Capitol Theatre

Port Hope, Ontario (1930)

The Building:
One of Canada’s last remaining fully operational atmospheric theatres.

An atmospheric theatre is one in which hidden mechanical projectors are used to enhance the audience experience of a specific atmosphere. The whole design intent from sidewalk to audience chamber is intended to enthrall the audience and simulate a particular atmosphere. In the case of the Capitol, we come across a drawbridge to enter and once seated, we are in the courtyard of a Norman castle with battlements and armorial banners hanging around us. Ashlar walls are covered with ivy and the forest is seen just beyond. Overhead, clouds slide by silently. The use of these mechanical devices (Brenograph Projectors) is what distinguishes an atmospheric theatre from many other lavish theatre types. The capitol is in possession of the cloud projectors and miraculously the celluloid cloud  discs that were used in the 1930’s.

The Capitol was purposely built as a cinema at the beginning of the sound movie era. It was managed from opening day in the 1930s by one manager who took pride in maintaining its unique appearance. The theatre has been fully restored and with modifications, now accomodates live theatre and musical performances of all kinds, as well as presenting fully digital cinema and “live” from the opera satellite events. The theatre operates about 270 days per year and is run by a not for profit volunteer board at

Capitol Theatre, Port Hope, Ontario - view from the street and inset view of the interior

Project Synopsis:
Historic Plaster Conservation Services stablized the wire lath and plaster ceiling of the auditorium. In addition, we designed and created two 50′-long pneumatically operated plaster face doors in the ceiling so that when closed, the modern lighting apparatus of the live theature is hidden from view and the ceiling is a seamless surface for the projection of the Capitol’s unique special effects. When the doors are open, all the lighting demanded by professional theatrical productions is available.

Historic Plaster Conservation Services