Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Houghton, E.W., and Son, Architects (firm); Edwin Walker Houghton (architect); Gordon Thomas Augustus Houghton (architect)

Dates: constructed 1912-1913, demolished 1972

4 stories

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603 Granville Street
Downtown, Vancouver, BC Canada V7Y

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Completed in 1913, the Kinemacolor Theatre stood on the corner of Granville and Dunsuir Streets in Downtown Vancouver, BC. After the patent for the Kinemacolor film exhibition process was revoked in 1914, owners renamed the theatre, the "Columbia." It remained the Columbia until its closure in the early 1970s.

Building History

Seattle architect Edwin Walker Houghton (1856-1927) had, since the 1890s, developed a specialty in the design of theatres, first those staging live performances and later those that exhibited motion pictures. Vancouver, BC, architectural historian Donald Luxton has said of the Kinemacolor Theatre: "For the E.R. Ricketts Co. [Edwin Houghton and Son Architects] provided the design for the Kinemacolor Theatre, inserted into the old Van Horne Block on Granville Street, 1912-1913. Opened on February 24, 1913, this was the first of its type in Canada; Kinemacolor was an early colour film process, but proved to be a short-lived phenomenon, and the following year it was renamed the Colonial Theatre, a name it retained until its final demise in the 1970s." (See Donald Luxton, "Houghton, Edwin Walker, 1856-1927," in Building the West The Early Architects of British Columbia, Donald Luxton, ed., [Vancouver, BC: Talonbooks, 2003], p. 468.)

Roots of the Kinemacolor system developed from an experimental process first patented in 1899 by two Englishmen, Frederick Marshall Lee (1871-1914) and Edward Raymond Turner (1873-1903), that produced color motion picture images. According to the 1899 English patent: "Records were made in a camera with a single lens equipped with rotating filters of red, green and blue. Projection was attempted with three lenses vertically disposed. Apparently each picture was projected through each of the lenses in turn, and three pictures always projected simultaneously." (See Film, "Lee and Turner," accessed 03/09/2021.) Iniitally, Frederick Lee bankrolled the inventor Turner's experiments, enabling both men to patent the invention in 1899. Lee, a competitive cricket player, sold his interest in the Turner process in 1902 to the pioneering film producer Charles Urban (1867-1942). Turner, oddly, died of a heart attack in 1903 at the age of 29. Following Turner's death, Urban engaged George Albert Smith (1864-1959) to continue the research, hoping to cash in on his investment. Smith patented a additive, two-color, rotary filter colorization method in 1906. Smith's method was known as "Kinemacolor" and was in use between 1908 and 1915, under license from Smith and Urban's Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Ltd. A court case in 1914 challenged the Urban-Smith patent, claiming that the two-color filter method did not accurately reproduce blue. An English judge agreed, and the Kinemacolor process could no longer be patent-protected, thus greatly devaluing it. The last film in Kinemacolor, Saiyûki zokuhen, ("The Monkey, Part II,") was a Japanese production of a Chinese novel shot in 1917. (See (See Hiroshi Komatsu, "From Natural Colour to the Pure Motion Picture Drama: The Meaning of Tenkatsu Company in the 1910s of Japanese Film History." Film History, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring, 1995, p. 79.

The web site of the Puget Sound Organ Society summarized: "Originally developed in England, Kinemacolor was innovative in its use of red and green spinning discs to produce a full color image. A similar system was installed at Victoria's Kinemacolor Theatre. Unfortunately the technology was not entirely successful and it was removed within a few years." (See Puget Sound Organ, "Kinemacolor (Colonial) Theatre," accessed 03/09/2021.)

Houghton also designed a Colonial Theatre in Salt Lake City, UT, in 1907-1908.

Building Notes

In 1957, Jewel World, a jewelry store, and Pauline Johnson Candies occupied the two first-floor retail storefronts facing Granville Street. The latter store did business in this location for at least a decade.


The building was razed in 1972.

PCAD id: 23177