While students were preparing for their final exams of the first semester, Brantford’s Sanderson Centre was preparing for a big event itself.
Complete with an on-stage lounge which featured a pianist, tours throughout the theatre, and a guitarist playing in the main entrance, it was quite a fancy event to celebrate one of Brantford’s oldest and most iconic buildings.
The event brought together current and past staff of the theatre, local politicians, and citizens of the community to celebrate and praise the local theatre, first opened in 1919.
“It was one of the premier theatres on the east side of all North America, largely in part to its acoustics,” said Councilor Marguerite Ceschi-Smith. “It’s amazing what happened in the 20 years since I got here, when the community restored it.”
Glenn Brown, the Theatre Manager, stated that one of the large reasons to set-up the celebratory event was to give back to the community, after all that the city did.
“After the community restoration, we realized we wanted to do something special for them, let them see the whole area and as any questions,” Brown said. “We wanted to show that the Sanderson Centre belongs to the citizens, as it is owned by the city.”
Prior to the city restoration, the theatre had many different faces. After beginning as an arts theatre, it was changed to a movie theatre owned by Famous Players until the eighties, when it was sold back to the city, and again turned into an arts theatre. At its peak as a movie theatre, it faced competition from up to five different theatres throughout the downtown area, but managed to persevere.
For Ray Punter, an usher at the theatre in the 1950’s, the event brought back good memories.
“I was gone for fifty years and got my first peek at the theatre again last year, and it was amazing,” Punter said. “It’s amazing how strong and prominent it is, despite how much everything else downtown has changed. You can’t restore every building downtown, but one that’s nearly 100 years old, it’s good that this one was.”
Scott Brohman, the House Manager, agrees that it’s a good thing that the theatre has succeeded in an area that has seen so much change.
“The unique architecture has helped the theatre stay around, as well as the small size which allows ticket prices to be kept more reasonable,” Brohman said. “The support of all the people and the city in restoring it, too. If one of the other buyers had gotten it, it might have been torn down.”