Uptown Theatre

50 Street,
Sylvan Lake, AB T4S

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The Uptown Theatre opened in 1933 in the summer resort town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada. Located on Main Street (50 Street), the first feature was "The Torch Singer." The Uptown Theatre and the adjacent Coffee Shop were operated by E.C (Ted) Watkiss and his wife Dorothy.

Two wonderful grey wrinkle finish arc lamp projectors with red bakelite control knobs and chrome fittings were manufactured by Century with sound reinforcement by Altec Lansing. The theatre was decorated inside a plain finish with semicircular plaster features on the side walls each containing chrome sconce type uplighting fixtures.

The exterior was a brilliant blue with pink highlights and white window trim. and the facade and a low profile marquee wasequipped with modest but handsome neon signage which vividly stood out at night on a small town Main Street. The Watkiss family lived in an apartment above the business until some time following the war. During the summer months inclement weather would bring an announcement over the large rooftop loudspeaker; "There will be a matinee at 2 o'clock,"an announcement heard for miles around and across the lake if the wind was right. Cottagers with cottage- bound children and campers would drive downtown and drop off the kids for the picture show and then repair to the cabin to enjoy an afternoon of peace and quiet. Two evening shows were run six days a week and on Sundays no movies were shown in Alberta.

The Watkiss family ran the Uptown Theatre and Coffee Shop until 1969 and it was sold to Mrs. Braithwaite who operated the business until it closed in the mid-1970’s, when movie attendance began a precipitous drop. The building was eventually torn down for new main street development. The popcorn machine is in the collection of the Red Deer Museum in Red Deer, Alberta.

Contributed by Ted Cutlan / Dean Watkiss

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Thanks Ted and Dean,A real nice story.

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