Ouimetoscope

1204 St. Catherine Street East,
Montreal, QC H2X

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In Montreal, Canada, on August 31st 1907, the world’s first and largest cinema theatre, the Ouimetoscope, was inaugurated. With 1,200 seats and, for the first time, air conditioning, it was built by Ernest Ouimet. He made his mark with his own policy “to provide the best moving pictures and illustrated song exhibition that can be provided”.

Ouimet would open his first movie house in 1906, at 1204 Ste-Catherine Street East. The abandoned cabaret, transformed into a cinema theatre with 500 chairs and a small screen in the back of the room, would be demolished a year later to make way for the luxurious Ouimetoscope. It was the world’s first theatre to open exclusively for movies.

“The Ouimetoscope was the father of all cinema cathedrals and lavish auditoriums that dot the continent today” Hye Bossin, the Toronto Film Chronicler wrote in the 1950’s. “It was the first to challenge the stage and offer movies in first class surroundings and comfort, at prices which enabled the average person to attend.”

Ouimet would obtain French movies from France and would translate the English ones he got from the United States. But after many years of success, the competition grew stronger and forced Ouimet to sell his theatre.

His movie palace, renamed Le Canadien was changed back to Ouimetoscope in 1980 to become a repertoire cinema venue, which lasted until 1992. (Twinned in 1980, third screen added 1989).

Presently, a retail shop occupies the former lobby with a small noodle shop on the corner. The auditorium is abandoned. A small commemorative plate is affixed on the outside wall. It is the only sign of this building’s important place in cinematic history.

(portions of this text from The Cinema Show, Monique Corbeil, Feb. 2002)

Contributed by Edward

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 11, 2005 at 7:19 am

I remember admiring the repertory programming of the Ouimetoscope from afar. I’m from Providence. The cinema often showed films that were hard to see elsewhere, although virtually everything non-French was dubbed in French. I believe I went here only once. Don’t remember what I saw. Here is a photo I took around 1989.
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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 29, 2005 at 9:38 am

Was this place ever known as the Cinema Festival? I have an ad from the 1960s for the Bertolucci film “Before the Revolution” playing at the “Cinema Festival” at 1206 St. Catherine East. 1206 & 1204 sound like they might be the same place. If not, what was the Cinema Festival?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 26, 2005 at 6:49 am

I found out that I saw these two movies there on August 23, 1983. One was La terrazza by Ettore Scola. It was dubbed in French, as was their preference here. The other was Carlos Saura’s Blood Wedding, which I believe is wordless and a ballet. Don’t any Montrealers remember or care about this respected place? Why am I, someone from Providence, Rhode Island, the only one to post?

socal09
socal09 on February 20, 2006 at 7:55 pm

A recent view of the Ouimetoscope (closed since early 90’s) and the commemorative plaque placed to the left of the entrance. <hr>
http://www.tighsolas.ca/page467.html
Newspaper article announcing opening of the first theatre in the world devoted exclusively to showing movies. Opened January 1, 1906 and replaced the following year by a larger theatre by the owner, Leo-Ernest Ouimet. <hr>
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rivest266
rivest266 on May 9, 2009 at 9:24 am

Lost Memory, All address has been re-numbered in Montreal in the 1920’s. Gerald, The Festival was in the same building, it later became Ouimetoscope 2 in later years. Most old nickelodeons in Quebec had the word scope at the end of the name.

rivest266
rivest266 on May 6, 2010 at 3:33 pm

There are plans to reopen this theatre as Avant-Garde http://www.youtube.com/user/AVANTGARDETHEATRE

spectrum
spectrum on May 11, 2010 at 7:21 am

Correct link to the 1908 photo:

View link

Accoring to an article in the Montreal Gazette this is not the original builkding – that was demolished and rebuilt some years ago – from the photos above, the current building appears to date from the early 1960s.

marinermc
marinermc on May 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I’m not so sure about this language: “In Montreal, Canada, on August 31st 1907, the world’s first and largest cinema theatre, the OUIMETOSCOPE, was inaugurated.”

The Electric Theatre in California (purpose-built) predates it by 5 years.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Nice 1908 photo.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Nice 1908 photo.

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