When The Empire Strikes Back was playing at Saskatoon's Towne Cinema in 1980, it was the hottest ticket in the city, and Mike Fisher was a sleepy little boy out for a night at the movies with his mom and dad.

'There is a lot of history there to be discovered.' - Mike Fisher

"The buzz in the lobby, the excitement: it just really, really stuck with me," Fisher said.

The theatre is called the Roxy now, but the magic remains. The Spanish Villa-style building with its balconies, windows and towers remain, and the dark ceiling with twinkling lights still hangs overhead, creating the illusion of a magical night sky.

All grown up, Fisher is about to embark on a journey to make his first documentary film. It's a pilgrimage of sorts, he said, to discover unknown stories related to "some of the older, atmospheric kind of theatres or the old historic buildings that are either being renovated or torn down."

Robillard Building

The Robillard Building as it looked in 1921. (City of Montreal archives)

"I want to find all the stories that I don't know about or that people don't know about," he said about the cross-country documentary featuring the places movies are shown in.

Fisher's journey will begin in April, but he promised not to get too caught up in the glitz and glamour, or forget that pivotal night at the Towne Cinema.

"Saskatoon is going to be the heart of it," he said.

Fisher also suggested his documentary, with the working title Arrival of a Train: Canada's Great Movie Houses, will have a surprise ending, hinting at the existence of a hidden archive.

"There is a lot of history there to be discovered."

Too late for one theatre

It's too late to capture on video one of the theatres that will serve as the backdrop for a chapter in Fisher's documentary. It's Montreal's Robillard Building, home to the first screening of the first indoor motion-picture projection on June 27, 1896. It was recently lost to fire.

That historic film, Fisher said, was of a train pulling into the station and he said that "it blew people's minds."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning