Now in our 55th season of continuous entertainment, we at Metro started wondering about our history and where our beloved theatre came from.
Our general knowledge was based around that it was built in the late 1920’s and it started its life as a movie theatre. We also have a couple of long standing legends – our resident ghost is quite active to this day and Metro is where Carly-Rae Jepson started her career in one of our pantos.
Our history as a live theatre company has largely been oral until recently with the original founders Metro passing down stories from one generation to another, but there wasn’t much we could come up with in regard to the building itself.
Metro Theatre in 1965 compared to today
Apparently great minds think alike because a few months later while preparing for our 55th season we were contacted by a lovely gentleman named Gary Cullen who was in the midst of doing some family research. He told us that his Great Grandparents Robert and Jessie Tait built Metro Theatre in 1929. Needless to say we were intrigued and were excited to hear that Mr. Cullen was willing to share what he knew along with a few family photos.
Robert and Jessie Tait circa 1910
In 1920 the Taits sold their dairy farm on Sea Island in Richmond to move to Marpole and into their new home at 1384 West Marine Drive. A few years later the Taits decided to build what was then named as the Marpole Theatre as a retirement project.
“The Marpole House” – the Tait’s new home in Marpole.
Unfortunately Robert never got to see the building to completion as he passed away in 1930 shortly before it was finished. His wife Jessie continued on and ran it for many years before selling it to Famous Players sometime in the 1940s.
Robert Tait’s Obituary 1930
Gary Cullen shared these awesome photos of a 1935 program of the movie theatre. His cousin, Carol Cannon, was doing some family research and found the attached Marpole Theater program from 1935 in UBC’s collection. Their Great Grandmother Jessie Tait would have still owned the theater at the time this was printed.
Skipping forward to June 1963 the City Council awarded the Metro Theatre Co-operative (as then we were known) a $5,000 grant to turn the then derelict movie house into a live theatre venue to house the 11 companies that formed Metro. Companies included were Vancouver Little Theatre, White Rock Players, West Vancouver Theatre Guild, Richmond Community Players, Emerald Players, John Howard Players, Gastown Players, Vagabond Players, North Vancouver Community Players and La Troupe Moliere. Each company brought a show to create the full season. This formula became a bit too hard to follow because of many schedules and production qualiies. The companies struggled for a while to come up with a solution.
Three years later Metro Theatre formed as we know it today as a single company producing it’s own productions – all the while the physical building of Metro Theatre supporting and housing each and every production to this day.