Roxy Theatre marks fire anniversary with rebuilding milestone

Western Canada’s largest mobile crane makes a guest appearance on 124th Street as the façade of the new Roxy Theatre takes form. 

The iconic Edmonton theatre burned to the ground on Jan. 13, 2015

Construction on the new Roxy Theatre is ongoing on 124th Street in Edmonton. (Scott Neufeld/ CBC)

Western Canada's largest mobile crane makes a guest appearance on 124th Street as the façade of the new Roxy Theatre takes form.

The theatre is four days short of the sixth anniversary of being burned to the ground. But, instead of a sombre event, Bradley Moss, artistic and executive director of Theatre Network, the company that owned and operated the Roxy, says the company is celebrating a big moment. 

"We're really excited," Moss said. "We move from structure to working inside the building."

The iconic white stucco movie house first opened in 1938 and was converted to a live performance facility in 1989.  

On Jan. 13, 2015, the iconic building burned to the ground in a matter of hours due to an early morning fire. 

The lot sat empty for years until June 2019, when ground was broken for the $12.5-million rebuild.

On Saturday, construction crews used a 500-tonne, Godzilla-sized crane to dismantle a smaller luffing crane, marking new beginnings for the historic theatre. 

With the structure complete, Moss said they will now focus on things like electrical, plumbing and eventually the finishes. 

"By June we should be able to move in and then at that point we do what they call a set up, which is where we put all our equipment in and we test it," he said. 

Moss says with COVID-19 vaccinations on the way, they are looking at opening their doors by November.

"So this is a big year," he said. 

Because construction did not halt in Alberta despite the pandemic, Moss says COVID-19 did not delay any plans for the rebuild.

"There have been some struggles with supply lines and safety protocols and the amount of people working, but Chandos has effectively kept it right on track," he said. 

Chandos Construction is the company working to rebuild the theatre. 

Moss said the theatre company will be making a comeback with not one but two venues: a 200-seat theater called the Nancy Power Theater, named after a long time donor and board member, and a downstairs black-box theatre with 80 to 90 seats, named after Indigenous actor Lorne Cardinal, best known for his role in Corner Gas, a Canadian sitcom. 

"We're going to be able to engage more community, more community events, more disciplines, not just theater, but dance and music so it is an exciting moment," he said.

Theatre Network is looking to raise another one million dollars for theatre lighting, sound systems, curtains and risers. 

"If anybody wants to help us out there, we would appreciate the support," Moss said.