Glimpses of the Early Movie-Going Audience in Peterborough

From women and children to a supposedly ne’re-do-well Irishman – from visiting Roma to a famous local Mississauga Ojibway athlete and his wife  from the teenage working-class Cathleen McCarthy to the Grants, a relatively well-off family – attendance at early motion pictures shows a surprising diversity.

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The Jazz “Age of Amusement” – Not to Everyone’s Liking

By the 1920s a mass audience was appreciating the thrills and spills of the modern moving picture show. People in Peterborough could see movies daily at the Capitol and Royal theatres on George Street, the Regent on Hunter, and occasionally, too, at the city’s most prestigious spot, the Grand Opera House.

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Peterborough Movie Houses – to 1948
  • Bradburn Opera House (1876–1906 in its original manifestation), 334 George St. N., between Charlotte and Simcoe streets; cite of the first motion picture showing in Peterborough, January 1897; later known as Victoria Hall; part of a block of buildings demolished in 1974 (with the exception of Market Hall, and its clock tower), replaced by the new structures of Peterborough Square. 
  • Grand Opera House (1905–c.1933); 284 George St. N.; building demolished 1941; site later of the Paramount movie theatre and in 2010s of The Venue. 

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Jonah Cristall-Clarke
A New Treat Comes to Town, and Receives a Mixed Welcome

There was a time – and not so very, very long ago – when Peterborough had ice cream parlours, but no ice cream cones. Then, one day in mid-June 1908, a “stranger” came to town. Turning up at the corner of Lock and Lansdowne (in the vicinity of today’s massive Memorial Centre), he pitched a tent and set up an open refreshment booth. With the help of “a little gasoline light” that provided a modicum of illumination he was able to remain open for business until about ten o’clock in the evening.

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Jonah Cristall-Clarke