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Ghosts would be proud as historic theatre reopens with a new spirit

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The ghosts of the Allen Theatre would be pleased.

Mere hours before the "grand unveil" of the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, workers were hanging chandeliers, fitting pipes behind the bar and hanging decades-old movie posters for display.

It’s been almost exactly 25 years since the old Metropolitan Theatre closed its doors after showing its last movie and nearly a century since vaudeville performers worked the boards at the Allen Theatre, the original name of the historic building at 281 Donald Street.

It will host an invitation-only, pre-opening gala tonight at 7 p.m. and open to the public in a couple of weeks.

The "grand hall" will serve as a multi-purpose event centre available to be rented out for banquets, graduations and weddings. The first and second floors that look out on to Donald will operate as a 200-seat restaurant, known simply as "The Met."

Canad Inns has spent two years restoring the main theatre space, installing lounges in the lobby area and building a new structure on the south side of the building to house kitchens, elevators and washrooms. The renovations have included restoring heritage elements such as mouldings that originally adorned the venue when it opened back in 1919.

"People can see a building that is magnificent. It has always been a beautiful building. Canad Inns is very proud to be able to bring it back to its former glory and open it up to the public," said Cindy Carswell, vice-president of corporate identity and communications at the Winnipeg-based company.

"A lot of what you see here has been hand-painted. A lot of people have painstakingly painted for months to bring (the building) back to its glory."

The total cost of the restoration is expected to top out at $20 million. The City and province each contributed $1.5 million with Canad Inns putting up the remaining $17 million.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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