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Theatre in qathet closing to replace seating, restore murals

New chairs being installed in historic venue funded by donation
REVAMPED THEATRE: Patricia Theatre in Townsite is closing from June 3 to June 30 for seating upgrades and mural restoration.

Patricia Theatre is closing for just under a month, beginning June 3, with a planned reopening July 1.

The old seating will be taken out and new seating will be installed in the auditorium. The iconic atmospheric peacock murals, as well as others inside the theatre, will also be restored.

“The number one request we have from people is for better, more comfortable seating,” said qathet film society executive director Gary Shilling. "This work is funded by the generous legacy donation by film society volunteer Diana Yenssen."

The current vintage 1940’s seats were inherited from the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver and installed at the Patricia around the year 2010.

"The seats we are getting have a slightly higher back, better lumbar back support, and they have cupholders," said Shilling. "The other thing we're doing at the same time are the murals that are on the walls that were damaged by the sprinklers 10 years ago."

Shilling said the murals are starting to peel and that artist Whitney La Fortune, who did the recreations of the originals, will come back to touch them up.

The original murals by John Girvan near the orchestra pit were painted over in the 1950s. La Fortune led volunteer artists in a project to accurately recreate the original Girvan murals more than 20 years ago. 

"We're also putting new carpeting in the lobby," said Shilling. "Another thing that is in the works, but will not be ready for the July 1 opening, is a new canopy, a replica of the original canopy."

Shilling said before the 1970s most theaters traditionally had an outside canopy over the sidewalk to protect people from the rain.

"[The canopy] continues to be a complicated thing," said Shilling. "We have had engineers and designers working on it and structurally it's been approved, but we are working on the details and replicating it as best we can using old photographs."

Shilling said someone is confirmed to do the stained glass work. 

"When the theatre was built in 1928, it was just before neon became popular," said Shilling. "Before neon, signs were made using stained glass with lighting behind the glass."  

Shilling hopes the canopy project will be done by the end of the year. The Patricia recently had an exterior balcony staircase installed and will open the balcony up to the public. Previously it was reserved for staff and volunteers. The seats in the balcony will remain unchanged.

Shilling said a grant from Powell River Community Forest for the balcony stairs and canopy recreation totalled $125,000 from the 2022 spring intake.

"PRISMA [Pacific Region International Summer Music Association] is going to take some of the old seats for their new arts hub," said Shilling. 

A shared 5,000-square-foot performing arts and cultural hub is being built by PRISMA within the Townsite Public Market building.

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