50 King Street East, Oshawa, ON

The Regent Theatre is one of the oldest and most iconic theatres in Durham Region, with a rich history in the area. The building itself — a beloved landmark — was commissioned by the Famous Players Corporation; construction was completed 1919. The building was modelled on Georgian architectural lines, and it remains one of the few remaining examples of this style of architecture in Oshawa. Doors opened to the public in October 1920, showing popular films The Prince Chap and You Wouldn’t Believe It, with a capacity audience in attendance. Reports from the event say that hundreds of people were turned away from the debut evening. 

In the years to follow, the Regent Theatre experienced myriad changes. In the 1960s, seating was decreased in order to make room for a concession counter and a larger lobby. It changed owners, closing and reopening a number of times in the late 1980s and 1990s, with attempts to turn it into a nightclub and to open it as a live theatre venue. 

In March 2000, rumours started to fly that the Regent was to be demolished. Heritage Oshawa pursed a designation for the Regent as a property of architectural and cultural significance and the building was saved, but happenings inside the building were still in flux. It wasn’t until 2009 that Ontario Tech University purchased the building, giving it new life. It is now used as a lecture hall during the day and as a theatre on evenings and weekends. It hosts everything from concerts to children’s shows, and they even screen the odd classic film, as a nod to the building’s roots.

Attending a show at the Regent is bound to give you Old Hollywood feels, as many of its nostalgic features have been preserved or recreated. Check out the calendar of events to see what’s upcoming and get your tickets today.

What’s UPCOMING: “Walk Right Back: The Everly Brothers Story” theatre production; All the President’s Men classic film night; comedian Ryan Belleville; tribute band “Back to the ’80s;” The Great Canadian Road Trip featuring Doc Walker, Michelle Wright and Jason McCoy; The Ennis Sisters, and much more.

THE WHITBY COURTHOUSE THEATRE 416 Centre Street South, Whitby, ON

Just like the Regent Theatre, the Whitby Courthouse Theatre, a non-profit community theatre, also has a rich history and a lasting legacy in the area. While there was some theatre activity in Whitby in the late 1940s, it wasn’t until 1956 with the creation of the Whitby Theatre Guild that the action really picked up steam. The group had little funding, so the members had to get creative with everything from set design to technical equipment. In the early days, the shows were performed in the auditorium of the old Whitby Town Hall, until the building was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a new headquarters for the Whitby Fire Department. The Guild continued to perform, wherever they could find space, but they longed for a permanent home.

In 1967, the federal government encouraged communities across the country to complete commemorative projects to mark Canada’s centennial. The powers that be in Whitby decided to convert the Ontario County Administration building into a theatre as their celebratory undertaking. The interior was retrofitted with a stage, but there was only one problem…no seats (and you can’t sell tickets if there aren’t any seats!). The solution came courtesy of the Famous Players Corporation. They were tearing down one of their theatres in Hamilton, and a honey of a deal was struck to get the seating from the space: $1 a seat. A small group of volunteers went to Hamilton, unbolted them, transported them back and installed them in the newly renovated space. Talk about boots on the ground.

The theatre has grown and morphed in the decades since its inception, complete with a couple of name changes, but the mission has remained the same: To continue to produce high-quality entertainment for residents of Durham Region and beyond.

What’s UPCOMING: The 2023/24 subscription series kicks off in November with “Lost in Yonkers;” you can then see “Godspell” in February, “Drinking Habits” in April and “The Lightning Thief” in June 2024.

62 Russett Avenue, Oshawa, ON

For more than 60 years, the Oshawa Little Theatre has provided high-quality, live performances for excellent value, and it all started with a woman name Verna Conant. Conant, who was the wife of Oshawa mayor and eventual Attorney General Gordon Conant, founded many organizations in the area, many of what are still active today. Oshawa Little Theatre is one of those organizations. 

Conant had a vision to create a community theatre in Oshawa. Her first step, in 1928, was to bring in a professional director. John Craig from Winnipeg was hired, to help mount the group’s first play, “The Private Secretary,” in October 1929. “Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire” was produced a few months later. The group was forced to dissolve in the midst of the Great Depression, but Conant never gave up on the little theatre that could. She restarted the group in 1950, with rehearsals taking place in private homes and rented church halls, and sets being built wherever they could arrange space. Sometime after 1956, the group rented a prefab structure owned by the City of Oshawa to meet and to house sets and props, but they eventually outgrew it. 

In 1975, the Oshawa Little Theatre was able to find space for purchase in a vacant factory. After a year of fundraising and renovations, their new facility opened. It housed workshop and rehearsal rooms, but no theatre. A theatre was built adjacent to the original rooms and opened for use in 1983. Oshawa Little Theatre still operates out of this building today.

The Oshawa Little Theatre puts on a season of exciting shows yearly. Past shows have included “Steel Magnolias,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and more.

What’s UPCOMING: “Calendar Girls” in September and October, followed by “Elf” in November and December; “Amadeus” in January and February, and “Into the Woods” in March and April to round out the season.

39 King Street East, Oshawa, ON

The Biltmore Theatre also started out as a movie house, as cinemas were often called when the Biltmore opened in the 1940s. The Biltmore movie theatres were an Ontario franchise, with five locations; the Oshawa outpost was the smallest. The theatre showed films throughout the 1960s, eventually closing when business declined. It was reopened as an Odeon cinema in the 1980s.

And maybe that would have been the end of the Biltmore as an entertainment venue, if not for local business owner Julius Kedvessy. He purchased the building in September 2020 and set out to revive the space and bring it back to its former art deco glory. Julius unfortunately passed away just a year later, in September 2021, but his passion for the arts lives on through his daughter Diana Cerovich, who operates the facility today.
The Biltmore is now home to live music, local productions, special events and private rentals, returning to its roots of community entertainment.

What’s UPCOMING: Indie-folk band Great Lake Swimmers; country singer Corb Lund; musician Dan Mangan; brass-funk band My Son The Hurricane; Candlelight Concert: A Tribute to Taylor Swift concert.

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