Opened as the Temple Theatre on December 22, 1919, the centre was originally designed as a vaudeville and silent movie house. Opening night premiered with five acts of vaudeville and the silent movie “Heart of the Hills” starring Mary Pickford. As one of the premiere theatres in Canada at the time, the Temple was a “first-run” film house attracting films from all the major distributors.
The local orchestra members started collecting promotional photos of the acts who performed at the theatre and glued them to the walls, the doors, and the sides of their sheet music cabinets. Many of these photos were salvaged during renovations of the orchestra pit and are on display throughout the lobbies today, along with photos of our more recent performers.
The Temple Theatre was renamed the Capitol in the early 1930s. For fifty-seven years, the theatre entertained moviegoers, and occasionally drew up her movie screen to be used again as a stage. As the years passed, attendance waned and in August 1986, the final movie “One Crazy Summer” was shown at the Capitol Theatre.
The vision of reopening the theatre as a performing arts facility was born and was met with fantastic support from local citizens. The Brantford Heritage Theatre Foundation spearheaded a highly successful fundraising campaign for the restoration and renovation of the Capitol Theatre. The first performance was Evita on October 2, 1986, tickets sold out quickly and two more performances were added. On December 11, 1989, the theatre was renamed the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, a tribute to the memory of the Sanderson family known for their generous support of local causes.
The original ceiling mural (shown above this article’s title) was reproduced aided by ghost images which remained and historical photographs. It is believed the mural is titled “The Three Muses” depicting Greek goddesses who preside over literature, sciences, and the arts. Canada’s premiere performer Anne Murray officially opened the newly restored theatre on September 8, 1990, with a gala presentation.
In June, 1991 the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts was proud to be awarded the prestigious “Theatre Preservation Award” presented by the League of Historic American Theatres. The Sanderson Centre joins a select few authentically restored historic facilities including Carnegie Hall in New York and the Elgin Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto.
Amid the grandeur of 1919, the theatre inspires all to treasure the past and cherish the present. The Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, together with the Sanderson Centre Foundation, continues to honour our heritage. We invite you to enjoy the archival collection of photographs and memorabilia showcased in the lower lobby.
As we approach our 100th anniversary there will be many celebrations and events during the year.