“There are 62 condos on 6 floors and 6 remain for sale,” says real estate broker Dimitra Hamilos. The project began in 2019 and construction was completed in 2022.”
We told you about the abandoned Empress. From the former Cinéma Château, converted into a place of worship and a trapeze school. Other large old theaters where thousands of Montrealers saw films were destroyed, such as that of the Loews, downtown, where the residential tower of the Mansfield project will be erected. That of the former Snowdon Theater no longer exists, but its facade has been preserved, so that the original purpose of 5227 Boulevard Décarie is not forgotten.
The Snowdon Theater presented one last film in 1982 before becoming a shopping center, then a gymnastics center, and being bought by the City in 2004. After a fire in 2016, the building in poor condition was almost destroyed , but the City sold it a year later.
Side note: We spoke to two people who saw the abandoned Snowdon Theater before it went up in flames. The first is Jarold Dumouchel, urbex photographer (fascinated by abandoned places). “Arriving in a place that hasn’t been used for a long time is like opening a page of history,” says the man who agreed to provide us with a photo dating from 2015.
We also contacted Jérôme Labrecque, son of filmmaker Jean-Claude Labrecque, passionate about the work of Emmanuel Briffa (who decorated more than 150 cinemas in North America, including Théâtre Snowdon, Empress and Cinéma Château). . The photographer is saddened to see that his traces (“feasts for the eyes”) are disappearing. For him, the case of the Snowdon Theater is part of a “heritage preservation movement” of “façadism” which he describes as “lazy”.
Groups like Héritage Montréal would also have liked the interior to be preserved, but it was too expensive to save the Snowdon Theater as it was, the City justified when it was sold.
Fortunately, the reception wall of the condo lobby today highlights a vestige of Emmanuel Briffa, with a text that recalls the origin of the place.
The former Snowdon Theater had been vacant for more than five years when the firm ADHOC won the private competition to give new life to the former cinema palace which is part of Montreal’s imagination.
Before the work, the architect and technical director of the project François Martineau had the opportunity to visit the vandalized and burned places. It was winter and there was downright ice on the floor, he says.
A three-storey glazed extension was added, giving a contemporary touch to the premises whilst preserving the building’s original identity. Slots also allowed the addition of windows to the existing volume. “It was the result of a lot of research into the Art Deco style,” assures François Martineau.
The architect emphasizes that period photos were able to “reappear” missing elements of the facade. As for the massive sign, it had to be dismantled and the letters reproduced. “The big structure remained there, but all the panels and cladding were restored or rebuilt at the factory. »
“In our opinion, the final result is harmonious,” says the one who argues that we can “evolve” the built heritage.
The original architect of the Snowdon Theatre, Daniel John Crighton, drew up plans for several other cinemas in Montreal which are now taking on a new life, including the Regent (now a Renaud-Bray on Avenue du Parc), the Papineau (which became a climbing center after having been an Énergie Cardio center and a bingo hall), the Rivoli (now a Pharmaprix) and the Monkland (whose building is today occupied in particular by a Première Moisson bakery).
The Ouimetoscope, considered the first permanent movie theater in Montreal and Canada (at 1204, rue Sainte-Catherine Est), has also been converted into condominiums. “There’s a plaque and that’s it,” laments Pierre Pageau, author of the book Cinema Theaters in Quebec: 1896-2008.
The retired film professor emeritus points out that the first two films shown at the Snowdon Theater on February 26, 1937 were One In A Million with famous skater Sonja Henie and 15 Maiden Lane. “The room was designed according to the new acoustic requirements inherent to talking cinema,” he explains.
Owner company United Amusements touted its modernism and even its air conditioning. The Snowdon Theater was near a tram line, and the Décarie Expressway did not exist.