Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts

364 Smith Street,
Winnipeg, MB R3B 2H2

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The 2,000-seat Walker Theatre opened in 1907 and was named for its owner, Corliss Powers Walker, who brought in live theater, vaudeville, concerts, and silent films. The theater switched to a movies-only format in 1945 and remained in operation until 1990.

In 1991, it reopened as a performing arts center and is an official Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site.

After years of struggling, Burton Cummings, the lead singer of the rock group Guess Who, has become the theater’s new benefactor. Cummings will begin donating a portion of the proceeds of his concerts at the Walker in order to pay down the theater’s $1.8 million debt and fund future renovations.

In exchange for his aid, the theater will be renamed the Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts after the singer who attended the former movie house as a child. The board hopes Cummings' name will help bring in additional grants and donations.

Contributed by Chad Irish, Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

PGlenat
PGlenat on January 8, 2005 at 11:31 pm

I had the opportunity to attend a 1925 silent movie last night at the Walker aka Burton Cummings theater. It was the reconstructed ‘Phantom of the Opera’ with Lon Chaney Sr and was part of a two night performance. The 2nd night the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is being offered. Both films were presented with musical score played by live full symphony orchestra. According to the preamble before the movie, the score was assembled from the original film distribution notes supplied with notations as to what music was to be played for each scene and action. The presentation went off flawlessly with perfect synchronization of music and action cues.
It was a perfect opportunity to see classic movies played in a house that once offered such fare every day. I also wanted to see how the restored theater looks. It appears that monies spent so far have gone into restoring the auditorium only. The original ceiling has been revealed, covered up and lowered years ago when it was operated by Odeon. The 2nd balcony has also been rebuilt. New seats have been
installed on the main floor. Although sight lines are excellent in the first balcony (where I was seated), new seating with additional
leg room is desperately needed there. Much of the original decoration has been restored, but there are still traces of the Odeon ‘remuddling’ still evident with 1950’s era light fixtures and traces of the all over teal blue color scheme that the theater had been liberally covered in. Odeon’s solution was to paint every available surface in the same color thereby wiping out any detail. The plaster rosettes contained in the proscenium arch have been restored and highlighted as well as replacing the light fixtures in them and lighting them for the first time in 50 years. There are still a few holes in the ceiling from recessed light fixtures to be plastered over, but at least in the cover up job done, the original light fixtures were left in place and are now in operation.
Here and there in the lobbies and stairwells paint scrapings have been done to reveal original color schemes. This will eventually be restored to the original scheme.
The theater still has a long way to go before it is returned to it’s original appearance. Outside of the auditorium, nothing has been done to alter the marquee, entrance, ticket area or main foyer. It still looks the same as it did in the Odeon years, perhaps a little the worse for wear now. Also, the stage house, while it might have been adequate for it’s original purpose, is not huge by today’s standards and that will limit the type of offerings that can be presented. I might add, however, that the acoustics were excellent judging from last night’s performance. I heard no complaints from anyone who attended.
The Walker was renamed for Burton Cummings (of Guess Who rock fame) in return for donating portions of performance fees and doing promotional work for the theater. Since that announcement, approximately two years ago, little if anything has been done from all outward appearances.

seauld
seauld on January 20, 2006 at 5:35 pm

The only show I have ever seen in the Walker/BC theatre was a live performance, and I was seated in the second-last row of the top balcony, and was still impressed by the view. Given, the stage was a speck, but the fact that I had clear sightlines despite the altitude and number of people in front of me was impressive. Afraid of heights beware though, that top balcony is a little narrow and steep. The pew-style wooden seating is good though, much easier to get through crowded rows when so high up.

burningdust
burningdust on February 4, 2006 at 4:52 pm

The Walker is a true gem, every performer who visits the theatre often comments on the beautiful venue. I have seen a few live shows from the first balcony and floor and was quite impressed. Despite the great size and architectural beauty of the venue there are still those who complain about the comfort of the seating. Of course when we have modern Cineplex buildings like Silver City it’s expected the seats obviously don’t compare to plush high back ergonomic seats. Quite an unfair comparison.
The walker and its seats are all part of the experience, something we are lucky to have and something I appreciate.

Winnigirl: I have been told the wooden pews on the last balcony are referred to as “the gods”.

Sam_e: As far as outward appearances I agree, I have not seen any repairs / restoration to any part of the building in the last 3 years.. Another disappointment. There are some critical things that should be addressed in order for the building to remain, as well some not so critical, like the exterior of the building. It would be nice to see the paint job restored; I saw some pictures from back in the day shortly after it had been painted by Odeon and it looked really sharp. Of course before any of that could happen the brickwork / windows should be repaired. And as you can imagine this would be a very large expense for a more or less “cosmetic” upgrade.
Though it would help cut down operating costs.
(Some of the windows can’t even close properly or are completely broken) :(

burningdust
burningdust on March 8, 2006 at 6:19 pm

Hello all!
This year is proving to be a busy year for the Walker!
When you have a moment go to ticketmaster online and check out the great line-up of shows taking place at the theatre.
With such a great Variety of performances there’s something for everyone!

Of course the local promotions people find no challenge at all in filling the theatre so good luck at the box office. With some of the big names playing on stage the Walker will see crowds comparable to those back in the Walker/Odeon glory days.
cheers!

burningdust
burningdust on March 21, 2006 at 8:13 pm

Yet Another Reminder:
This Saturday Morning Tickets go on sale for “The Strokes”!

burningdust
burningdust on February 18, 2007 at 11:37 am

Happy 100th to the WALKER!

Cheers to all who attended the celebrations last evening at the Walker! A good time was had by all!

Better yet the funds raised from the show in addition to selling the parking lot made enough to pay of the theatres debt!

This is VERY good news for the Walker (burton cummings CPA)

KenS
KenS on February 19, 2007 at 8:24 pm

I too was at the Walker Theatre 100th, and was very surprised at the production, i find the only thing missing, that i would have done was a short show of images from records or back room shots of any of the dressing rooms, basements, and just some of the stuff that people wouldn’t normally see, my only problem that night and depending on where one was sitting was when during intermission, i went to the washroom and found that the wait for the lower floor would have out lasted me, so i thought, maybe the upstairs are less crowded, sure enough they were and i got in with out much wait, the only blip on this was that no one told me that one had to have his ticket to return to my seat on the lower floor, But that was the only problem that night, i felt bad for anyone that didn’t get a chance to wander about the place, And for having provide some back ground photos of the place, I’m sure that they could have done a bit of a photo show on the work that was done on it as well as some behind the backstage and dressing room shots as well as places most people don’t get to see. I for one would be happy to offer my services as a photographer to cover the place such as i have on my other three theatres, of course minus any costs such as film. Other than that it was a good time and im glad i went, had great seats third row from the stage on the left of the stage, a little cramp, would have hated to been a large person trying to sit there.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 29, 2008 at 7:44 pm

There is an interior photo on this page:
http://tinyurl.com/5vgyl6

PGlenat
PGlenat on June 5, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Howard Colton Stone is recorded as being an architect with offices in Montreal. He was working in that city during the period between 1900 and 1924 which fits as far as construction of the Walker theatre (1906/07) is concerned. Unfortunately the Montreal site only lists his accomplishments in that city and none elsewhere. The University of Manitoba School of Architecture shows Howard C Stone as the architect of record for the Walker theatre and I believe he should be listed as such at the top of this page.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Nice photos and vertical.

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