Seville Comes Down

Montreal Theatre to be Replaced by Condos

Over the summer and fall, Seville was gradually dismantled to make way for a $100 million development project. Photo Riley Sparks
Photo Riley Sparks

Montreal’s Seville Theatre was torn down on Oct. 7.

The theatre, which decayed on the city’s western edge for the last 25 years, was destroyed to make room for three condo towers to be built by Montreal developer Prével, a project estimated at $112 million.

The condo complex is part of an effort to revitalize the Shaughnessy Village, an area of downtown that was devastated when the Montreal Forum closed in 1996 and a new arena was built closer to the downtown core. Although 25 per cent of the housing units are priced at approximately $185,000, the development will include no social housing.

Despite receiving heritage building status in 1990, the dilapidated venue had never been restored to its former glory, becoming a derelict stain on the Montreal cityscape over the years. Some citizens remember when the theatre was not always such an eyesore, however.

“I used to go there to watch movies; it was a beautiful theatre. It’s where I saw Apocalypse Now. It’s a heritage site,” said Marshall Upshaw, seated at Heart for the Nations, a store across the street from the old theatre.

The venue opened in 1929 as one of only fifteen elaborately decorated theatres in Canada. Its ceiling was painted to resemble the night sky and its interior was designed to look like a Spanish theatre. It held the biggest movie screen in Montreal at the time.

At its peak, the Seville attracted crowds of English Montrealers. It was not uncommon to see men and women in their Sunday best walking in to catch a show.

The Seville became a live theatre in the 1940s and showcased such acts as Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. It eventually turned back into a movie theatre, closing in 1985 when the building’s rent quadrupled.

“The Seville had a lot of stage shows; I saw Nat King Cole, The Ink Spots and Tony Bennett there years ago,” said Alma Wolff, also at Heart for the Nations. “I’m wondering why they tore the facade down.” She went on to say that she would have liked to see it restored “not as a theatre, but the ambiance should [have been] kept.”

All that remains on-site are bulldozers and excavation shovels sitting atop piles of rubble. The once-majestic edifice shows only traces of old graffiti.

Prével is not new to the construction of condominiums, with the Imperial Lofts and the Lowney units already in its arsenal.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 09, published October 12, 2010.