979 fire that levelled the theater and surrounding buildings.
There had been a short-lived earlier theater on this site, occupying space in the old courthouse/jail building before it was demolished. Known as the Royal theater, it offered vaudeville and burlesque, but had an unsavory reputation, since it included a saloon, as well as a house of ill repute. This ‘theater’ along with the rest of the old courthouse was torn down in 1881 to make way for the building that eventually housed the Bijou.