The Star Theatre - a class in its own

November 19th, 2020 2 Minutes
The Star Theatre on Norbury Avenue in Cranbrook ca. 1926. At the time of this photo a Buck Jones movie was being advertised. Notice the single story “Max’s Place” to the right. #0019.0039 – Image courtesy of CBIRH

Cranbrook’s limited theatre work began on the new Star Theatre building in 1921.

The Star was located in the middle of the block on Norbury Avenue, across from City Hall. It quickly became a landmark of the downtown area, with many businesses proud to describe their location near the Star.

“Hemstitching and picot edging, Singer Sewing Machine Store, Norbury Ave., next to Star Theatre. New and second-hand machines bought and sold” (from Cranbrook Courier, Oct. 16, 1930).

A.C. Blaine, who managed the Star in its heyday, was serious about running a quality movie house.

He regularly went off to places like Calgary to attend conferences of motion picture house managers, thereby keeping abreast of the rapidly changing world of cinema.

F.R. Richardson, a world authority on sound reproduction and projection, attested to Blaine’s work.

Visiting Cranbrook in August 1930, Mr. Richardson wrote of his experience in the September issue of Exhibitors Herald-World:

“At Cranbrook, we paused for the night. It boasts one small theatre, but with results both on the screen and through the horns, which are not at all negligible—my compliments to Manager A.C. Blaine and Projectionists W.A. Burton and J.A. Ward.

“The sound was transparent and well-regulated as to volume. The picture was small, though large enough for the auditorium’s size, and boasted a an impressively illuminated screen. I might add, as an afterthought, that the Star Theatre equipment is Wide sound and Simplex projectors equipped with Ashcroft lamps.

“Projectionists Burton and Ward tastefully decorated the walls of the projection room. They must, one or the other of them, or maybe both, have some artistic ability, for each of the port shutters bares a very well painted scene.”

Further in the article, Richardson waxes more eloquently about Cranbrook and the Star:

“Later, projectionist Burton came over to the hotel and, after some conversation, invited us back to the Theatre, then, of course, not in operation. We stepped into the darkened auditorium.

“The lights flashed on, and we were astounded because here in this little town of less than 4,000 was a small theatre auditorium seating 427, the decorations of which would do no discredit to some of our New York City Broadway theatres – and that is not mere idle words, either.

“The screen was set back 15 feet on the stage. Its surroundings were tastefully artistic. At the front was a velvet draw curtain which, together with the other drapes around the auditorium, cost approximately $500. And, mark you well, this little theatre has absolutely no competition.

“I want to compliment manager Blaine again. If he does things this way in a 4,000 population town, I wonder what he would do on Broadway. He is a manager who knows his business and does it. It is one of the finest small-town theatres I have looked at in many thousands of miles of travel. It and one or two others are very distinctly in a class by themselves.”

Richardson’s praise offered Cranbrook a measure of prestige, adding to the Theatre’s attractiveness. The Star still stands at 25 -27 10th Avenue, now housing East Kootenay Realty and Insurance.

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