Address: 810 Sargent Avenue
Opened: December 9, 1926
The Rose Theatre was part of the Allied Amusements' chain of neighbourhood cinemas that included the Palace on Selkirk (1912), the Roxy on Henderson 1929), the Plaza on Marion (1926 - 1962) and the Uptown on Academy (1930). The company was created by a number of investors, most from the Miles family.
December 9, 1926, Manitoba Free Press
The Rose Theatre opened to an invitation-only crowd at 7:30 pm on December 9, 1926 with the feature Why Girls Go Back Home starring Myrna Loy. The Free Press wrote that the “Decorations and upholstery are all that could be desired and the theatre presents a very cozy appearance.”
On hand was the theatre's first manager Nathan Rothstein of Burrows Avenue, formerly the proprietor of the nearby Arlington Theatre at Arlington and Portage. The theatre's initial staff (1927/28) included a small number of residents who lived within walking distance of the venue: Morris Glazer (usher); Roy McDonald (projectionist) and Mary Sigmar (cashier). Rothstein stayed for just a short time and went on to build a small theatre empire of his own, mainly in small prairie towns. In the 1940s he got into the hotel business and eventually owned the St. Charles, Empire and Marlborough Hotels.
The main floor of the building was also home to a retail unit. Initially it was Rose Tailor then Ruxton's Barber Shop (1930 - 31), Scotty's Barber Shop (1932). In the 1940s and 50s it was Gertrude's Style Shop.
In 1929 The Rose was outfitted with sound and began showing “talkies.” Its fare was first and second run movies, usually in double bills. Saturday afternoons were reserved for kids with double and triple bills of westerns and cartoons.
The popularity of television in the 1950s meant the end of most neighbourhood theatres – why walk down the street when you could sit in your own living room and be entertained for free ?! Theatre chains, including Allied, went bankrupt and their properties were sold off for demolition or to be converted to other uses, (the Rose’s sister theatres the Roxy and Uptown both became bowling allies.)
March 26, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press
The Rose, however, managed to continue on as a cinema. In 1963 the prairie-wide Western Theatre chain, also controlled by the Miles family, took it over. The interior was gutted and everything from the chairs to the projection equipment was replaced. It reopened March 27, 1964 as the Towne Cinema which specialized in "the best in off-beat and foreign films".
The Towne brought films such as 1967's Accident and 1970's The Graduate to the city. In the early 1970s there appears to have been a change in management of the theatre. The sometimes risqué fare became downright smutty.
Towne / Venus transformation, 1974
By 1974 the Towne was featuring exotic dancers along with its films. In April it changed its name to the Venus Theatre a combination cinema, massage parlour and adult bookstore owned by Joe Gabriele.
It wasn’t long before police and city councillors began getting complaints about the venue. The owner was convicted three times for violating obscenity laws but it wasn’t until it came time to renew the theatre's business licence in 1978 that city council was able to put an end to the Venus. Gabriele operated for a while without a licence but eventually closed it. In March, he reopened it as the Festival Theatre which showed second-run, independent and European films.
By the mid 1980s the Festival was little used, occasionally showing Asian-language films. The building’s run as a movie theatre came to an end in at the end of 1985.
After a couple of years as a discount retail outlet, in 1992 it was converted into a billiard hall called Club Sargent. In a period of three years it was the subject of a number of police raids and drugs charges were laid. The disruption to the neighbourhood attracted the attention of not just the police but community activist Rev. Harry Lehotsky of New Life Ministries who wanted it shut down. He got his wish.
It has since been converted into an office building.
An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Our West Central Times newspaper.