Century Theatre

12 Mary Street,
Hamilton, ON L8

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Showing 1 - 25 of 96 comments

BrockKing13 on July 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

The Century was one of my favorite old theatres. Originally opened in the 1880’s as the Lyric Opera House, it entertained many of the most famous stars of the day. I worked there as an usher in 1974 and again as manager a few years later. I think I explored every nook and cranie of the old girl back in those days. Most of her history was hidden backstage and above the false ceiling in the front of the building. Over that false front ceiling was hidden the balcony and original projection room with the silent film projectors still in place.

bigal on June 2, 2012 at 7:39 am

I have organized a “get-together” of former employees of the Century Theatre to be held Friday,June8th..if you are interested in attending please contact me at …..come share your memories.

TivFan on May 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

For a great 1940’s photo of the Century exterior, see John Sebert’s “Glamorous Ghosts” at: www.hamiltonmagazine.com/sitepages/?aid. I’d hadn’t seen this photo before. During the demolition, I got one of the wall anchors that the chain, that supported the horizontal canopy, was attached to. I saw “Mary Poppins” at the Century. First-run in l964. I remember there being a balcony, then and the line-up to get in went around the block. “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was a long, long time ago…
It was a great theater to see a movie: big auditorium, big screen. “The Sound of Music” played for over a year (didn’t see it then). Later I saw “Yentl”, “The Exorcist”, “Rocky”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”(pre-cult) and “Gone With the Wind” (for the first time, one of ’M-G-M’s Fabulous Four'). It was pathetic to see them tear this place down. I took a lot of pictures and video every day. And I got a lot of bricks and concrete pieces.

SilentToronto on July 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I found a Century Theatre ticket stub for a reserved-seating screening of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Check it out at SilentToronto.com!

schmadrian on February 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm

There is a long-standing brick company on Lawrence Road, at the base of the Niagara Escarpment, just west of Ottawa Street. It seems entirely likely that what you found might well have originated here.

scarf on February 4, 2010 at 11:22 am

I was at the demolition site last week and was able to pick up a couple of bricks. They both had the word HAMILTON stamped on them. Is it safe to assume these came from a local brick manufacturer from the period?

schmadrian on February 1, 2010 at 5:21 pm

As a result of the interest and the momentum generated in the Facebook page group, I’ve set up a blog as a means to an end; setting up an actual ‘memorial’ site for The Century.

That blog can be found here: [url]http://thecenturytheatre.blogspot.com/[/url]

All interested parties are invited to contribute.

hamiltonmark on January 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Was able to spend the mornings this week to watch the destruction of the Century. Spent time with Mark M. and I believe Rich and Rob who was a usher there in it’s last days as a movie theatre. Will post on facebook the pictures I took. Was also able to get one of the Hamilton red bricks from the outside walls and a white brick fron the original back wall of the stage area.

telliott on January 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

What a shame!!!!!

mortonbg on January 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Chuck there are almost 400 images of the demolition on the facebook page.. The most recent were taken today

View link

schmadrian on January 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

View link

Tons of stuff there. Let me know if you need any further input.

mortonbg on January 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

Alas, as of today the Lyric / Century is completely gone…

RIP old girl…

schmadrian on January 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thanks so much to RJB and Brian. Much appreciated at this time of loss.

lhl12 on January 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Hi schmadrian,

In the early 1920s Rapp & Rapp were brought in to remodel the interior entirely. In about 1924 work began by ripping out the balcony and box seats. Then, for reasons I have yet to determine, work stopped, Keith vaudeville moved to the Tivoli, and the Lyric sat decimated and unusable for several years. In 1930 an architect named W Bruce Riddell drew up plans to convert the upper-story offices to apartments and club rooms, and to build a small box inside what was once the orchestra level, which was to be used as a new cinema. The stage, unusable without the balcony, was sealed off with a brick wall. That’s why the seating capacity was reduced to less than half of what it originally was. (Much of this info comes from Brian Morton.)

By the way, are TheSaltMan and Matt Meier reading this? If so, could you write to me? Thanks so much!


mortonbg on January 17, 2010 at 8:34 am


All of this stuff is in the Ontario archives in the RG11 – RG10 files.

Seating capacity when it opened was 2000 seats IN ALL ADVERTISING.. (This does not mean that there were really 2000 seats – Just that the management wanted every one to know that the Lyric was the biggest new theatre in town.)

In the 1921 Gus Hill Moving Picture Directory the Lyric Theatre is listed as having 1820 seats (Which was likely the real figure all a long). Both the Loews (1917) and the Pantages (1920) had opened by then, and they had given up on being the biggest in town.

According to the RG 11 files at the ONT archives:

Nov 8/1938 Construction report – Lyric Theatre – Lic: Ross T Stewart. 722 seats (no balcony) (This is the seating capacity since the theatre reopened in 1930 I believe).

June 25/1940 – Seating plan Century Theatre – 866 seats – Kaplan and Sprachman

March 9/1967 – Century Theatre reseating – 705 seats – Canadian seating company.

The final seating count was its capacity till Famous Players clsoed it in Sept 1989.

Demolition has started BTW…. Sad to lose the old girl.

schmadrian on January 17, 2010 at 8:17 am

Can anyone confirm the various seating capacity numbers? How did it drop from 2000 upon the Lyric opening to 860…or 705…upon the Century closing?

Did this happen during the renovations in ‘22? In the shift in use in 1940? In the '67 rejigging?

I’m looking for non-speculative material here, such as plans, or otherwise certified seat counts.

hamiltonmark on January 16, 2010 at 6:49 am

Went down to have a last look at the Century Friday. I parked off King William Street which is behind/next to the Century. It then dawned on me that I was parking where the Palace auditorium use to stand. A short distance down the street is where the Capital auditorium use to stand as well. Add another parking lot to that area.

hamiltonmark on January 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Brian. You are right. There was only one balcony. Sorry about that. My parents who came from England made Hamilton their home in 1950 remember all the theatres and buildings Hamilton once had and neglected to save and or protect. From the picture with the ( one ) balcony it’s a shame that it ended up as as it did when it ended its life as a theatre.

mortonbg on January 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm


It was I who talked to Paul Wilson Monday for today’s article eulogizing the theatre. The image which I directed them to from the January 3rd issue of the SPECTATOR clearly shows the interior of the Lyric Theatre with ONE balcony.

I think many Hamiltonians are only now waking up to the history that this building represents… Sadly none of it will prevent the destruction which will begin early next week.

BTW we have started a facebook group to remember the grand old girl… How join us!

View link

hamiltonmark on January 13, 2010 at 10:03 am

There is a great artical in the Hamilton Spectator January 13 paper about the Lyric/Century. There is even a picture of the auditorium in 1914 with two balconies. What a differance in 96 years.

mortonbg on January 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

City issues order to demolish Century Theatre

Owner says timeline too tight to save facade
January 11, 2010
Nicole O’Reilly
The Hamilton Spectator
The city’s chief building official has issued an order requiring the owners of the Century Theatre to demolish every part of the historic building.

The order came late this afternoon, following John Spolnik’s examination of an engineering report funded by the building’s owner.

Under the name Lyric Century Apartments Inc., Zoran Cocov will have to mobilize a demolition crew immediately. Work is expected to begin as early as Tuesday.

Because of the building’s stability issues, it will likely take weeks to demolish, said Spolnik, who is also director of building services for the city.

He recommends crews work from the north end of the building and use “cherry picking equipment” to pull the building apart piece by piece.

Cocov had hoped to save the facade of the building, which was deemed heritage, for his pending 59-unit condominium development at the Mary Street site.

But the engineering report found that stabilizing the facade would take more time than the city is allowing.

Many Hamiltonians, including Councillor Bob Bratina, members of the arts community and downtown property owners have accused the city of being lax on property standards and have accused Cocov of “demolition by neglect.”

But Cocov says there is more to the story.

From the outside it may look like nothing has happened since he purchased the building 10 years ago, he said.

But Cocov contends that he has been working to secure funding, multiple permits and to keep up with changing regulations.

hamiltonmark on January 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Check out the CHCH news on Monday, They show a shot of the Century auditorium with three abstact murals on one of the walls.
On another topic, I was looking at a web site for Ontario Archives which shows the Tivoli auditorium in 1944 with four different light fixtures then the four chandaliers that are there now. Could these be the ones that were removed from the Century during the renovations.
Probably not, but it would be interesting if they were.

bigal on January 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I’m still trying to locate former employees of the Century Theatre….I’ve been trying to contact SKYE but the email shown on her entry above is invalid….I was an usher at the Century during the “Roadshow” era…..sorry to hear demolition is emminent…..please contact me at if you are also a former employee….would like to organize a reunion…….Alan Burt,Vancouver.BC

mortonbg on January 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Century poised to fall
One last engineering report could save the day, but not likely

The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 9, 2010)

Barring a last-minute miracle, the entire Century Theatre will come down as early as Monday, the city’s chief building official says.

John Spolnik, who is also director of building services for the city, said he spoke with the engineer hired by the historic buildings' owner after the engineer’s inspection yesterday.

To save the facade, which was the owners' development plan, would require an extensive design and stabilization process, he said. This would take too much time — time the city does not have because of safety concerns.

The city ordered owner Zoran Cocov, of Lyric Century Apartments, to have an engineer with heritage background inspect the site immediately, following an independent engineering report that led the city to deem the property unsafe on Thursday.

Spolnik said he won’t officially order the building be torn down until the new engineer’s report is on his desk Monday.

But he said from what he’s been told, he can’t foresee any reason to change his mind.

The entire front section of the roof is collapsed from the facade to almost 40 feet back, he said.

Like dominos, the fifth, fourth, third and second floors are collapsed.

There is no lateral support for the building, Spolnik said. Stability will only deteriorate with snow and winds.

The first the city heard of the roof being collapsed was Thursday, he said.

However, Cocov said the roof was partially collapsed when Cocov and his business partner purchased the building nearly 10 years ago. Since then there has been more deterioration.

“It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen,” he said. In hindsight, there are things we could have done better, he added.

He requested the heritage designation in 2000 and it was approved in 2001. It was later amended to protect only the facade.

If the city orders the building demolished, Cocov said the planned 59-unit condominium will mimic the building’s architecture.

Certain elements will be saved, including the original sign.

Hamilton Fringe Festival president Brian Morton called the events “classic demolition by neglect.”

When the theatre opened in 1913 and was still called the Lyric, it saw all the big acts, including the Marx Brothers, he said. The stage was blocked with bricks and re-opened for cinema in the 1930s.

It closed 20 years ago and has sat empty since.

Hamilton once had the most theatres per capita in the country, Morton said. It will be a shame to see another one bite the dust.