Indian Head is a wonderful community located half an hour from Regina and it has several amazing buildings with a long history. One such building is the current theatre, which started out as an opera house and today shows the latest movies to the people of the community.
Dating back to 1904, the Indian Head Theatre is one of the oldest theatres in the province that is still standing. As part of the Opera House Block, and built by Arthur Osment, who helped to construct several of the buildings at the Bell Farm nearby, the theatre has a deep and interesting history.
Built with bricks from the nearby Qu’Appelle Valley, the Indian Head Opera House was an elegant building for a such a small prairie town and it attracted many opera companies who would stop in the community for three nights and perform an opera on each night.
At the time that the theatre was built, there was no electricity and the entire lighting system of the theatre was made up of lamps that were placed in the front of the stage with shields so that light could be directed. During these days, crowds could be a bit rowdy and notices were posted around the opera house that said there was to be no smoking, and no spitting on the floor.
The opera house wasn’t just for opera or plays. It was an important building within the community and would be used for large dances when the occasion called for it. A main floor made of hardwood was put in for dancing and the seats would be removed so people could come out for a night of dancing to the latest music. Prior to these dances, the entire floor had to be cleaned and scrubbed of chewing gum and dirt that had accumulated during the many plays and operas the theatre hosted.
Eventually, times began to change and talking pictures grew in popularity. The first movies to be played involved Osment building a contraption at the front of the gallery to show the movies. As the popularity of the movies grew, the third store from the Opera House was turned into a movie theatre.
Osment would pass away in 1911, and his family would run the opera house at that point, eventually changing its name to the Auditorium. During the First World War, the Auditorium was rented out and run as a movie theatre. The end of the building’s use as an opera house slowly declined at this point.
Over the next two decades, the auditorium was used by several movie operators until 1938 when it was bought by a man by the name of Baldwin and used exclusively as a movie theatre. A bylaw was also passed at this time in Indian Head that required seats to be fastened to the floor. This spelled the end of the building’s days as a dance hall as well.
Eventually, the theatre became known as the Gary Theatre, with a completely remodeled theatre built only for movies. As time went on, new owners would come in, new workers like Ernie and Lorraine Brooks, who worked every evening from 1957 to 1972 would staff the building, and its history would continue. Greg and Helen Stewart would buy the theatre in 1993 and help to preserve the signatures of performers on the walls of the theatre, some of which date back over 100 years.
In 2014, the theatre was purchased by the community, and its history continues to this day.
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