Currently in its second month of principal photography, my latest documentary featuring the Monarch Theatre in Medicine Hat, Alberta has provided some really memorable experiences so far. With hours of interviews shot and a deep dive into every space, cubby, and rafter of this old theatre, I'm already certain that I've uncovered a few untold gems in the story of this cinema that have never been formally documented or contextualized before.
In addition to this being a story about one of the oldest surviving cinemas in all of Canada, what's been particularly interesting about the Monarch is how little material actually exists about it. Photographs, artifacts, records, etc. are few and far between so connecting the dots to go beyond the obvious has been a really involved, but fascinating undertaking.
While I'm saving a lot of the surprises for the finished documentary, I wanted to share a few of the production highlights up to this point:
- Interviews are still ongoing, but a few early highlights have come from acquiring stories from both a 101 year old with a unique connection to the theatre and a 94 year old who used to work at the Monarch as a teenager.
- In addition to the obvious task of documenting the Monarch, the cinematic side of the production has involved playing with various lighting rigs, gimbals, cameras, props, and even painting with projections throughout the cinema.
- As a result I'm certain I've now filmed and photographed more details inside the Monarch Theatre than anyone else in its 110+ year history.
- I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how helpful the social media response has been, in addition to features in the local news, Toronto Star, etc. in helping to connect me with a wide array of people with memories about cinemas in this area.
- Numerous highlights have also come from uncovering clues through old paperwork, basement finds, and mapping out the history of the theatre. What's been so thrilling about this is that I know just the exploratory aspect of this documentary will be compelling to a lot of people who have likely never even heard of this place.
- Speaking to former employees has made me wish I'd have worked at a movie theatre as a teenager too lol.
- And finally, one of the absolute coolest things about shooting this documentary has been the unfettered access I've been given to the Monarch. While it was always going to feature this space, the ability to arrange and film every interview within the cinema, while also coordinating multiple ancillary shoots, has been practically ideal.
If you have any information or memories to share about the Monarch Theatre (or any of the former cinemas in the Medicine Hat area) please contact me via my business site here.