Heritage Vancouver continues to be concerned about the future of the Vogue Theatre – our civic treasure that is both a Vancouver Heritage Register A-listed building and a National Historic Site.
This 1940 landmark, designed for the Odeon chain by architects Kaplan & Sprachan, is a magnificent example of the Art Deco style.
The Vogue’s towering prow-like signage etched in neon and topped by goddess Diana’s golden silhouette, has been a defining image on the Granville streetscape for over 60 years.
A herald of the new modern age, the theatre’s crisp stylized architecture and streamlined forms provided both a glimpse of the future and a vicarious experience of Hollywood glamour. This message was carried through to the exquisite lobbies and the auditorium, and expressed with sinuous curvatures and detailed in fine woodwork and distinctive period lighting.
Of particular note is the auditorium ceiling, an undulating swirl of stepped tiers back lit with neon tubing. The auditorium’s sidewalls are finished in padded fabric mounted with stylized Diana silhouettes and flanked by murals painted by master decorator Ernest Prentis.
In recent years, the Granville Entertainment Group operated the Vogue as a live performing arts venue. During that time, the owners partially restored the theatre, including exterior repainting, neon replacement, and restoration of interior lobby finishes.
Last year, news that the Vogue had been sold prompted fresh concern about the theatre’s future. Gibbons Hospitality Group, the new owner, proposes to convert the theatre into a licensed 1,000-seat supper/entertainment club; although the building clearly requires substantial investment and restoration, the proposed business model may require significant alterations or additions to the theatre’s precious interiors, including replacement of the existing sloped theatre-style seating in favour of the stepped table-seating found in supper clubs and revue stages. The new owners have stated that the stepped seating would be removable, and that interior features would be protected by designation.
The Vogue’s future awaits a City decision as to whether to approve the liquor license that is central to the Gibbons business plan. Until that happens, considerable uncertainty remains regarding the proposed level of conservation, what interior features will actually be retained, and whether intrusive additions are planned.
On a positive note, the theatre would undergo complete structural and mechanical rehabilitation, including a seismic upgrade. Stay tuned!