It’s been sad days for live music venues. On Thursday, it was announced that the Garrick Centre was under new management and was closing. Since 2000, The Marlborough Hotel has owned the building and it has been connected via a walkway to the hotel. The former four-plex movie theatre closed in 1999 as The Garrick.
It had been originally a movie theatre since 1921 but took the form it is now in 1968 when it became a duplex theatre of just 1500 seats total. The concept started in Canada in Moncton in 1915 and took years for the rest of North America to catch up but in a nutshell it was two screens, one staff. Also, the concept allowed the owner to have flexibility to carry over a movie longer if the local audience warranted it while keeping the other screen open to new releases. The biggest example of this trend was in Winnipeg taking to Phantom of the Paradise which ran from 1974 to 1975 in defiance of what the rest of the world thought. Garrick two showed the movie over and over until it became legend.
In 1979 the theatre became a four-plex and remained that for 20 years. Unlike some other movie houses that deteriorated, The Garrick was always fairly sumptuous. It was with some relief that 1 year after closing that the Marlborough Hotel and Conference and Entertainment Centre was born with the Garrick Centre handling musical booking.
The theatre after $1.5 million in renovations converted to three auditoriums and hotel pool and waterslide. Garrick One was a 600 seat theatre, Garrick Two was a 550 seat music hall, Garrick Three was the poll, and Garrick Four was a 250 seat lecture hall.
A wide range of musical acts performed at The Garrick Centre over the years but it takes dedicated effort to bring acts to town and the takeover of the Burton Cummings just steps away has seen a great influx of performers move there. Also, musical acts moving to casinos in Winnipeg has to be taken into account.
So many live music venues have closed with independently owned hotels closing or moving to different entertainment or uses. The Royal Albert, Montcalm, Lo-Pub and Osborne Village musical haunts are all no more.
The big question is what is meant by new management of the Garrick Centre. Could it mean more of it used by the hotel? Could it mean the hotel itself might be changing?
I was less familiar with the Garrick as a music hall but appreciated the niche it served. I mourned the loss The Garrick because it was a superior movie hall consistently. I still see movies regularly but I find entertainment is so fragmented that how people experience things is part of the problem. It would seem like music should and will find a new place in society given the right places to play of the right size and economics. Tens of thousands are in Dauphin this weekend paying to be there for four days for Country Fest. It is proof that people will still dig deep. But who and how will small artists be nurtured in live performances in the future.
This has been a editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations