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Au Revoir Roxy

This past January our city lost a piece of its architectural and cultural history. A fire started at four in the morning at the Roxy Theatre on 124th street, and by eight a.m. the building was destroyed.
Fisal Asiff

This past January our city lost a piece of its architectural and cultural history. A fire started at four in the morning at the Roxy Theatre on 124th street, and by eight a.m. the building was destroyed. It was a huge fire; it took a team of up to 50 firefighters to contain it. Two hours after the fire alarm first rang the theatre's roof, front and walls were gone. Four hours later the building was a smoking ruin.

The Roxy first opened as a movie house in 1938, when Edmonton's population was less than 100,000. Posters boasted of air conditioning and the “latest type cushioned seats.” They served tea from 1:00-5:00p.m. on Thursdays. In its opening week, The Roxy showed an American musical starring Deanna Durbin, Mad about Music; tickets were less than a quarter.

Over 80 years, countless couples had their first dates there; laughed or cried while sitting on its velvet seats. Artists, writers, playwrights and actors found their voices there. When it was converted from a cinema into a theatre in 1989 it became a home for playwrights and indie theatre companies. The day of the fire, the Roxy was set to begin previews for a new show and a 10-day run. The loss is not only for Edmonton's arts community, but also for the merchants and restaurants on 124th street, whose counters, tables and storefronts won't be visited by patrons before or after a show.

The Roxy survived the Depression, World War II, McCarthyism, the Korean War, Hippie counterculture and the Vietnam War. The theatre's black and yellow sign and marquee prevailed over the National Energy Program, the Mulroney years, The Chretien years, the end of the Cold War and communism in Russia. The Roxy was more than a building; it was a holding space. Now that space is gone; fortunately the memories remain.