Reel Time: Movie Exhibitors and Movie Audiences in Prairie Canada, 1896-1986

By Melnyk, George | Alberta History, Autumn 2013 | Go to article overview

Reel Time: Movie Exhibitors and Movie Audiences in Prairie Canada, 1896-1986


Melnyk, George, Alberta History


Reel Time: Movie Exhibitors and Movie Audiences in Prairie Canada, 1896-1986

by Robert M. Seiler & Tamara P. Seiler. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 381 pages, $44.95 soft cover. Also available on-line without charge at the Athabasca University Press website.

Cinema and Alberta are seldom paired in public awareness. Even less so is the topic of film theatres in Alberta. Fortunately, two professor emeriti from the University of Calgary, Robert and Tamara Seiler, have filled the gap with a historical study of movie theatres in western Canada. Winnipeg was the first city in English Canada to see the marvels of moving pictures in July, 1896, beating out Ottawa by three days! Alberta was not far behind with screenings in Edmonton and Calgary the following year. The Allen family became a prominent name in Canadian theatre exhibition and for a period centred their business in Calgary. The Seiler book is well-illustrated with historic images of the movie theatres of the West, many from the Glenbow Archives. The authors clearly show how western Canada became an integral part of the Hollywood-dominated industry.

In 1915 the Aliens relocated to Toronto and started to realize their dream of a national movie theatre chain. Eventually they were forced out of the business by Nat Nathanson and his Famous Players and Odeon Theatres chains. Famous Players was affiliated with an American giant in the industry at a time when Hollywood was trying to vertically integrate the North American business from production to exhibition. …

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