4. Vogue Theatre (1940)

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2006 Top10 Watch List

4. Vogue Theatre (1940)
Vogue Theatre

Say it’s not true! Vancouver’s fabulous Vogue theatre — a National Historic Site and a Vancouver Heritage Register A-listed site — is threatened.

Allied Properties has purchased the building, and the initial plan to convert the theatre to a supper club/cabaret suggests an irrevocable compromise of the theatre’s elaborate interior spaces. Stepped tables will replace the theatre seating with the existing stage converted to kitchen space.

This 1940 landmark, designed for the Odeon chain by architects Kaplan and 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 are flanked by murals painted by master decorator Ernest Prentis. The acoustics are excellent and, unlike most other movie houses, the Vogue can accommodate both movies and live shows — which explains why the Vogue has continued to be an active venue for live music and performance.

The Vogue should be retained as a performing arts venue. Because it recently lost an alternative waterfront location, the City needs a new medium-sized performance venue. Why can’t the City use the money earmarked for a new facility to acquire and rehabilitate the Vogue as a civic theatre instead?

Divorcing the theatre’s architecture from its intended use cannot help but impair its historic status. If the new use is a cabaret, so much the worse, as the retention of period décor is not likely to be compatible with the requirements of a contemporary nightclub.

For those who remember the old Commodore, listen up!