Sep 19, 2012

Monarch Theatre in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Construction on the Monarch Theatre in downtown Medicine Hat, Alberta began in 1910. On December 21, 1911 the theatre had it's grand opening, and has since been recognized as one of the first theatres in Canada to be constructed specifically for showing films. When it opened it had 560 seats and space for a four piece orchestra.

Originally the Monarch Theatre looked dramatically different than it does today. In the 1910s it featured an arched entry way with an exterior ticket booth, and it was later updated to the current art deco style in the 1930s. 

Ghosting image of my 2012 shot merged with an archival one from 1948.

Over the last few years the Monarch Theatre has been in flux. It closed in 2007, was purchased by the city in 2008, and reopened in 2009. I wrote a bit about the project at the time. The theatre is facing another challenge now with it being required to upgrade to a digital projection system and has launched the Digital or Die campaign to raise the $100,000 required to keep the movie theatre operating.

My honest opinion on this local landmark is that it still has a tremendous amount of potential to be a real attraction. It's a bit rough around the edges, but I think that's some of its charm. On the downside the building has lost its iconic neon marquee, the facade is cracking, and while the interior is in nice shape, the screen and audio system are basic. All and all, the reason you go to the Monarch in the first place is for the character.

Check out my images of the Monarch's lobby and cinema here.

I still love going to shows here because of the atmosphere it provides. A part of me would like to see a commitment from the city to refurbish the area by making the street a walking plaza. It would give the Monarch more presence, and I think it would be cool to create more of an entertainment district with the Esplanade so close by.  

The Monarch Theatre remains a distinctive, and now century old gem within the downtown core. It's already been saved from closure once, and I'm inclined to believe there's still more work to be done to make it truly thrive. I can only hope that others still see the value in preserving and utilizing this understated cinema. 

Monarch Theatre ca. 1948

Monarch Theatre ca. 1940s

Monarch Theatre ca. 1913

Monarch Theatre ca. 1948

Check out my images of the Monarch's basement here.


CanadaBadlands said...

Delighted to find this very cool Medicine Hat, etc blog. We've linked to this post from a Monarch Theatre post on

Editing Luke said...

Thank you very much! The Monarch is indeed a very unique location.