7 Catherine Street South,
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Previously operated by: Allen Theatres, Famous Players
Architects: Charles Mills
Previous Names: Bennett's Theatre
The Bennett’s Vaudeville Theatre, which was directly behind the Hamilton Terminal Building, opened in September 1907.
The Hamilton Terminal Company, a subsidiary of the Dominion Power and Transmission Company, was constructed as the terminus for all electric radial lines and for the city trolleys of the Hamilton Street Railway. The heavily-reinforced building, containing the power station to operate the streetcar system. The lower part of the building was constructed of 4-feet-thick stone. The architect was Charles Mills.
As it was immediately adjacent to the terminal for the Hamilton streetcar system, audiences flocked to the theatre.
The Hamilton Bennett’s Theatre was constructed by a consortium of local investors, and was planned, so as to become part of the Keith / Albee “Big Time” vaudeville circuit.
C.W. Bennett, general manager of Bennett Theatrical Enterprises, was based out of his original theatre on Dundas Street, which was originally the Mechanic’s Institute Academy of Music.
Beginning in 1906, Bennett, built a small circuit of Canadian theatre buildings in Montreal, Ottawa, and leased existing theatres in Hamilton, and Quebec City.
His first presence in Hamilton was managing the Savoy Theatre on Merrick Street, but desiring a theatre of his own, he built a newer building on Catherine Street, two years later.
By 1910, and in declining health, Bennett sold his interest in Theatre, and his circuit of Bennett Theatres all changed their names.
The Hamilton Bennett’s Theatre, became the Temple Theatre, the one in London, Ontario, became the Majestic Theatre. The Montreal Bennett’s became the Orpheum Theatre, and the Ottawa Bennett’s became the Dominion Theatre.
The name of the Temple Theatre, was chosen after receiving submissions in a contest held in local newspapers.
The Temple Theatre, was the Hamilton stop on the Keith Albee vaudeville circuit, until 1917, when it moved to the larger Lyric Theatre on Mary Street.
In 1917, the lease of the Temple Theatre, Hamilton, was taken over by Jule and Jay Allen, and it became the first Ontario theatre of their new Allen Theatre chain.
The brothers had begun film exhibition in Brantford in 1906, managing a series of small nickelodeons in Brantford, Kitchener and Chatham, and establishing a film exchange. However by 1910, the brothers had sold their Ontario interests, and moved out west, building theatres in Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina and Moose Jaw.
The brothers first incorporated in Ontario, in 1917 as the Temple Theatre Inc., and after turning the Temple Theatre into a motion picture house, began to build a large number of new movie palaces across Ontario, with at least ten cinemas being constructed in Toronto alone, between 1918 and 1922.
The May 1923 bankruptcy of the Allen Brothers, and the takeover of the vast majority of their theatre buildings by Famous Players Canada, proved the death knell for the Temple Theatre.
Famous Players already operated the Pantages, Savoy and Regent Theatres in Hamilton, and had no use for the Temple Theatre, which by then was already showing its age.
It survived just one season (1923 - 1924) as a home to a resident stock company, “The Temple Players”, a group of mainly New York based actors, who produced a new play, typically comedies and farces, every week in repertory.
This proved a failure, and so by the spring of 1925, the building was gutted to the four walls, and became a showroom for Wentworth Motors, a local auto dealership.
From the mid forties on-wards, the former Temple Theatre building was used as the local Hamilton bus terminal. With the ending of Hamilton’s Streetcar system in 1954, both buildings were eventually closed the following year.
Sadly, the former theatre, and the Terminal Building in front of it, were demolished in the early spring of 1958.
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