In the heart of Downtown Windsor, the Capitol Theatre currently offers the unique convenience of a three-in-one venue, joined together by a classic lobby and bar area. It is both intimate and spacious; accessible and grand.
Today, the building is owned by the City of Windsor, managed by its anchor tenant, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. It is available to local artists and community groups as a multi-purpose venue for dance, literature, music, drama, film, and more! Generations of families have happy memories of the Capitol, and new ones are always being made.
The Capitol Theatre opened on Dec 30, 1920, with a screening of William S. Hart’s “The Testing Block”.
Originally one of Loew’s Family Theatres, the Capitol was part of a chain of Vaudeville-Cinema houses being built across North America under entertainment entrepreneur, Marcus Loew. Designed by Thomas Lamb (architect of the Pantages and Wintergarden/Elgin in Toronto), the original theatre was the largest single floor theatre built at the time and seated 1995.
By 1930 it had become part of the Famous Players movie houses chain. Over the next few decades, the Capitol Theatre screened many notable films including classic favourites such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, “Singin’ in the Rain”, and “Gone With the Wind”.
Fast-forward to the mid-seventies, Famous Players “triplexed” the theatre into the 3 spaces that currently exist to maximize the space and allow for simultaneous movie screenings.
In the late 1980’s, Famous Players sold the building and the new owner had slated the Capitol for demolition. The Capitol Theatre was saved by members of the arts community and invested citizens who aligned the building’s potential with a need for space for performing arts in our community.
In the early 1990’s this group of concerned citizens secured public support, grants, and private donations which provided the funds for a major restoration initiative. A newly formed non-for-profit organization, the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre, took over the management and operation of the Theatre and ran it from 1995-2007 as a theatre venue and art space.
The historic building was designated an Ontario Heritage Site in 1999.
In 2007 the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre filed for bankruptcy, but it was not the end of the Capitol Theatre’s story! After three years of community rallies, letters of support, asset analysis, and many discussions by City Council, the ownership of the Capitol Theatre officially reverted to The City of Windsor.
In 2011, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra entered into an agreement with the City of Windsor and became the managing tenant of the Capitol. The WSO agreed to manage the day-to-day operations of the building and to continue to provide a space accessible to the arts community.
Ever since, the Capitol Theatre has provided a home for many of Windsor’s arts and culture groups such as the Windsor International Film Festival, The Windsor Dance eXperience and the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra. The rich history of our historic gem continues to be a testament to the dedication of the Windsor arts community.