Built in 1922, the Heritage Theatre on Main Street North was originally known as the Capitol Theatre. The theatre was built by Tom Moorehead, who would later become a Peel County Court Magistrate.
The Capitol Theatre was originally built to put on Vaudeville shows however, as Vaudeville acts began to become less popular in the 1920s, the theatre was converted to a movie house and began showing silent films with live orchestral music. The first movie shown there was entitled “Smiling Through”. The Capitol Theatre was upgraded again in 1928 when it began to show movies with sound. It was at this time that the orchestra pit was filled in, to provide space for more seats. The theatre was sold to the Odeon chain in the late 1940s after World War II. Period newspaper articles describe how the theatre was incorporated into the then new Odeon chain that was being organized across Canada. They also relate the role that the Capitol Theatre already held in the cultural life of Brampton. The new owners of the Capitol took great pains to ensure the theatre’s patrons and employees that nothing would change regarding the operation of the theatre and that the equipment used inside would be updated to provide the best movie-going experience possible. The Capitol Theatre was managed in this way until the early 1980s when its parent company, Odeon opened a three screen cinema at Centennial Mall in 1983. City council purchased the aging theatre in 1981. By this time the Capitol Theatre, which through a public contest had been renamed the Heritage Theatre, was starting to show its age and was no longer adequate to serve all the cultural needs of the City of Brampton.
The theatre had decayed to the point that it was often very cold inside and often the stage lights had to be turned on in order to keep the audience warm. Around the same time the city gave a grant of $23,000 to expand the Heritage Theatre’s stage. However, despite this, it was determined that a new theatre would have to be built. In spite of this recommendation, made after a careful study of the Heritage Theatre by a Toronto architectural firm, the Heritage Theatre has remained in operation for the last 23 years due to delays encountered by the city in the construction of city’s new theatre.
These delays cast a cloud over the future of the theatre for the next 23 years. Although plans were never publicly announced during that time to demolish the Heritage Theatre concerned citizens campaigned to save the building arguing that it is an important land mark in the city’s history. However, plans have been put forward, at various times to find uses for the Heritage Theatre, such as incorporating it into the Market Square complex. In spite of these discussions, the city council has been criticized over the years for not taking direction and moving to preserve the Heritage Theatre as a local land mark.
With the Rose Theatre now opened, the Heritage Theatre has out lived its usefulness as the focal point of Brampton’s theatre scene. However, the question of what to do with the Heritage Theatre has not yet been settled, although according to City Hall, the future of the theatre should be clearer by the end of the year. The city council has also concluded that there is little historical value in the Heritage Theatre; however it is possible that downtown residence may disagree with this assessment should the city decide to tear the theatre down.
The Heritage Theatre built when Brampton had less than 5000 people is the curator of memories and a lifestyle now past; a time when one could be entertained with the purchase of a 30 cent admission ticket, or enjoy the 5 cent matinees after school. Too numerous to mention are all the various attractions, entertainers and community rallies that are all a part of the theatre’s legacy. The building stands as a lasting testament for all generations, authenticating the rich cultural heritage that has been an important component in the growth and development of Brampton.