Rothstein Theatres Ltd. entered the Selkirk market in 1938 when it took over the Central Theatre on Eveline Street.
Nathan Rothstein was well known in theatre circles. In the 1920s, he owned the Arlington Theatre in Winnipeg and a handful of theatres in rural Manitoba. In 1926, he led an investment group that built several suburban theatres in Winnipeg, including the Rose and Roxy. By 1944, when Toronto’s Odeon Cinemas bought a half share in the company, Rothstein had thirteen screens in operation.
Selkirk’s Central Theatre opened circa 1919 and underwent an extensive redevelopment a decade later that included the addition of a domed ceiling, a larger stage, and two DeLux movie projectors. As the years went on, even with the pull of Rothstein’s ownership, the theatre became too old and small to vie to show first-run films.
In 1948, David Rothstein, Nathan’s son, took over the day-to-day operation of the company and announced the construction of a modern theatre on Manitoba Avenue.
The opening ceremony for the Garry took place on November 29, 1948. The event included speeches by Nathan Rothstein, David Rothstein, Mayor W. E. Gordon and president of the Selkirk Chamber of Commerce, L. G. Howard. The Selkirk Male Voice Choir sang and proceeds from the first night went to the Selkirk Rotary Club and the Selkirk Youth Council.
There was a lack of documentation about the construction and appearance of the original Garry. It featured modern conveniences like hearing aids and a crying room.
The Garry Theatre was an immediate success as locals could once again see first-run films. The Selkirk Enterprise noted in March 1949 that, “…a new level of entertainment has been provided the citizens of Selkirk. Only first-class pictures have been shown and all have been latest releases.”
Don Stewart was manager of both the Garry and the Roxy, the latter remained open as a second-run theatre.
Although the Garry was primarily a cinema, the theatre did have a small stage. This allowed the venue to be rented out or donated for live events. In the first few months, the cinema played host to the local Red Cross swimming awards and a Union of Manitoba Municipalities meeting.
In September 1953, both the Roxy, (as the Central Theatre had been renamed), and the Garry theatres had extensive renovations done under the eye of manager Len Manahan. For the Garry Theatre, the renovations included repainting the exterior and redecorating the lobby and restrooms. As well as a new screen and projection lamp. An $8,000 air conditioning system was set for installation in Spring 1954.
On Sunday, January 3, 1954, the Garry suffered a major fire that destroyed its interior and collapsed its roof. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and, thanks to its newer construction, modern fire protection system and the efforts of local firefighters, the blaze did not spread to other buildings on Manitoba Avenue.
Eleven days after the fire, Rothstein took out a newspaper ad in the Selkirk Enterprise. He thanked volunteer firefighters for their efforts and let patrons know that Claydon Construction of Winnipeg was lined up to start reconstruction and new projection equipment had been ordered.
In what Rothstein called “one of the greatest rebuilding jobs in history”, the Garry Theatre was back in business just three months later. It opened on April 12, 1954, with mayor Oliver cutting the ribbon. The opening night film was the romantic comedy, “Kiss Me Kate” and the opening night proceeds of $425 went towards new furniture for the Selkirk General Hospital.
The New Theatre
The new, 110-seat theatre boasted nicer chairs, air conditioning, a wider screen for new technologies such as CinemaScope and, yes, the return of the crying room.
By November 1955, Rothstein Theatres announced that the old Roxy Theatre on Eveline Street would soon close.
The initial plan was to wait for the construction of a new Roxy Theatre on the southwest corner of Main Street and Christie Avenue. In 1955, the company purchased land from the city, cleared it and was about to begin construction when the economics of the film industry interrupted proceedings.
Rothstein Theatres was watching the North America-wide trend that showed people were turning to television as their major form of entertainment. During 1955 and 1956 the company asked for an extension on their building plans. In the end, the new Roxy never got built and the old one was torn down in March 1962.
In 1972, the Rothstein family sold off their theatre holdings to Rokemay Theatres Ltd., a forerunner to Landmark Cinemas. A few years later, The Garry was closed in 1976 for extensive renovations inside and out. This included the addition of its wood façade. The remodelled theatre opened on August 11, 1976, with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
In May of 2021 Landmark Cinemas announced the theatre would be closing its doors after 73 years. In August 2021 City of Selkirk purchased the historic theatre, taking the once lively cinema into its second act.