Empire Theatres Victoria

805 Yates Street,
Victoria, BC V8W 1M1

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Capitol #2 auditorium, wide shot

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the Capitol Theatre in 1925. It was owned by Famous Players with seating listed at 1,212 when it opened. Cineplex operated the theatre for a short time in 2005 and it has been operated by Empire Theatre since then.

Current seating is listed at 1,685 with the smallest auditorium seating 127 and the largest 544. It has been expanded from the original single screen to six screens featuring first run attractions. It was closed on October 17, 2013.

Any further information or corrections on this theatre would be appreciated.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte on April 6, 2014 at 3:05 am

Thanks Herman and Tim for your comments. Gallery is now complete! Please comment, leave questions etc.

This was a LOT of work to put each image up one at a time, and there were also a few areas I didn’t cover like the roof, bathrooms etc. I also removed a few of my original set of photos so they wouldn’t duplicate. (Please also note Hailee’s excellent set of photos for when she used to manage there.) One area I WISH I covered was the maze-like, concrete exits from each auditorium. You would exit into a cold, quiet, sterile set of staircases leading you to a gigantic concrete street level exit on both Yates and View street sides. People usually never exited this way and rather chose to head back down the circular ramp to the exit doors, which always gave you a nice view of downtown as you left.

And although I agree with Herman on the uniqueness, in many ways this place shares a lot of similarities with Capitol 6 Vancouver. Same types of seats, carpeting and screen sizes. Cinema #2 here had about the same screen size as the behemoth Cinema One in Vancouver, although with half the seats (1,031 in Vancouver vs. 534 in Victoria). Many of the later Famous Players builds DID go to a standard just like Cineplex Odeon eventually did as well, just in a different way.

But anyway. Going through these photos reminded me of the power of this place; my childhood cinema which I still miss to this day. This was a place where I felt comfortable, safe and very welcomed to watch a movie in. I fell in love with movies here as well as the Odeon (which is still going strong as I have said many times before).

Yes, the theater never upgraded to stadium seating but it WAS on the cutting edge of technology. It was the first Victoria theater to have all Dolby Stereo later in the 80s (many of the screens were mono to start). It ran 70mm in the late 80s and early 90s. The first DTS installation was here. In fact, digital sound got a LOT of play here early on; screen #2 was Dolby when it opened in 1981, upgraded to SR in the late decade when 70mm played there, DTS was installed in the summer of 1994, then Dolby Digital a year later, then SDDS from about 1996 to early 1998. It was in this period of time that screen #2 had sound quality among the very finest out of any cinema I have ever been to in my life, even to this day out of attending hundreds of cinemas all over North America. The theater switched from SDDS back to Dolby Digital in early 1998 or so, mid-way through the six month engagement of TITANIC. Over the years, sadly, the sound quality didn’t live up to its heyday in the 90s, and over the years drivers blew and the volume had to go down, but even towards closing still sounded pretty good in comparison to new theaters.

Just to add again to the whole sight-line thing on Cinema #2; the theater had a row of only two seats on the left hand side of the auditorium on the aisle (again, I should have taken a photo of these heavenly seats but never did). As the room sat about 530+ people you would never, ever have anyone try to sit next to you, and when I did take a date to a movie here they were the perfect date seats. You could enter or exit from either side too.

I would ALWAYS watch a movie in these seats in #2. Perfect view of the huge screen, easy to duck in and out for a bathroom break or to see a manager or staff, and even if someone sat in front of you your view would not be compromised. It also sat right next to a power outlet so if I needed to charge my cell phone for whatever reason, I’d just plug it in, turn it to silent and it would sit right next to me for the duration of the movie. Everybody wins.

Thinking more about what Tim said months ago, I’d love for a new chain or company to come in and salvage it. Yes, the numbers were bad but with a little TLC it could be prosperous again. Just a simple reposition of the seats would take care of the sight line issue. The building just sits there and I know a lot of the equipment is still in there. Maybe one day…

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte on June 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Added nearly 40 photos to the gallery, including scans of the 1981 grand opening and construction, along with an old photo of the original Capitol.

Consider the Capitol 6 gallery complete! Enjoy.

telliott on June 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Thanks Jason! One of the most unique and modern movie theatres I have seen anywhere. Can’t believe it’s gone. Interesting that here and in Vancouver they chose to demolish and rebuild both Capitols rather than divide up in to multiple cinemas like they did in so many other cities. I’m glad they didn’t. This one is stunning.

DavidDymond on June 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Famous Players Canadian Corporation went all out in the construction of this CAPITOL Theatre!! The first manager was veteran showman Jack McRae — whose family owned lots of property in the Victoria area.

telliott on November 24, 2014 at 12:38 am

On another topic Jason, do you think there will ever be a new multiplex for the north shore in Vancouver. They seem to be the only area of a major city without a modern stadium seating, wall to wall screen multiplex. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened years ago.

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte on November 24, 2014 at 2:52 am

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Cineplex go into the mall area in West Van at some point. I know a theater used to be there but they could do really well with a new build.

That said the Cineplex Odeon Park & Tilford IS all digital, so who knows for the time being.

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte on November 24, 2014 at 2:56 am

Meanwhile Capitol 6 is just sitting there, with the few tenants on the lower floor (the film fest office and the rent-to-own store) still open as of now.

From what I know everything except the digital projectors and some of the concession equipment is still in the building. Even the posters from the last few movies that played there are still sitting in the lower lobby!

telliott on November 24, 2014 at 5:31 am

Too bad eh. Think of all the movies they could have shown by now. Our own Westwood here in TO sat empty from 1998 until last year when they finally tore it down. Rainbow could have shown movies there all these years. Going back to Vancouver, I remember when West Van had the Odeon and Park Royal and North Van had none after the Odeon Totem closed down. Now it’s been North Van that’s had the movie theatres all these years. I just think it’s odd that Cineplex or Landmark haven’t replaced either one with a multiplex and VIP would certainly fit in with the moneyed population of that area.

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte on November 25, 2014 at 5:45 am

The closing of the Capitol has still left a big hole in my heart, and it saddens me every time I walk by it. Ever since it closed it has been really tough to get particular movies to show here now, and many smaller releases now bypass our city because of it.

As for West Van area, they could do with a 10-12 screen Cineplex right in the mall with a few VIP theaters no problem. Easy to get to by transit as well. That would likely close both North Van locations, however.

It’s also really interesting to think that the two locations in North Vancouver are both total 80’s design cinemas (a Drabinsky era Cineplex Odeon AND a late 80’s Famous Players “Bijou”, “Rialto”, “Avalon”), largely unchanged since they opened. Very few of either type of cinema even exist anymore.

telliott on November 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm

And that’s why it’s weird that they have not replaced either of these 80s cinemas with something more modern. And doesn’t seem to be any plans in sight either, haven’t seen any announcements from Cineplex or Landmark. It really IS too bad there isn’t more competition in Canada anymore.

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