Niagara Fall’s Seneca (Queen) Theatre still standing 80 years later


Published April 4, 2022 at 4:19 pm

Niagara Falls Seneca queen theatre old
The band came out to play at Niagara Falls' Seneca Theatre in 1962 when Marlon Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty was released.

Just as movies themselves have evolved over the decades, so too has the Seneca Theatre – now called the Seneca Queen Theatre – at 4624 Queen St in Niagara Falls.

Originally built in 1941 and designed by architect Jay English, the old beauty was a 911-seat theatre that was originally owned by the Famous Players group.

And it certainly had its moments in the early day. It was the host theatre for the Canadian premiere of Marilyn Monroe’s film “Niagara” on January 28, 1953.

Architecturally, it is best known for its original large, illuminated marquee, which was part of the original facade – the upper part of which still exhibits art deco styling.

Back in 1952 when Famous Players Canadian Corporation had it’s annual convention in Niagara Falls, all screenings were held at the Seneca. This particular convention saw the famed movie producer-director Cecil B DeMille in attendance

At the time, DeMille was a Paramount Pictures stalwart and Famous Players was in those days owned by Paramount. Having been born in 1881, DeMille was at this point in his 70s and needed a rocking chair to sit in, which was quickly provided for the famed Hollywood legend.

Hollywood’s legendary director-producer Cecil B DeMille was a visitor to the Seneca Theatre in 1952 while Marilyn Monroe’s film “Niagara” made its Canadian debut there a year later.

In 1984, Cineplex Odeon took the theatre over and quickly split it into two separate theatres – Cinema One had 569 seats while Cinema Two held 211 seats, leaving the total capacity at 780 seats.

The interior was decorated throughout with native Seneca motifs such as birch bark-cast plaster walls, ceremonial masks and belt designs.

Cineplex Odeon hung onto the theatre for a while before shutting it down in sometime in the 2000s. This theatre reopened as the Seneca Queen Theatre with live productions in 2009 but closed down again in 2010.

However, more recently, it found new life as a multi-use facility. There was live music in the club consistently through the past decade or so – and the running theme seems to be cover bands – Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, you name it. As well, many long-time Toronto acts perform in the venue.

But it could convert back into a theatre easily or a special occasion venue just as quickly.

Online, it is still billed by its owners as “a fully licensed, 308 seat, performance space located in the heart of downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario (3.1 km from the Falls). We are dedicated to bringing the Niagara Region together, through live music, entertainment, film and theatre. Join us for concerts and movies, guaranteed to make you feel nostalgic with action and laughter.”

Howeever, like many business, it basically shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its website listed no upcoming shows but indicated a very large number were cancelled in 2020. Its voicemail is full but it does list partial open hours Wednesday through Saturday (likely old hours that have not been updated).

Now that the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, will the Seneca Queen Theatre, which Google Maps shows as still existing, rise from the ashes yet again?

The concession stand from its older glory days still remains in the Seneca Queen Theatre in Niagara Falls.

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