Winnipeg Vaudeville


During the great vaudeville era (1800-1930) there were over 4000 theatres spread across the continent. Every little mining, lumber or cattle town had at least one theatre, and most had two or more. Every city of any size had several theatres.

Winnipeg was no exception. In 1919 the Winnipeg Free Press wrote:

“Winnipeg will be a theatrical centre inside of five years, said E.F.Seamans, of the Strand, yesterday,in the course of conversation with a Free Press representative. The eyes of the powers in the show world are rapidly being opened to the great possibilities of western Canada with all its vast resources, and before very long the city of Winnipeg will be resounding to the tune of the saw and hammer, busy in the construction of various kinds of play houses.

Of course this city IS the logical place for a theatrical centre of the entire Dominion, of Canada and every -big circuit will certainly have a representative theatre here in order to carry out their franchises, east and west. Every big show will then be booked here as regularly as in Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Walker circuit will be in the running with Klaw and Erlanger and the Shuberts, for the regular combination shows, while the big vaudeville circuits, like the Keith-Proctor, U. B.O. Marcus Loew, and western vaudeville,will all havo a representation in this rapidly developing city of the west.”

That article is even more profound if you consider what theatres were already established in Winnipeg. There were at least 46. Not all theatres were straight vaudeville, many were movie houses with vaudeville included before and after the movie. Some were half and half. Some were straight movies for a while, then would include some vaudeville to boost business. Some changed from movies to straight vaudeville or vice-versa, and back again. But the end result is that Winnipeg was bustling with vaudeville, just like every other town and city in North America.

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The Theatres of Winnipeg in 1919

Here’s what that looks like on Google Maps

Since Winnipeg was such a thriving theatrical city, it attracted all the big acts of vaudeville.

My series of articles on “Who Played Winnipeg” is below.