Capitol Theatre

391-395 Dundas Street,
Woodstock, ON N4S

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The Woodstock Opera House was located at 391-395 Dundas Street, where the Capitol is now.

Owned and operated by John Griffin’s Griffin Amusement Company of Toronto, it opened in 1908 as a 1,480-seat theatre that included a balcony and balcony boxes, and could mount stage as well as silent-movie shows. In the early 1900’s, it had the largest stage (23 x 60 feet) between Windsor and Hamilton. Although silent films were shown regularly, with a 6-piece orchestra in a pit before the stage to provide accompaniment, touring stage shows also made routine and very popular visits. Every summer a stock company would visit for several weeks, putting on a different play each night. The local YMCA also had a singing group, Y Beaver Minstrels, that performed there to packed houses. During the intervals, 11 and 12 year-old YMCA members would be drafted to walk up and down the aisles selling Crackerjacks, as a fund-raiser.

The same building had earlier housed the 1,075-seat Opera House, owned by a local businessman, Thomas Carter, and built in 1893.

In 1927, Famous Players Ltd. bought the Woodstock Opera House, renamed it the Capitol Theatre and soon began showing the first talkies. In 1940, The Capitol Theatre was sold to another local businessman, Tom Naylor, who made extensive upgrades, including adding an up-to-date sound system and fireproofing the projection booth: the nitrate-based film then used was very flammable, unlike the safety film in use today. However, live stage performances were still popular and vaudeville was a part of every Saturday evening show until 1956.

The last change came in 1975, when the balcony was converted into a second and separate theatre, Capitol 2. The Capitol closed in 1999, and was demolished in 2010.

Contributed by Brian Morton

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 6, 2008 at 7:19 am

Brian Morton and everyone else – live theater sounds great, but it’s a shame for a theater to not be used in between productions. Special movies that wouldn’t be shown at a multiplex could be the answer. There are cinemas around that are fairly successful showing special films in between live productions. These theaters need to be found and then copied.

Does the theater have landmark status? Who owns the building?

“A dark theater is terible thing to waste, any night of the week!”

mortonbg
mortonbg on March 6, 2008 at 10:19 am

I have no idea alas who owns the building. I live in Hamilton, ONT which is about 90 minutes away. I would see this building every time I drove up to Owen Sound or Blyth… So I was looking for it in the Cinema Treasures listings… and when I didn’t find it I added the info myself. There have been a number of historic theatre’s knocked down in Ontario this past five years (Uptown in Toronto, Lyric in Kitchener, Grand Opera Houses in Barrie and St Catherines, Capitol in and Century in London)….

There are also many under real threat – Century in Hamilton, Heritage in Brampton and this one.. So I was hoping that someone might read this and start to care…

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 23, 2009 at 10:33 am

This is a 2009 photo of the Capitol.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on November 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Its wild to see that the building is still there after being closed for some time.That the marquee is still there is amazing.Must be in a bad part of town.

sclement
sclement on January 12, 2010 at 6:23 am

Does anyone know if the Capitol Theatre has to be redone as a theatre? Could some other form of entertainment go there? This building has been a part of woodstock way too long to be demolished! I have some ideas for the building IF it can be changed from a theatre. It may be the only way to keep this building standing is to make it something else but keep all historical value. lots of renovations need to be done! There is just so much potential for this building that i would hate to loose forever!
s clement, woodstock ontario

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm

The Capitol Theatre had a manager who like most men in those days promoted movies.It is lost on Managers today. Mr. Gerry T. Wormald promoted a all out street ballyhoo for “CUSTER OF THE WEST”. Feb 10 1969.

Katydid
Katydid on June 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Capitol Theater to be Demolished
Historical building’s roof collapsed

The City of Woodstock has issued a demolition order to the owners of the Capitol Theatre.

The numbered Ontario corporation1723719 was informed in a letter dated June 24 that they had been ordered to provide the city with a demolition work plan by noon on Monday June 28.

According to the city the building has experienced a “major roof collapse in the middle of the building” and “the last exterior walls remain standing and unstable.”

The Capitol Theatre, formerly known as the Woodstock Opera House, was built in 1893.

In 1927 Famous Players bought what was then known as the Woodstock Opera House and renamed it the Capitol Theatre and began shown the first talkies.

It closed in 1999.

socal09
socal09 on December 15, 2010 at 7:02 pm

The Capitol is no more:
View link

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on December 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Staus should now be Closed/Demolished.

LouRugani
LouRugani on May 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

(November 8, 2010)

WOODSTOCK —As the Capitol Theatre is slowly being demolished, it can’t help but bring back a flood of memories for a former projectionist who once worked there.

“The curtain has finally fallen,” commented 94-year-old Woodstock resident John Faulkner, who worked at the theatre as both a projectionist and maintenance man.

Faulkner remembers falling in love with the theatre as a child, going to the movies at the Capitol Theatre when it was still known as the Griffith Opera House.

“There were three (levels of ) box seats on either side of the stage and a orchestra pit in front of the stage.” he said. “The musicians played music to the mood of the film show.”

The lower floor had two aisles and a standing rail stretched across the back as theatergoers entered the auditorium; a horseshoe shaped railing, painted brilliant red, gold and green, curved around the upper balconies.

“It did look so grand,” he recalls.

Faulkner said he remembers band concerts and vaudeville acts at the theatre, and has fond memories of a Christmas party for children held at the Capitol by local druggist Frank Hyde.

“In 1927, sound arrived, now began what has been termed at the movies as the golden age,” he said.

“I ran whatever came along, but as far as my favourite movies, they were Showboat, The Greatest Show on Earth, Dr. Zhivago, Sound of Music and a series of Broadway melodies.”

Faulkner said his ultimate all-time favourite movie was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

At the time he became a projectionist, there were at two theatres in Woodstock, the Capitol and the Princess Theatre, which once stood on the current location of the RecordWorks, and where Faulkner received his projectionist apprentice licence in 1935.

Faulkner said he decided on his career choice because, during the Great Depression, “they were the only guys who had work.”

“People always had a dime to go to a show to break the monotony of the depression days,” he said.

Soon after, Faulkner joined the war effort as a leading aircraftsman with the Royal Canadian Air Force, studying Radar and advanced use of frequencies.

As a member of the auxiliary services, Faulkner said he remembers running the matinee and evening shows on a landing ship tank shortly before the troops landed in Normandy.

“While overseas, I heard of the changes at the Capitol Theatre. It was that the upper balcony was in danger of collapsing and the theatre inspection branch said it must be replaced by cement floors in both upper and lower areas,” he said. “This was done and the curved balcony and boxes were lost, replaced by a straight balcony railing that crossed the theatre.”

After returning from the war, he worked as a projectionist at the Princess Theatre and still has in his possession the yellowed typed notice he received when they closed the theatre down just days before he married his wife, Kathleen Stone, in 1946.

Faulkner later found work at several cinemas across the region, but when Sunday movies became vogue at the Capitol Theatre, he was recruited to fill in so the projectionist could have the day off .

After the war, the Capitol was purchased by Thomas Naylor, who “twinned” the theatre by building a new upper stage and a second projection booth and candy bar below the stage.

More modern memories include some antics by local youth during a filming of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“We had an unruly crowd — they got so rowdy and were jumping from seat to seat,” he said. “They were jumping up and down and flicking their Bics.”

Despite its ups and downs, Faulkner worked long past the normal age of retirement.

“I enjoyed this work and retired at 75,” he said.

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