Architects: Saia Barbarese Topouzanov Architects
Photography: Marc Cramer
Location: Montreal, Canada
The Granada theatre, built in 1930, is situated in the former municipality of Maisonneuve, at the northwest corner of Boulevard Morgan and Rue Sainte-Catherine. In the vicinity, prestigious buildings such as C. L. Dufort’s City Hall, as well as the Maisonneuve Market and Maisonneuve Baths, both by M. Dufresne, testified to the city’s prosperity and its architects’ talents in the early twentieth century. The Beaux-Arts style then in fashion borrowed columns, arcades, and motifs from Antiquity or the Renaissance. In line with this trend, the Granada was among the wave of North American movie theatres that looked like palaces, with chandeliers, drapes, loges, orchestra pits, gold-leaf paint, faux-marble finishes, and more. In short, all aspects of the décor combined to create the ambience for such “atmospheric” theatres, which Robert Venturi called “decorated sheds.”
Intending to refine a “Spanish atmospheric design,” developers asked architect Emmanuel Briffa to take over the Granada project from Emmanuel A. Doucet, who had designed the initial phase of the building. Briffa, an experienced decorator, had designed numerous theatres in eastern Canada, almost twenty of them in Montreal (including the Imperial, the Rialto, the Outremont, and the Loew’s), Quebec City, Sherbrooke, and Saint-Hyacinthe.
In the original building, the tone was set the moment one set eyes on the theatre. The front façade had an elaborately patterned cladding of prefabricated, beige-tinted stones. The basic rectangular shape was crowned with a cornice with modillions, a frieze, and a small pediment featuring the theatre’s name, “Granada.” Horizontally, the façade was subdivided into two registers. The ground floor offered a wide opening with central doors sheltered by a light wrought-work marquee, flanked by display windows. The upper floor, taller than the ground floor, extended the tripartite vertical subdivision. In the centre, three Renaissance-style windows rose above the entrance, with blank windows on either side. The blank windows, and the entire subdivision that surrounded them, were repeated once on the lateral façade on Morgan Boulevard. The rest of the building was simply clad in brick. It seems that the west wall awaited a future attached building.
The luxurious interior matched the exterior. From a rather plain vestibule, visitors entered the lobby. The drop-arch mouldings of the coffered ceiling sat on brackets. The lobby featured a fireplace and a fountain. The motif of double pilasters on the walls was repeated in the theatre, as were the trussed arches and drop arches above the doors.