In 1929 a dance hall and entertainment venue named the National Ballroom opened to Vernonites seeking a fun night out, but the era of live amusements was quickly giving way to the golden age of cinema, and by 1938, Famous Players was unveiling the newly erected Capitol Theatre. State of the art amenities such as air conditioning and technicolour projection, paired with the buildings fine decor and impressive fifty foot art deco tower provided Vernon the most modern theatre experience of the time.
In later years, the building was acquired by Landmark Cinemas and renamed The Towne Theatre. During this period, the theatre and facade underwent extensive renovations that are reflected in the exterior as it is seen today. Through the addition of second floor office space, the once imposing deco tower was removed, leaving only a small but beautiful homage of the building's ornate beginnings. The entertainment scene changed once again, and by the late 1990's, Landmark had closed the theatre.
In 2000, Gerry Sellars reopened it as an independent second run theatre called Vernon Towne Cinema. Offering patrons friendly service, exceptional value and diverse programming, the theatre quickly regained it's place in the hearts of locals.
By 2011, the theatre was once again modernizing in order to offer the best possible movie going experience with the investment of a digital projector. While the majority of programming is digital, thanks to Gerry Sellars' savvy preservation efforts, the theatre remains one of only a handful of cinemas in Canada with a fully operational 35mm projector capable of use whenever the occasion warrants it.
After 20 years of exemplary service to the community, Gerry Sellars decided to take his well deserved retirement. Despite numerous setbacks and closures due to Covid, he has graciously donated all remaining theatre equipment and provided early access to the space to ensure the theatre's prompt reopening under new ownership.
On August 1st, 2021 The Towne became the official home of the non profit Okanagan Screen Arts Society (OSA). Familiar locally as the host of Monday Night of the Arts since 2016, the Society successfully raised over $100,000 in donations to ensure the survival of the historic theatre as a hub for community arts and culture. The money is helping with transitional costs and improvements that will allow the space to be more accessible as well as capable of providing a broader range of events, such as live music and comedy shows.
The refreshed venue reopened to the public on Sept 17, 2021, boasting the same charm and affordability as before along with a great slate of programming for entertainment lovers of all stripes. Next up? The First Annual Screening of The TV Fest!
Vernon, BC is a 30 minute drive from Kelowna International Airport (YLW), and approximately 4.5 hours drive from Vancouver, BC.