Constructed in 1920, the Capitol Cinema stood proudly as the largest theatre ever built in Ottawa. Designed by renowned architect Thomas W. Lamb and situated at the intersection of Queen Street and Bank Street, it was a true destination for early 20th century purveyors of the arts.
The opening night of the Capitol Cinema in November of 1920 was a remarkable event that remains integral to the city’s history. Distinguished guests from the film industry were welcomed to Ottawa with great fanfare; while a special train journeyed from New York City, carrying silent film stars and igniting the excitement of Ottawa locals.
Inside the Capitol, the grandeur continued. Its lobby featured a majestic marble staircase, a colonnaded mezzanine, and a domed ceiling adorned with a dazzling crystal chandelier. The auditorium boasted an ornate proscenium arch, a hand-painted ceiling dome, box seats, and a balcony. It was hailed as one of the most attractive theaters in North America, showcasing Lamb’s architectural genius and the allure of Old Hollywood.
Throughout the next 5 decades, the theatre remained as one of the best locales for shows and concerts, including a show from Jimi Hendrix in the 60s.
Unfortunately, as the years went by the Capitol faced challenges. The rise of television and multiplexes posed obstacles to single-screen cinemas. Filling its 2,500 seats for film screenings became increasingly challenging, leading to its closure in May of 1970. Though the iconic theatre has since been demolished and replaced with office space, the love of arts and performance has continued to permeate the Ottawa community, with the National Arts Centre and Gallery of Canada just a stones throw from the original site of Ottawa’s glamorous moment in the spotlight.