The end is near for the Pantages Theatre, Vancouver's oldest theatre and one of the few remaining vaudeville theatres built by Alexander Pantages.

For sale signs have gone up on the building in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and efforts to save the historic theatre appear to have reached an impasse.

After 38 months of negotiations, the building's owner, a numbered company, has been unable to reach an agreement with a group of artists pushing for the theatre to be saved.

The building went up for sale earlier this week after Vancouver City Council ordered a feasibility study on the future of the theatre at an in-camera meeting. 

"The feasibility study will help inform city council on the viability and best approach of various community initiatives proposed for the future of the historic theatre," the city said in a release.

If the building is sold, the theatre, which once hosted performers such as Charlie Chaplin, will probably be destroyed, said Peter Fairchild, chairman of the Pantages Theatre Arts Society.

In April, the group unveiled a proposal to turn the theatre into a home for City Opera of Vancouver, the Vancouver Cantonese Opera and Vancouver Moving Theatre.

Fairchild said the plan was to turn the area into a cultural centre and to include social housing in the project.

"It's part of the package — the theatre restoration as well as social housing," he told CBC News.

The building is in rough shape and would require a complete upgrade to restore its 650-seat theatre and add modern sound and climate control.

But the project hinged on raising money for the restoration from all three levels of government and corporate sponsors. And all of those pieces could not be put in place, Fairchild said.

"This is expensive, you know. It is about $30 million," he said.

Now he is urging Vancouver residents to write to council urging the city to buy the property and save the theatre.

The theatre, built in 1907, was only the second in a vaudeville empire of 72 theatres built around the turn of the century by  Pantages, a Greek immigrant.