Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Fire guts historic Montreal building that hosted Canada’s first movie theatre

Firefighters battle a blaze in Montreal's Chinatown district at the Robillard building on Nov. 17, 2016.

Giuseppe Valiante/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Fire gutted a 19th-century building in Montreal's Chinatown district on Thursday that once housed Canada's first cinema.

More than 120 firefighters battled flames leaping out of the historic Robillard building, a heritage property that was constructed around 1885.

No injuries were reported and the exact cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

Story continues below advertisement

Authorities first received reports of the fire just after 11 a.m. and by early in the afternoon, half the four-storey building had collapsed, said Yvon Daunais, head of operations for the city's fire department.

According to city-run historical centre, the Robillard building was a 300-seat variety and vaudeville venue called the Palace Theatre.

In June 1896, Louis Minier used a room in the Robillard to project the first indoor moving picture film in Canada, using the famous Lumiere brothers' cinematographe.

The first outdoor projection was tried a few months earlier, on a wall of a hotel next door.

According to the city, the Robillard was used for projections from 1896-97, making it the first cinema in Canada.

Minier was an official dealer for the famous Lumiere brothers, who are credited with inventing the early motion picture camera, called the cinematographe, first used in 1895.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.