Tuesday, November 8, 2011

330 Garry Street - The Garrick Centre

Henderson Story
Place: The Garrick Centre (former Garrick Cinema)
Address: 330 Garry Street (Map)
Cost: $900,000 (original), $1.5m renovation (2001-05)

The first Garrick Theatre opened on this site in 1921, flagship for the Winnipeg-based Garrick Cinema chain. The $150,000, 1500 seat theatre was built as a motion picture house but contained a number of features that allowed for it to be used as a live theatre venue. The lobby was marble floored with a fireplace, there were separate men's and women's sitting rooms and the hall contained a pipe organ.

Walker Theatre

By 1930 the Garrick was owned by Henry and Louise Morton. In the mid 1940s their company, Odeon Morton, purchased the nearby Walker Theatre and converted it into the single screen Odeon Cinema. By the 1950s they owned a collection of neighbourhood cinemas, such as the Park, Kings and Hyland.

In the 1950s and 60s television established itself as the top draw for entertaining the masses. Cinemas, for the most part, were aging structures that cost increasingly more to maintain and were located in city centres, not the expanding suburbs where moviegoers were now living.

Odeon Morton fared better than most chains thanks to innovative company manager Paul Morton, Henry's son. Their collection of suburban theatres were renovated and programming changed to appeal to families. As for what to do with their two largest assets, Morton looked south for inspiration.

November 11, 1967, Winnipeg Free Press

The U.S. cinema industry was finding that it could compete with television by building
modern, custom-built cinemas with state of the art sound and projection systems. In 1967 Morton announced that the old Garrick would make way for Winnipeg's first "new era" cinema, a 1,430 seat, $900,000 complex. (Wallace and Akins, contractors)

May 16, 1968, Winnipeg Free Press

The Garrick Cinema opened May 16, 1968 as Winnipeg's first multiplex, featuring two cinemas under one roof !

It boasted British-made convex screens, one was the largest in Western Canada. It housed the latest Italian projection equipment and a sound system imported from Japan. The seats were modern and plush with extra leg room between rows and featured a
bold purple, blue and orange colour scheme.

Outside, windows lined the main floor providing natural light to the lobby and concession area. Infrared heating lamps located under the overhang was to keep patrons warm while waiting in line, though they proved no match against Winnipeg's winter months.

When it opened, a reviewer wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press (March 17, 1968):

The dual cinema complex itself is a sumptuous and much-needed addition to downtown Winnipeg.... The new Garrick is a long way from the seedy popcorn palaces which predominated on the Winnipeg movie scene until the 1960s

December 24, 1974, Winnipeg Free Press

A local pop-history note for the cinema is the remarkable run of Phantom of the Paradise.

Despite disappearing from the rest of North America's cinemas soon after opening, it became a cult classic in Winnipeg and ran in the Garrick Two from Boxing Day 1974 to May 1, 1975, (it continued on for another month or so at other venues.)

December 20, 1979, Winnipeg Free Press

On December 20, 1979, Morton's latest innovation was unveiled - the four-plex ! The additional theatres were built in an extension to the north of the building where a parking lot and recently burned-out pool hall were located.

June 13, 1999, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1999 owners Cineplex Odeon announced that the small cinema no longer fit into their corporate plans and that the building would be sold. The following year the Marlborough Hotel, located just across the back lane, purchased it. The building was initially rechristened the Ramada Conference and Entertainment Centre and underwent a multi-year, $1.5m renovation.

The Garrick Centre, connected to the hotel via a walkway, has three auditoriums: the Garrick One 600-seat theatre; the Garrick Two 550 seat live music venue; and the Garrick Four 250 seat lecture hall. The former Garrick Three is home to the hotel's pool and water slide.

The Garrick, Back Lane


For photos of the old Garrick Cinemas
Old Garrick reborn as new concert hall Winnipeg Free Press
For more on Winnipeg's connection to Phantom and the two Phantompalooza reunions that have been held.


  1. The Garrick is sort of an underdog of a venue. It gets very little publicity, but it's not a bad place to see a show. I saw Robert Cray there this year, and a free concert featuring Keith & Renée and two other artists -- both of which I basically just stumbled upon.

  2. Fun fact: I was in high school when my teacher, Mr Warkentin, organized the first Phantompalooza, and my friends and I (students of his) helped him! We met Beef and it was amazing.

    PS nice meeting you today!

  3. Those are my photos of the Garrick on Film-Tech and I have hundreds more in better quality I've been planning to put online.

    It was a great movie theatre and was actually in pretty good shape in it's final days. I haven't come across another theatre that shares a similar ceiling with those Garrick 1 and 2 houses, but I'm glad the hotel kept the place mostly in tact.

  4. Are you paying over $5 per pack of cigs? I buy my cigs over at Duty Free Depot and I'm saving over 70%.