When moving pictures began to take off early in the 20th century, it seemed as though nearly every community in Canada had a small theatre. As time went on, many lost their theatres as larger municipal centres drew in visitors. Today, only a few small communities retain their theatre and Gull Lake is lucky enough to be one.
Our historic Lyceum Theatre dates back over 100 years, all the way to 1911. The original theatre was built in 1911 by Schoonmaker but was sadly destroyed in a fire four years later.
Soon rebuilt by Sam Tyler on Conrad Avenue, it would be operated by Tyler until 1929 when he sold it to Herb Tyler and Coney of Tompkins.
They would operate the theatre through the difficult years of the 1930s and eventually sell it to Dr. Matheson and John Davidson in 1946. They would operate it for 14 years until 1960. At this point, Chig Potter and his family bought the business and owned it for 14 years until 1976. Fred Turner took over the business at this point but two years into his stint as owner, the theatre was once again destroyed by fire. According to the Advance, Fred Turner and his mother had just moved into the suite above the theatre a few weeks previous. Mrs. Turner was upstairs watching television when she smelled smoke and went to investigate. As she came downstairs, she saw flame around the exit door to the south of the stage. She went to exit the building and as she opened the door, an explosion flew her across a nearby car. By the time the fire brigade was on hand, the building was engulfed and the rebuilding process began. Work bees were organized to clean up what was left of the building and benefits were held for the Turner family as they lost everything in the fire.
Once again, the theatre was rebuilt in 1978 on the site under the former theatre.
Today, it is operated by the Gull Lake Cultural Co-op.
As for the name, it is hard to say where it comes from but it is likely named after the Lyceum Theatre in London, England. That theatre has been around since 1765. There are also three other Lyceum theatres in England but it is likely that the original Lyceum Theatre is the inspiration for the name. The name was actually suggested by Roy Henry, who was a friend of Sam Tyler. When Henry suggested the idea, Tyler liked it so much he adopted it.
While the Lyric Theatre in Swift Current has been operating since 1912, and claims to be the oldest operating theatre in Saskatchewan, the Lyceum was built one year before it. Apart from the two fires and the time in-between to rebuild, the theatre has operated for 99 of its 102 years.
Looking back in the newspapers, in the Nov. 23, 1911 issue of the Gull Lake Advertiser, we get a glimpse of what could be expected at the theatre during its first year of operation.
“On Saturday, Nov. 25, Midland Concert Company. The manager having to pay for his pictures whether they are used or not, he has decided to show the regular pictures before the concert without any extra charge, to start at 8, concert at 9 p.m. Admission 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents.
On Monday, Nov. 27, The Juvenile Bostonians will put on The Rose of Blandeen. This company were very well received on their previous visit to the town. Admission $1, children 50 cents.
On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the William Yule Company playing The Rivals, direct from Walker Theatre in Winnipeg. Admission 75 cents and $1, children 25 cents.”
Today, the theatre has entered the 21st century, complete with digital movies and 3D features. It has been a long road from the early days as a regular theatre to the high-tech experience it has become.
Sources for this article are The Gull Lake Advance issue March 17, 1976, The Gull Lake Advertisers Nov. 23, 1911 and Centennial Chronicles (2011),
Compliments of The Gull Lake Advance