10337 82 Avenue (Whyte Avenue),
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One of two Edmonton theatres called the Princess (the other was on Jasper Avenue downtown), this venerable house in the old Strathcona district opened on March 8th, 1915 with 638 seats. The original owner, John Wellington McKernan, hired local architectural firm Wilson and Herald to design his small but lavish theatre, which featured both movies and, according to the advertisements of the time, “…a sprinkling of good vaudeville and musical entertainment” on what was reputed to be the largest stage in a cinema theatre in western Canada. The three story building was faced with white British Columbia marble.
McKernan became a victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic in 1918, but his family continued to operate the Princess until 1957. Vaudeville was abandoned at the theatre after 1918, and as the Strathcona neighborhood slowly slipped into decline, the Princess became a second run movie house, although it was the first Edmonton theatre to show a talking picture. It was the only theatre south of the river until 1939.
The new owners who bought the theatre in 1957 were unable to make a success, and the Princess soon closed. Its lobby was converted to retail use, and the auditorium stood empty for over two decades. In 1970, the theatre was purchased by Towne Cinema Ltd., and the renovated house was re-opened as the Klondike Cinema, but it continued to show second run movies and, when this failed to attract sufficient patrons, the theatre began to show adult films.
A community group involved in local renovation, the Old Strathcona Foundation, leased the Princess in 1978 and then purchased it in 1982. After many years of struggle, the restored theatre began to rebound, becoming Edmonton’s leading art house and an important attraction in the lively entertainment district which has developed in Old Strathcona. In 1999, a second screen was added with the construction of a 90 seat theatre in the basement. The Princess is now operated by Magic Lantern Theatres.
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